October 1, 2011

AND IT REDUCED LIVER DISEASE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, ETC...:

The (Not So) Roaring '20s (Emily G. Owens, 10/01/11, NY Times)

Standard statistical analysis allows us to disentangle the impact of dry laws from changes in urbanization, immigration, race and age distribution and even the ameliorating effect of the New Deal. The hard data do not show a strong relationship between criminalizing the market for alcohol and homicide rates once these other factors are taken into account. In fact, depending on the model, the actual effect of going dry ranges from a 5 percent increase to a 13 percent decrease in state homicide rates, with margins of error of 4 percentage points.

How could dry laws have reduced crime? By making alcohol harder to come by, dry laws most likely reduced drinking. And researchers almost all agree that alcohol is associated with high levels of psychopharmacological violence -- that is, conflicts that escalate because one or more parties are intoxicated.

Of course, the news media presented a drastically different picture. Gang shootouts made for compelling headlines, and these might have increased when states went dry. But this wasn't enough to outweigh a reduction in more mundane, alcohol-fueled violence.

The best policies seemed to be lenient dry laws, which, before federal Prohibition, allowed very limited access to legal alcohol markets by, for example, letting consumers import alcohol from a wet state. That reduced psychopharmacological violence, but it also reduced the need for illegal markets. In such states, homicide rates were about 10 percent lower than one would expect, based on the other social changes taking place. 

Posted by at October 1, 2011 6:52 PM
  

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