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'Dry Manhattan' Traces Prohibition's Failure

Mar 16, 2007 (All Things Considered)

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Prohibition, which was variously called a "noble experiment" and "the worst legislative mistake this country ever made," was a constitutional ban from 1920 to 1933 on producing and selling beer, wine and liquor.

The policy failed — flamboyantly and spectacularly — nowhere more so than in New York City, where there were as many as 32,000 speakeasies.

In his new book, Dry Manhattan, author Michael A. Lerner argues that advocates of Prohibition were not just opposed to alcohol and drunkenness: They also were opposed to the new American urban culture of immigrant groups.

These immigrants dominated New York City's population, and typically opposed Prohibition.

Lerner, the associate dean of studies at Bard High School Early College in New York City, talks to Robert Siegel about this clash of cultures.

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