Daniel Okrent, the first public editor of the New York Times, was on "The Daily Show" last night to talk about his new book, "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition." Okrent talked to Jon Stewart about the strange time in our country's history when freedoms were constitutionally limited -- prohibition was one of only two amendments that restrict rights, the other being the law against owning slaves. "I wanted to call the book, 'How the Hell Did That Happen?'" Okrent joked.
Okrent described an interestingly diverse group of people who supported prohibition. It included the KKK, who supported prohibition for anti-immigrant reasons, but also the Industrial Workers of the World, who thought that alcohol was a tool used by the capitalists to "keep the working man down." It was also supported by the women's suffrage movement -- consequentially, the KKK supported women's right to vote, assuming that they would vote for prohibition, which they did.
We've learned from the prohibition movement, Okrent said, that "you can't legislate against people's appetites." He made a parallel to current laws against marijuana, even pointing out that people could get prescriptions for medicinal liquor during prohibition -- for only $3. "Now in Venice Beach in Los Angeles, it costs $100 for a prescription for marijuana," he said.
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