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A measure of success: Examining prohibition in 1920s USA

Sweet, Michael (2017) A measure of success: Examining prohibition in 1920s USA. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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In 1919, a policy to ban alcoholic beverages was entrenched by Congress into the Constitution - the 18th Amendment. Congressmen Andrew Volstead proceeded to promote the enacting legislation in the United States House of Representatives, and the National Prohibition Act became law.

Does Prohibition deserve its overwhelming condemnation as a failure? How successful was the Act’s implementation?

After the introduction, part two discusses the theories and perceptions that serve to shape the debate over alcohol prohibition. To measure its success, the Act is then examined according to its outcomes - part three of the thesis assesses the anticipated increase in economic prosperity through the metrics of government revenue, business activity, workplace attendance, wages and sales figures.

Part four scrutinises the production and supply of alcohol, prison populations, drunkenness, crime rates and corruption.

The success of a reform is also found in how it shapes the nation. Prohibition’s economic and political effects are briefly noted, as is its influence upon policing and the judiciary.

The 21st Amendment repealing alcohol prohibition functioned to skew reporting of the Prohibition era, serving the purposes of ideologues and business opportunists. The thesis concludes that the reform was not defeated by any inherent impossibility, but rather by a lack of skilfully wielded political will.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
Supervisor(s): Brohmer, Jurgen
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