Prohibition: Good idea, bad law

Nationwide prohibition was repealed on December 5, 1933.  After that, the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages to adults was, for the most part, once again, legal.

In the years since, much has been forgotten about how and why the decade-long era of Prohibition came about.  Moreover, the painful lessons its failure imparted seem not to have been learned.

The ugly truth is that the Prohibition Movement was not the result of puritanical women preaching against fun.  Without the advantage of hindsight, there seemed to be good reasons for banning the drinking of alcohol.  Alcohol abuse, combined with wife-beating and neglect of family by drunkard men, provided a powerful incentive to desperate victims (who were not allowed to vote) to seek whatever recourse they could find.  They lobbied for prohibition.

The poignant lyrics to a well known song of the time reflect the public emotions that propelled the illegalization of alcohol.

'Tis the song of little Mary standing at the bar-room door
While the shameful midnight revel rages wildly as before.  
Come home Father
Father, dear father, come home with me now!
The clock in the steeple strikes one
You said you were coming home from the shop, as soon as your day's work was done.
Our fire has gone out, our house is all dark, And mother's been watching since tea,
With poor brother Benny so sick in her arms, And no one to help her but me.
Come home father, come home, come home! Please, father, dear father, come home!

Today we understand that emotions are not sufficient reason to pass laws — or do we?

Tens of thousands of Americans have, in recent years, died from drug addiction, especially overdoses.  Many more thousands have suffered the heartbreak of losing loved ones, either through death or through the descent of addicts into such debaucheries as prostitution, violent crime, and wasted lives of indolence.  Many children have been abused, neglected, and orphaned, their lives forever burdened with the ravages of avoidable poverty brought on by their addicted parents.

What's a government to do?

What the government is doing is to pass laws — laws that may sound compassionate but do more harm than good.  Children deprived of their parents are deprived whether their parents have died or are serving decades in prison cells for drug crimes.

The government should stay out of it.

Government non-involvement should be the default condition, until and unless there is a compelling government interest to take action.  When there is, the government action should be to do everything to serve the public interest and nothing more.

Crimes against persons and property must be rigorously enforced.  These include the crimes of child neglect, violence against the weak and helpless, robbery, and theft.

Violators must be arrested; prosecuted; and, if convicted, meaningfully punished — that is to say, imprisoned for long periods of time.

Enforcement must not be limp-wristed.  Compassion must be reserved for victims, not perpetrators.

In ancient Rome, drunkenness was not only not a defense for criminal activity, but an aggravating factor, doubling the punishment.  Impaired judgment, when voluntarily brought upon oneself, should never be allowed to excuse criminal behavior, nor to lessen the punishment.

In modern America, we must focus.  The problem of drug abuse has gotten out of hand.  With tens of thousand dead, and many more to die, or to ruin their own lives and the lives of others, we no longer have the luxury of coddling them.

Solving the problem begins with education.  From an early age, children must be taught, warned, and disciplined until they have had every opportunity to fully understand two things:  (1) drugs will ruin you, and (2) once you start down that path, you will be abandoned to your miserable fate.  You will receive no government benefits and no government protection to shield you from the consequences of your bad decisions.

Call it mean-spirited or tough love; it must be done.

Adjustments to the program must be considered.  For one, those who profit from selling specified destructive drugs must be put to death, and not after twenty years of appeals, but swiftly enough to deter all but the most incorrigible of drug-peddlers.

Along the way, there will be devastation.  Let there be.  The devastation will be far worse if we continue along the present path.

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