Sunday, October 2, 2011

What We Learned from Prohibition

This review of the Ken Burns documentary, Prohibition, gives a different take than the other opinions I've read today. I have to agree with this review - Progressivism was the problem then and it is the problem now.

The Progressive Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President (1913-1921), was in office when the 16th amendment (income tax), 17th amendment (direct elections of US Senators), 18th amendment (prohibition) and 19th amendment (women's suffrage) were ratified.

I would argue that three of those four amendments (16th - 18th) have done considerable harm to America. Unfortunately, only the 18th amendment has been repealed. - Reggie

How liberals love to mess with our lives

“People think of Prohibition as a conservative movement, but not at all. It was a movement that was embraced by progressives,” says historian Wiliiam Leuchtenburg in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s riveting, rollicking, infuriating and very contemporary documentary “Prohibition.”

“Prohibition,” a three-part miniseries that airs starting tonight on PBS and comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, has many lessons to teach us about such antiquated, 1920s-era ideas as federal overreach, unfunded mandates to states, runaway taxation, a belief that great political leaders can accelerate human progress, crony capitalism, and of course the dire need of Washington to take steps to improve the lot of the poor and the children.

In other words, “Prohibition” is, to an almost mischievous extent, an investigative report about 2011.

Historian Catherine Gilbert Murdock, who provides a feminist voice to Burns and Novick’s film, says, of the times that gave rise to the dry movement, “There is a belief in human perfectibility -- that humans can be perfect and alcohol is the fly in the ointment. You could have a perfect marriage if it weren’t for alcohol. You could you have a perfect husband if it weren’t for alcohol. You could have a perfect community if it weren’t for alcohol.”

And if you want perfection, who better to supply it than the federal government?

The temperance movement began in the 1840s in response to a real and growing problem -- and culminated in the 1920s with a law that utterly failed to ameliorate that problem, at great cost, while giving rise to many seemingly unrelated but in fact entirely predictable woes.

The many flaws in progressivism -- the top-down, big-government, high-taxation model that seeks controls for benevolent reasons yet invariably falls prey to corruption -- are as blatant today as they are in Burns and Novick’s film. Even the evangelist movement that underlay the temperance /abstinence movement has persisted virtually unchanged -- except now the literal evangelists are sad and comical figures with no influence on anybody except their marginalized congregations. In the 21st century, the real action, the influential leaders with immense followings whose numbers include the most powerful members of the media, are in eco-vangelism.

“Prohibition” is a virtual checklist of everything people dislike about DC today:

New adventures in raising taxes. A critical argument against Prohibition was that banning liquor sales would deprive the federal government of tax dollars that amounted to as much as a third of the total budget. So those who believed in capital-T total abstinence, or teetotalers, dreamed up the 16th Amendment to enable a federal income tax to beef up the budget. Today Paul Krugman and other deep thinkers say we could solve all of our federal funding needs if only we imposed a teeny little national sales, or value-added, tax. Once such a tax exists, it will march steadily upward. And politically favored corporations will evade liability because of:

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