It didn’t happen overnight. But when Prohibition arrived in America following the passage of the 18th Amendment, it somehow brought out the worst in us.
Prohibition proved that a group of moral zealots who know how to organize and influence are capable of tearing the rest of us away from our rightful moorings.
With Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent has written a gem of a book. He reveals disturbing connections between Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage, the birth of Income Tax, Federal Immigration policy, and Congressional Redistricting.
This is a history book for those of us who value fact, context, and flavor. Okrent hits all the right notes, perfectly balancing policy, personality, sidebars and significance.
And along the way he debunks a few myths, notably the widespread belief that Joseph P. Kennedy was a kingpin bootlegger.
But perhaps the most important consideration Okrent leaves us with is a specific understanding of how interest groups can insidiously co-opt issues to their advantage, how easily falsehood can be injected into our national dialogue, and the extent to which politicians cower when the prospects of reelection appear threatened.
Prohibition has been extensively glamorized. Its failures have been widely noted. After reading Daniel Okrent’s book, we are left with a grasp of its origins, so artfully orchestrated by Wayne B. Wheeler and the Anti-Saloon League.
How did it happen? How did a freedom-loving people decide to give up a private right that had been freely exercised by millions upon millions since the first European colonists arrived in the free world?
Okrent answers these questions and more.