Revisiting Mistakes We Repented   2 comments

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still listed in that document. It banned the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol. Ratified 16, 1919, it was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. It remains the only amendment ever to have been repealed.

The amendment and the accompanying legislation did not ban the consumption of alcohol, but it made it difficult to obtain alcoholic beverages legally. Only two of the 48 states rejected the amendment: Connecticut and Rhode Island. For the historically challenged, Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states. Alaska — a territory at the time — probably would not have ratified it (we’re a pretty drinking state with a wildlife problem), but it wouldn’t have mattered because only 38 states are required to ratify an amendment today and 46 states ratified this amendment. State legislatures thought it was a very good idea.

Following the 18th Amendment’s adoption, prohibition effectively resulted in a public demand for illegal alcohol, making criminals of producers and distributors. The criminal justice system was swamped although police forces and courts had expanded in recent years. Prisons were jam-packed and court dockets fell behind in trying to deal with the rapid surge in crimes. Organized crime expanded to deal with the lucrative business, and there was widespread corruption among those charged with enforcing these unpopular laws. Court cases challenged the enforcement of the 18th Amendment as violations of rights guaranteed under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

The 18th Amendment has been repealed by the 21st and I’m not suggesting we repeal the 21st, because the 18th was a really stupid idea and repealing it was a good idea. I just want people to realize that we left the mistake in the Constitution so that we would remember that we could be stupid and we could fix our stupidity.

Apply that as needed!

2 responses to “Revisiting Mistakes We Repented

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  1. I’m not a drinker, but I can’t help but think that a number of people made money on this amendment… of course, in my old age I’ve become rather cynical.


    • Careers were made and dynasties founded on Prohibition. Joseph Kennedy made his initial money importing illegal booze, as did my husband’s great-grandfather. Joe was a bit more successful with his later ventures than my children’s ancestor (so you know his name), but it’s just one example of the money that was made during Prohibition. There were a lot of people who made money on Prohibition — just as there are a lot of people today who make money through the War on Drugs.


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