Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.
With its ratification on January 19, 1919, the United States entered into the alcohol-free era where booze was outlawed and we would become a much better society. This was the culmination of a long-term effort by the temperance movement and a progressive highlight of that time. Who could have possibly understood the second and third order effects of telling the average citizen they could possess alcohol, but could not legally buy it?
What I find so amusing about this, is we men decided to outlaw booze before we were willing to give women an equal voice in voting. Was there a cause and effect relationship? Actually, there probably was. Both came up in the Congress about the same time in the later-half of the 19th century and both were ratified the same year so the idea that suffrage and temperance go hand-in-hand does not seem to be that much of a stretch. This idea is reinforced, at least for me, in the movies of the time where we see groups of women banding together to shut down the saloons in their western towns. Now, how accurately movies depicted real life is always subject to opinion.
This Amendment illustrates one of the dangers in social engineering through the creation of laws, and the Constitution. Up to this point amendments had been approved to clarify how government was to work (e.g. 11th & 12th, or 16 & 17th amendments), or to protect and expand individual liberties (i.e. Bill of Rights, 14th and 15th amendments), with ratification of the 18th its framers and the politicians who approved it were entering into the role of overseers of our personal welfare. The fundamental question, at least for me, is: Is it possible for an amoral entity like government to actually define what is best for me as an individual?
Although not quite the same, we see a similar approach in the modern “war on drugs” campaign the United States has been waging since the end of World War II. How successful has that campaign been at reducing the populations desire for the various drugs. Proponents will certainly argue it has been money well spent, but has it? Why then do we still see some 70 years since the beginning so many who advocate for Marijuana legalization? I wonder how much government disinformation has been put out there in an effort to win the hearts and minds of the average citizen?
At the end of the day this amendment lasted about 14 years until repealed. Its by-product was the dramatic expansion of organized crime and bootleggers who, unencumbered by a need to follow the laws, rushed in to fill the void left as legitimate businesses were forced to close.