Alcohol prohibition may have been repealed in 1933, but Americans have rarely been more intoxicated with the “noble experiment” than they are today.
Between Last Call, Daniel Okrent’s best-selling 2010 book, leading clothing designers taking inspiration from jazz age fashion, a new prime-time documentary by Ken Burns, and the new, second season of HBOs critically acclaimed Boardwalk Empire, it’s impossible to ignore the new interest in Prohibition. With a fixation on “classic cocktails” and faux-speakeasies, even drinking culture itself seems to be bellying up to the bar.
What’s fueling this fascination and where will it end? Reason.tv talks with filmmaker Burns, author Okrent, and drug policy activist Aaron Houston of Students for Sensible Policy, who argues that “Culture and art right now are reflective of a general sentiment in this society that the war on drugs has not worked.”
And that change is in air.
Marijuana legalization initiatives will be on the ballot in at least two states in 2012, Reps. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) have introduced legislation to let states decide pot’s legal status, and record high levels of Americans are in favor of legalization.
As Okrent tells Reason.tv, the need for excise tax revenue during the Great Depression helped make repeal of alcohol prohibition not just possible but desirable. Coupled with a sense of exhaustion at a drug war that has done little to prevent drug use, the dire financial straits of government at all levels may just spell the demise of contemporary prohibition.
Approx. 5 minutes. Written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie, who also narrates. Additional camera work by Jim Epstein and Anthony Fisher.