Government is always looking for something new to tax and there is nothing easier to tax than sin. To the extent that alcohol was being increasingly demonized after the Civil War, that sentiment gave cover to Congress when it wanted to increase tax revenues. Then as now, some politicians argued that disincentives like higher prices would help reduce overconsumption without resorting to an outright ban. For three decades, the money collected from federal excise taxes on liquor was half of the federal budget. Liquor was the money pot. As wrongheaded as prohibition was, the decision to impose it looks remarkably couragous. Politicians seldom act against their own self-interest yet this would seem to be an example of such a decision.

--Chuck Cowdery