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Esolen's argument against Prohibition

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 22, 2013

Anthony Esolen makes an interesting argument against Prohibition: It helped prepare America for the Nanny State.

The argument for Prohibition was based largely on stories about men who came home drunk to beat their wives and children, or drank their way through the family savings, Esolen notes. Those were real problems, but the solutions would have come from families or small communities, not from the federal government. There already were laws against drunkenness and domestic abuse; maybe those laws should have been strengthened. Instead the “drys” convinced voters that a blanket nationwide policy was needed. Eventually Prohibition was overturned, but a precedent had been set, and decades later, pointing to the very real problems of uninsured individuals, President Obama gave us a blanket nationwide health-care policy.

Esolen writes:

So, Prohibition was a bad law because it was just what one of its supporters, Herbert Hoover, said it was: “A noble experiment.” It parted from American tradition. It nullified local customs and ordinances. It cleared a gravel path from the hearth to the Capitol—and began to pave a twelve-lane superhighway from the Capitol to the hearth, for that is the direction of most of the traffic. It was a bad law because of its immediate and dreadful unintended consequences.

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