Last call for alcohol. This Monday June 21 at 7 p.m. on LONR, Lansing Online Radio News, (89.7 FM WLNZ) Judge William C. Whitbeck of Lansing and Robert Garrett of Lansing will join co-hosts Bill Castanier and Bonnie Bucqueroux to discuss the impact of Prohibition on Lansing and the State of Michigan.
Garrett recently wrote a fascinating blog postÂ for Lansing Online News on prohibition in Lansing which actually began enforcing anti-alcohol laws nearly 10 years prior to the nationwide ban on alcohol. Judge Whitbeck, in his periodic column for legal newspapers in Michigan, wrote about the Constitutional amendmentâ€™s unintended outcomes and called Prohibition â€œa huge and enduring failureâ€.
In a recent articleÂ in the Smithsonian Magazine, author Daniel Okrent detailed how Prohibition started as a grassroots campaign and moved from state to state through the passage of local ordinances prohibiting alcohol. Michigan cities were among the first to hop aboard and in 1910 voters passed an anti alcohol ordinance and by 1918 Michigan was a dry state. Okrent who has written a new book on Prohibition said Prohibition efforts helped to create what he called a â€œtemplate for political activismâ€.
His book, â€œLast Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibitionâ€, details everything from the amendmentâ€™s impact on social structure, family life and international trade. He makes claims that without Prohibition organized crime would not have flourished. Also in his book, Okrent highlights Lansing resident Etta Mae Miller who was sentenced to life imprisonment for a fourth violation of the stateâ€™s liquor laws.Â Her sentence was later commuted. Okrent points to this case in a chapter called â€œOutrageous Excessâ€.
Whitbeck supports that thesis and says that Prohibition â€œmade the wholesale and successful violation of the law a very big and profitable business.â€
Whitbeck a state court of appeals judge, has written a legal thriller with roots in Prohibition. Â His book, â€œTo Account for Murderâ€, involves the notorious Purple Gang which grew to power during Prohibition. In his point of view he makes the point that Detroit alone had 25,000Â speakeasies serving alcohol. It appears Prohibition may have had the opposite effect of what was intended. Contributing to that was the shared border with Canada which helped make Detroit the largest destination for illegal alcohol.
On the face of it, Prohibition may not seem like a timely issue, but philosopher George Santayana coined an aphorism that is appropriate: â€œThose who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.â€