Interesting Article Noting the Additional Drivers of Prohibition Beyond Religion

Villanova Professor Mark Schrad has penned a very interesting article in the Washington Post discussing the forces behind the passage of Prohibition 100 years ago. Modern conventional wisdom wrongly attributes passage of the 18th Amendment in 1918 to a moralistic and religious fervor, however, the real reasons were much more nuanced and widespread than religion and the coalitions that brought about Prohibition were more diverse than given modern credit.

Professor Schrad’s article highlights three important points:  1) The coalition pushing temperance was much broader than religious leaders.   Progressives and conservatives were united in their attack on the excesses of the alcohol trade.  2) The desire for Prohibition was not a uniquely American experience. At thes same time countries around the world grappled with the problems of their alcohol industry and foreign ownership of the industry exacerbated nationalistic tendencies. 3) Prohibitionists were not necessarily trying to legislate individual morality.  The common enemy of all proponents was the traffic of alcohol, not alcohol by itself. As Professor Schrad notes, “Without the word “traffic,” our understanding of history gets out of whack.”

Again, I strongly urge you to read Professor Schrad’s column to get a broader understanding of the history of alcohol regulation and then purchase a copy of Toward Liquor Control written by Raymond Fosdick and Albert Scott in 1933 with funding by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to further understand how the same desire to regulate the traffic of alcohol guided post-Repeal alcohol policy in the United States.

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