Daniel Okrent’s *Last Call*, a history of prohibition

My review, in the latest Business Week, is here.  Excerpt:

Last Call does a lot to help situate the impulses of the era, and yes, make them seem a little less crazy. At the same time as temperance was flowering, so were crusades for clean water and sanitation, which saved millions of lives. Alcohol, seen as a major scourge of civil society, looked ripe for a once-and-for-all ban that would put mankind on a new course. "Figuring per capita," Okrent writes, "multiply the amount Americans drink today by three and you'll have an idea what much of the nineteenth century was like."

The introduction of the income tax made Prohibition fiscally feasible. Women's suffrage made it politically feasible. World War I created a surfeit of patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice, and an embrace of the expansion of federal power. By 1920 everything was in place for a bold new government intrusion into everyday life.

The end of my review considers in more detail why so many drugs are still illegal while alcohol is not.  You can buy the book — which is very good — here.


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