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Prohibition… May 28, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, US Politics.

Okay, there’s no end of things going on, not least the privatisation of VHI which I’ll return to again, but… for something a bit different… there’s an excellent podcast (and an – ahem – painful title to the podcast) on Slate.com where The Big Money, their business and finance side (intriguingly liberal for the US – well worth a listen in any event) discusses a new book by Daniel Okrent, “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” on the Prohibition era. I have to admit, I’ve always been fascinated by that strand of US history. As the author notes, in the US Constitution Prohibition was utterly anomalous by attempting to constrain individual behaviour. There’s also some remarkable information, such as the links between temperance and suffrage which – when one thinks about it – make perfect sense in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th. And then you also had a bizarre situation where the KKK supported suffrage and the IWW supported prohibition.

That Prohibition was only revoked in the early 1930s is in itself notable.

But as much so is the attitude one experiences in the US in relation to alcohol. I think it could be termed generally one of caution and moderation. Obviously those of us who have been there know of exceptions, but drinking patterns say compared with the Irish experience are immediately recognisable as distinct. And this presumably comes in no small measure – so to speak – from the enduring legacy of those times. A fascinating conversation and a book that would be I suspect well worth reading.


1. yourcousin - May 29, 2010

I believe the IWW support of prohibition would fall somewhere along the lines of Michael Collins smashing the whiskey at the GPO. Certainly there was no alcohol allowed in IWW reading rooms of the time and certainly it was never allowed in union halls, especially during times of conflict.


WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Which makes sense. Cheers YC. I’ve got to get that book! I love that period of US history, not least because I know far less than I should given my interest.


2. Seán Báite - May 29, 2010

The Left/Far Left being on the same wavelength as Protestant Fundementalists – not all that farfetched. Your post reminds me of this pretty good post over on Hugh Green’s blog of the everchanging name :


WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Well, there’s that absolutely. Much of UK socialism came in part from Christian socialist roots particularly in the 19th century. Nice post by Hugh.


yourcousin - May 29, 2010

The whole, “more Methodist than Marx” thing eh? I think one thing worth noting though is just how far things go. Kind of a “the right to swing your fist…” argument.

A good friend of mine was back packing through a village in Denmark where everyone kept their blinds open all the time. A calvinist thing where since if you weren’t sinning you shouldn’t need the privacy sort of thing. Which is great and temperance societies are all very well and good, but the idea that one shouldn’t be allowed to put up blinds in case that might lead to sinning is bad. Not the best analogy I know but oh well.

Not that an unhealthy drinking habit societally speaking is a good thing, but if one were to place blame on things that encourage apathy and lack of social movements taking off, I would be more inclined to look at TV and the explosion of the suburbs as two things that contribute more to social isolation and alienation than do shitty pubs.


WorldbyStorm - May 29, 2010

Odd about the windows. I know a mate who lived for years in Holland said it’s much the same. Only it’s sort of in modernist flats etc. I wonder does it come from the same roots there?

I agree re pubs. Declining activism seems much more likely to be a factor of competing media than drink.


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