History

The Seen and Unseen of Prohibition

Nicholas Snow

Today’s document is a letter to Joseph P. Kennedy from Leonard E. Read dated October 25, 1947. The letter is short and simply informs Joseph Kennedy to take a look at one of Henry Hazlitt’s articles. Sadly we do not have the enclosed article but, since Leonard Read mentions that it is “just off the press”, it might likely be Hazlitt’s “The Drive Against ‘Gambling’,” from October 20th 1947, in Newsweek.

Joseph Kennedy is, of course, most famous for being the father of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, but a close second is known for taking part in the notorious trade in which he (possibly) made his family’s fortune; namely bootlegging alcohol during the Prohibition.

Alcohol prohibition is largely considered a failure today and for good reason; see for example, Douglas Roger’s review in the Freeman of Daniel Okrent’s fantastic book Last Call: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition. The negative consequences of America’s noble experiment stretched far and wide. The quality of liquor went down, potency went up, and as result the emerging black markets created environment of secrecy, corruption, and violence, etc.

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