Prohibition and Potency

When the Progressives succeeded in implementing a national ban on alcohol in 1920, just 1 in 100,000 American deaths could be attributed to alcoholism. By 1927, that number had quadrupled. Clearly, people hadn’t stopped drinking just because it had been made illegal. In fact, many scholars believe alcohol consumption increased across the board during the Prohibition era: the number of people consuming any alcohol, the amount they consumed, etc. One thing that’s for certain is that the potency of the booze imbibed was much greater. This is a direct result of the Progressives’ meddling interventionism.

This is part of the conceit of the political Left: they think that just by passing a law, anything can be made so. But the reality is that passing a law banning alcohol did nothing to dampen demand; it only constrained supply. This, in turn, led to higher profits for the illegal products, which incentivized bootleggers to stimulate demand.

Just imagine yourself in a bootlegger’s shoes: Because your product is in short supply, the people who really want it are willing to pay more to get it. Thus, you have greater profit potential. Knowing this, it only makes good business sense that you would try to expand your customer base via “marketing.” This is why alcohol consumption among women and children spiked tremendously during Prohibition.

Now consider this: with alcohol illegal, would it be worth your risk to deal in beer and other comparatively tame beverages? A warehouse full of beer kegs would be easy for the feds to find, whereas a few vials of moonshine would be much easier to conceal. You could sell the potent stuff and let people dilute it themselves — or not.

This same principle applies to today’s miserably failed “War on Drugs.” Cocaine, heroin, and even marijuana are much more potent today than they would be under a regime of free choice. Marijuana, for example, now features THC levels nearing 10%. Just a decade ago, THC content stood at only 5%. Ten years before that, in 1987, the average batch of weed was only slightly over 3% THC. And in the 1960’s, levels of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) were much lower still.

Americans were much smarter in the 1920s than they are today. Former leading prohibitionists, such as John D. Rockefeller, admitted their mistake and realized Prohibition as the great failure that it was. Forty years later, the War on Drugs would ramp up with gusto. The same scenario has played out again, only worse, but this time, no one is willing to admit that the “cure” is far worse than the disease. And as a result, America continues to suffer.