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Iran's War on Booze Is Like America's War on Drugs

• https://www.fff.org

After 40 years of booze illegality, Iran is getting hit with a dose of reality. Iranian officials are discovering that laws that criminalize the possession or consumption of alcohol do not work. According to an article in the Washington Post, public officials are acknowledging that there is a big alcoholism problem in Iran notwithstanding the fact that alcohol has been illegal since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

In other words, making booze illegal didn't stop people from consuming alcohol or becoming alcoholics. The law simply did not work, not even when it was enforced with brutal punishments, like lashings.

Unfortunately, Iranian officials are not repealing their booze laws but instead simply educating people on the evils of alcohol and opening up government clinics to help people overcome their alcohol problems.

Does all this remind you of anything here in the United States?

There was Prohibition here in the United States. It didn't work either. People continued to possess, distribute, and consume booze even though it was illegal to do so.

Like the Iranians, Americans learned a lesson about using the force of law to prevent people from engaging in self-destructive activity. It just doesn't work.

Moreover, it makes the situation worse.

For one thing, the problem of alcoholism is driven underground, given that people are scared of being busted and punished. As the Iranians are discovering, when the government loosens up, alcoholics are more willing to surface and seek treatment in rehab clinics.

And then there is the issue of violence. Here in the United States, Prohibition gave rise to massive violence associated with the illegal distribution of alcohol. Al Capone comes to mind, along with Elliot Ness and the Untouchables, who were waging a violent war against Capone and other booze lords.  All that violence disappeared when alcohol was legalized.

Unlike Iran, the United States no longer has Prohibition. There are still plenty of alcoholics in the United States but few Americans are clamoring to make booze illegal again. Instead, Americans have come to accept that that there will always be people who drink or who drink to excess.

A question naturally arises: Why the U.S. war on drugs? It's no different in principle from Iran's 40-year experiment with a war on booze. It certainly is as big a failure as Iran's war on booze.

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