Hoist a Glass to the End of One Prohibition, and Hope for an End to Others

Illegal breweryAs noted
by Meredith Bragg, today is the 80th anniversary of the
end of the ignoble experiment, Prohibition. It was a national
toe-dip into massive social engineering that proved so impressively
unsuccessful and self-defeating that, even after it was repealed,
its basic premise was repeated with a host of other disfavored
substances and services—and without the bother of authorization via
a constitutional amendment. For part of my family, Prohibition was
a special time. It marked a period of prosperity that really wasn’t
replicated for several generations.

After years of trying make a living, with varying degrees of
success, in Italy and Argentina, Giuseppe “Joe” Marano arrived in
this country early in the twentieth century. Before long, my
great-grandfather was doing pretty damned well for an

As my father documented in his book Heretic:

When Prohibition was imposed on the nation ten years later,
Joe’s ristorante was flourishing openly as the most
successful speakeasy in the Bronx. Marano’s Bar and Restaurant was
the place where some of New York City’s leading politicians,
including the police commissioner, adjourned to drink contraband
beverages far from the scrutiny of nosy reporters.

Even with his entire business operating outside the law, Joe put
out a free lunch for customers. My grandmother, Virginia, was
instructed to exercise a heavy hand with the red pepper, since it
encouraged thirst and sales at the bar.

Marano’s business efforts largely paid for a string of
girlfriends and a comfortable lifestyle, but he also acquired
property in the Bronx that was split between a cousin, and his
daughter. Virginia married Salvatore “Chips” Tuccille, who made
part of his living running illegal games in defiance of another

Marano died soon after Prohibition ended. Well…After
that prohibition ended. There was still gambling to keep
my grandfather occupied. A cousin indulged in loan-sharking, to
satisfy high-risk borrowers with a need for short-term loans of the
sort the law
doesn’t allow
. Another relation of mine became somewhat
prosperous through a connection to what became known as the
,” though I’m ignorant of the details of that

For my part, college was a a lot more affordable than might have
been the case since I
“corrected” identification documents
to help fellow students
escape the lingering alcohol restrictions left in the wake of
Prohibition’s repeal. I also sold grass in defiance of the biggest
prohibition to replace the one on alcohol.

Frankly, those license-and-regulation-free ventures were a lot
easier to navigate than any “legit” business I’ve worked since. But
I could have done without the headache of looking over my shoulder
for the cops. As the ACLU reported recently.
thousands of nonviolent offenders are serving life in prison
a result of drug prohibition and resulting “tough on crime”
policies. To save myself some worries, I should have followed Joe’s
example and cultivated the police commissioner as a customer.

So hoist a glass to the end of Prohibition. But take a moment to
raise a pipe, a joint, a fake ID, a deck of cards, a loan receipt,
or a host of other forbidden items in hopes that remaining
prohibitions will follow the one that starts with a capital “P”
into the history books.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/05/hoist-a-glass-to-the-end-of-one-prohibit

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