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“I think this would be a good time for a beer.” So said President Roosevelt upon repeal of the 18th Amendment which enforced Prohibition for fourteen long years. Seventy years ago today, the 21st Amendment was ratified by two-thirds of the states, ending Prohibition nationwide.
Prohibition has passed into history but a subtler and more insidious movement is now using a back-door approach to de-legitimize social drinking. Some people call it “Prohibition drip by drip.”
This movement is eerily similar to the movement that gave us Prohibition. Like the early twentieth century movement, it is well organized, it is self-righteous, and it has sympathetic ears in the media. And considering that nearly all of its supporters seem to be bankrolled in some way by the $8-billion Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), it’s even better funded than its pre-Jazz Age forbear.
The RWJF has contributed more than $265 million over five years to notable anti-alcohol organizations, which have used that money to fund “studies,” seminars, media campaigns, and community outreach programs that attack adult beverage consumption in various ways. These multimillion-dollar checks have financed an army of like-minded advocacy, activist, grassroots, and “research” organizations—all aimed at reducing even responsible consumption.
The collective result is a simultaneous, multi-pronged offensive on the way adult beverages are perceived, distributed, sold, and consumed—an assault designed not to address product abuse but simply to get everyone to drink less.
At the recent “Alcohol Policy Conference XIII,” a modern prohibitionist conference underwritten by RWJF, activists endorsed an alcohol rationing system, whereby government limits the quantity of alcohol each individual may consume; a government monopoly on adult beverage distribution; a total advertising ban; and zoning ordinances to restrict the number and location of “alcohol outlets”—which, astonishingly, they define to include family restaurants.
Anti-alcohol organizations justify these draconian measures with a number of RWJF-funded “studies” that bizarrely (and incorrectly) conclude that alcohol abuse is endemic. Moreover, these reports are nearly unanimous in their calls for everyone to reduce their consumption of adult beverages in order to address underage drinking.