Paying the Tab by Philip J. Cook
This tries to be an even-handed approach, however it does not contend with the public finance issues: a) the original sin of prohibition1 (trading income tax for alcohol excise taxes), and b) the costs of enforcement both outright and indirect (funding enemy paramilitary gangs/cartels while diminishing respect for government/out-groups).
Another way to characterize the issue is from the perspective of national solidarity:
How do we know that any short-term goals are not harming the long-term prospects for the nation?While those prospects will be debated, that is the correct framing from which to run the cost/benefit analysis. But how do we learn about the full effects and consequences, instead of depending on legislative bloviation?
Ultimately, this is Cook's fundamental underlying criticism; that These United States do not use the full experimental power created by having 50 states.
The public response to this problem has varied over time, but always with some mix of two general approaches. On the one hand are efforts, both public and private, to reduce excess drinking directly education, persuasion, counseling, treatment, sanctions of various sorts. On the other hand are measures to reduce excess drinking by restricting availability or raising the price licensing, product and sales regulation, liability rules, taxes, partial or complete bans. Both approaches can be effective. Yet during the last half century the public policy mix has largely neglected the second approach.
The reason is the preventive paradoxthat while problems are concentrated among long-time heavy drinkers who are in enough trouble that they might be persuaded (or coerced) into seeking treatment, the bulk of alcohol-related problems are diffused among the much larger group.
Remarkable from our current perspective is just how important liquor and other alcoholic-beverage taxes were as revenue sources during the period from the Civil War through World War I. The revenue numbers are small by modern standards $51 million in 1869, up to $247 million in 1916. But the scope of the federal government was such that this revenue constituted a large portion of the total (see fig. 2.1). Every year from 1890 to 1916, alcohol tax revenues exceeded 30 percent of all federal tax revenues and as much as 80 percent of tax revenue from internal sources (Hu 1950, appendix 1)
Carrie Nations well-publicized ten-year career of hatcheting saloons gave vivid representation to the women and children who were viewed as the ultimate victims of these dens of iniquity. (Nation, who got her start in Kansas in 1900, once described herself as a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesnt like.)
Although support for temperance and prohibition was strongest in rural areas, it received vital help from prominent members of the business community, many of whom believed that a sober, temperate worker was more productive, stable, and happier (Burnham 1968, 54).
Congress finally enacted the National Prohibition Act, popularly known as the Volstead Act, to implement the Eighteenth Amendment (over President Wilsons veto), with the effective date of January 16, 2000.
In fact, the gangsterism of the Prohibition era had not ended on the day of Repeal. Initial liquor tax collections were disappointingly low, in part because the bootleggers continued to supply something like 45 million gallons per year (66 percent of the tax paid amount) (Hu 1950, 86). To combat this problem, the Alcohol Tax Unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue was organized in 1934. It launched a large law enforcement effort, with over 1,000 investigators deployed against the bootlegging gangs of the Northern metropolitan areas and elsewhere (Hu 1950). That effort, plus new regulations to facilitate enforcement, resulted in a considerable shrinkage of the black market by 1937.
Why should the Devil get all the good tunes, The booze and the neon and Saturday night -- A. E. Stallings