Friday, July 16, 2010
From a review by Tyler Cowen of the book by Daniel Okrent (also the creator, it so happens, of Rotisserie Baseball):
What elevates Last Call is, among other things, a clear explanation of the unique confluence of events that caused it. The introduction of the income tax made Prohibition fiscally feasible. Women's suffrage made it politically feasible. World War I created a surfeit of patriotism, a willingness to sacrifice, and an embrace of the expansion of federal power. By 1920 everything was in place for a bold new government intrusion into everyday life.
Naturally, the most entertaining chapter of Last Call concerns the cottage industries that sprang up around the ban. Dentists and physicians were licensed to grant prescription-based exceptions for "medicinal uses" of alcohol, and a typical doctor had the right to issue 100 prescriptions a month, usually for one pint every 10 days. The prescription itself went for about $3 (plus the costs of purchase), or roughly $32 in 2010 dollars.