Study Guide

18th and 21st Amendments Main Idea

By United States Congress

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  • Main Idea

    The 18th Amendment made it illegal to make, sell, transport, export, import, or (presumably) fold, spindle, or mutilate liquor in the United States. There's some other stuff in there too about enforcement, but the first part is the important bit.

    The 21st Amendment basically said "our bad, you can do all that stuff again."

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. How did Prohibition affect the states' right argument when the feds were involved in enforcement?
    2. Was it absolutely necessary to pass a Constitutional amendment prohibiting alcohol? Shouldn't amendments be saved for more important stuff, and just let the states pass laws about drinking?
    3. Can the violence that followed the 18th Amendment really be blamed on the amendment? Wouldn't the gangsters have just sold something else?

    Chew on This

    The states should have passed their own alcohol laws and left it at that. It would have saved everyone a lot of trouble.

    Prohibition was a violation of the church/state wall of separation.

  • Brief Summary

    The Set-Up

    Public opinion has been gradually souring on liquor for a hundred years. It's time to get this thing done.

    The Text

    The 18th Amendment says you can't do anything with liquor other than drink it in your own home if you've already bought it. You either have liquor left over from when it was legal, or someone broke the law getting it to you, and you broke the law buying it.

    The 21st Amendment says, "That 18th Amendment thing? Our bad. You can do all that, as long as your local laws say you can."


    No drinking! Just kidding; drinking.

  • Questions

    1. Based on the lesson of Prohibition, what should we be doing about recreational drugs?
    2. If Prohibition were enacted today, what other substances, devices, or anything else might be made illegal?
    3. What would have happened had the 21st Amendment never been enacted?
    4. Was alcohol use a serious enough matter to warrant a Constitutional Amendment? You could argue that meth is more dangerous than beer; do we need an Amendment to prohibit it?

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