Ninety-four years ago this month, Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution: the prohibition of the production, sale, and distribution of alcohol.
While libertarians tend to point out the impracticality and the unintentional consequences of such laws, we tend not to hear the more conservative argument about the legacy of western civilization.
Professor Anthony Esolen does a great job today at Public Discourse of explaining this reasoning as applied to Prohibition:
So, then, what does Prohibition teach us?
That amendment inserted into the Constitution a law that neither protected fundamental rights nor adjusted the mechanics of governance. It was a radical break from tradition. It is crucial to understand this. It took a juridical break from tradition to obliterate the customs, the lived traditions, of the American people and their forebears.
Not only did it violate the "lived traditions" of Americans across the nation, prohibition enlarged the federal government to a gargantuan scale:
It was an attempt to call on the national government, that lumbering giant, as Big Daddy to keep little daddy in his place. It was a national “answer” for a local problem, even a domestic problem, as if one were to ask the United Nations to impose a curfew on one’s teenager. That was a first in American history.
Esolen argues for a conservative moral law, one that restricts and limits evil substances such as pornography. He contrasts the prohibition of alcohol with the restriction of porn and artificial contraception. The latter are evil in and of themselves, while the moderate consumption of alcohol is not.
I am curious as to why Esolen didn't address the issue of marijuana. Isn't the prohibition of this plant, which is just as natural as alcohol, more comparable to the Volstead Act?
I share Esolen's conservative mindset. However, the prohibition of marijuana poses similar issues, though Europeans and Americans haven't been toking for over 2,000 years.
Conservatives should rely on state governments, municipalities, and families to prevent the spread of pot.
Mr. Esolen, what do you have to say about that?
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