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The Political Power of Bad IdeasNetworks, Institutions, and the Global Prohibition Wave$
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Mark Lawrence Schrad

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195391237

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195391237.001.0001

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American Prohibition Reconsidered

American Prohibition Reconsidered

(p.62) Chapter 3 American Prohibition Reconsidered
The Political Power of Bad Ideas

Mark Lawrence Schrad (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the most famous statutory prohibition, that of the United States. It considers how prohibition came to dominate the public discourse at the expense of rival alcohol control options such the Gothenburg system, through the concerted framing efforts of temperance organizations. As elsewhere, the pending crisis of a European war created a “policy window” for the reframing of prohibition as congruent with patriotic sentiments of sacrifice for the greater good. This reframing, combined with the dynamics of positive policy feedback and the altered locus of decision making, helps explain the most baffling historical question of how such an overwhelming majority of Americans could support such a disastrous policy option, to not only ratify a prohibition amendment to the Constitution, but to do so in record time. From there, the chapter looks at the ultimate repeal of prohibition, with reference to the same mechanisms of competing ideas, actors, and feedback processes, which best explain how a supermajority of Americans and their representatives so overwhelmingly — and even more rapidly — defeated a policy that a supermajority comprised of virtually the same pool of citizens adopted just years before.

Keywords:   United States, alcohol prohibition, policymaking, repeal

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