People think of America's Prohibition in the '20s as one hilarious, bloody failure. Pop-culture images of rumrunners and speakeasies depict an America that not only gave zero fucks about the outlawing of alcohol, but also handed power and wealth to murderous gangsters like Al Capone.
So if outlawing alcohol was one great big violent mistake, then it isn't a stretch to argue that the same thing goes for drug prohibition. And since lifting Prohibition fixed most of the problems that alcohol had caused, we should lift the ban on all the other drugs too. You know, just like they recently did in Portugal where, as any stoner on the Internet will tell you, decriminalization has been a huge success.
"Right after I look up how to make a bong like Bane's mask."
But Actually ...
We're not going to argue about whether Prohibition was right or wrong. But that's different from asking whether or not it succeeded. And, as far as anyone can tell, Prohibition pretty much did exactly what it was designed to do.
After all, you would expect that the measure of Prohibition's "success" would be the significant decrease of alcohol consumption during that time. And it did -- by 30 to 50 percent. Despite the fact that it didn't eliminate alcoholism altogether, Prohibition did sharply curb the number of deaths and arrests related to alcohol, which is what they wanted in the first place.
"It also sharply curbed the amount of blood in my urine."
But what about all the organized crime that suddenly appeared along with Prohibition? Well actually, it didn't. Organized crime existed at pretty much the same level as before, during and after Prohibition. Scarface may have started selling whiskey as well as cocaine, but the gangster employment rate didn't exactly skyrocket. Nor can it be said to have been a more violent time -- the murder rate actually leveled off during Prohibition.
When people talk about what an embarrassing mistake Prohibition was, they usually cite the fact that it's the only time in American history that a constitutional amendment has been repealed, like we just sort of awkwardly swept it under the living room rug and asked everyone not to stare at the bulge. But really, the repeal had little to do with any perception that Prohibition had failed. It had much more to do with the fact that we simply changed our mind. You know, like in a democracy.
Nice job, Founding Fathers.
But even if we concede that Prohibition worked the way it was expected to, we still have Portugal to look up to, right? In 2001, they decriminalized all drugs, and the Portuguese people have responded like rational adults to this new Valhalla of illicit substances.
Sorry again. "Decriminalization" of drugs isn't the same as legalizing them. So before you buy a one-way plane ticket, understand that making, selling or having more than a few days' supply of drugs on you can still get you a prison sentence. The only real difference is that if you get caught doing drugs, they won't send you to jail; but you'll still have to face a panel of psychologists, social workers and legal advisers. Presumably your mother will be there too, and she'll be very disappointed in you.
"I'm just glad your real father's not here to see this."
"Yeah! Wait, what?"
So, Portugal's drug abuse rates didn't go down because drugs are as readily available as liquor, but because addicts are referred to a treatment facility. Such policies may work in America, but don't expect the full-frontal-nudity version of drug legalization to hit here any time soon. The best you can hope for is Cinemax After Dark.
Every single party that loses a close election claims it was all due to fraud. After all, it's just not possible that most people disagree with you or something. So when Election Day comes up in the U.S., the argument emerges that we should have some kind of voter ID system in place to make sure that our elections aren't fraught with illegal aliens, felons and multiple-voters stealing our democracy straight from under us.
Besides, they say, we already need a photo ID if we want to buy alcohol or cigarettes or goddamned Sudafed. It's certainly not too much to ask people to prove who they are before they choose the next president.
"Don't be silly, of course I'm really Brenda Fong."
But Actually ...
First of all, even though it seems like something you couldn't live without, 11 percent of Americans don't have any form of photo ID. Presumably they need to wear a fake moustache to buy beer. For most of us, our ID is our driver's license, and it's easy to forget that lots of people don't drive because they're elderly, disabled, too poor or just don't feel like it. But hey, 11 percent isn't that bad -- that's only about 21 million potential voters. Surely there's enough fraud in this country to warrant excluding them on Election Day, right?
Believe it or not, despite what many political commentators assume, voter fraud is virtually non-existent. And it's not because those who think the world will end if their candidate loses simply haven't considered trying it. Think about the risk versus the reward for someone who decides to cast an extra vote. The risk? A fine of up to $500 and possible jail time. For an illegal alien, deportation. And the reward? A single extra vote. Who in their right mind is going to take up those odds? It would be like stealing a single piece of candy, knowing that the punishment was watching nothing but C-SPAN for the rest of your life. It's the same for a party trying to organize wide-spread fraud to steal an election; think about the consequences of getting caught versus just spending the time and money on legit "get out the vote" efforts.
"But I'm sooooo lazy."
That's why nobody in their right mind does it -- a Justice Department review committee found virtually no evidence of any effort to skew federal elections. In reality, in only 1 out of every 15 million prospective voters can you find a case of such fraud. With 146 million registered voters in the United States, that's a whopping 10 cases in which voter ID laws would have stopped a crime. Not 10,000; just 10. That's probably not enough to swing the election for high school class president.
Compare that to 21 million potential voters who are disenfranchised by the same laws. For those of you playing at home, 21 million is a bit higher than 10. So it comes down to giving in to paranoia about a non-existent issue, or letting a significant portion of the population vote. Well this is America, land of the free, so we're obviously going to -- Aw fuck, turns out we're mostly going with paranoia.
Alex Race wants to be your friend on Facebook. Alternatively, you can send your hate-mail to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Patrick McCarty co-stars as Paul Crane in The O.C. Club, a new webseries. And check out his story in Liquid Imagination.
For more things you're so wrong about, check out The 5 Most Statistically Full of Shit National Stereotypes and 7 Basic Things You Won't Believe You're All Doing Wrong.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Science Fictions We Really Just Built.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover why in Internet arguments, everyone's a loser.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Do you possess expert skills in image creation and manipulation? Mediocre? Even rudimentary? Are you frightened by MS Paint and simply have a funny idea? You can create an infographic and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!