Politicians gained a 'crisis' they could exploit in order to increase their power, and the power of the government as a whole. They gained opportunities for graft beyond their wildest dreams. They came to know the joy of taking from their captives one of the simple pleasures of life, and the profit that can be made from the middle men who sell that pleasure back to them.
Criminals gained a new 'victimless crime', which allowed them to accumulate vast sums of wealth, limited only by their capacity for brutality, and their devious cleverness. And they gained respectability, as their wealth, and the fact that they were now providing services that people actually wanted, gave people an opportunity to realize that they were not just brutal thugs, but also exciting and flamboyant characters.
Respectable citizens gained excitement, as their previously safe and boring cities exploded in violence, brought on, as it always is, by more and more doomed attempts by the government to deprive the people their ability to choose their own fate.
And yet, this program which gave such much to so many, was ended, by a constitutional amendment, just 14 years after it's inception.
What have we learned from this much-maligned program? A great deal!
We have learned that if one actually amends the constitution in order to take people's freedom, those people might make us repeal the amendment, and put an end to our fun. But if we just IGNORE the constitution, as we do with the modern "war on drugs", there is nothing to repeal, and the people can be made to suffer under the lash of our laws much longer.
We have learned the importance of properly demonizing those whose rights we would take. If drinkers had been properly demonized, as smokers and drug users have been by our more enlightened modern masters, perhaps the people could have been cowed into silence, and many of the rights which we were not able to take until the more successful "drug war" would have been ours much sooner.
We have learned the joys of oppressing those who are not as moral as we, and the profit, both personal and political that such oppression brings.
And we have learned the importance of government control of education. For unjust laws can not be long enforced, unless the people can be properly convinced of their own impotence, incompetence, and dependence.
So next time someone points out the death toll of prohibition, or the near collapse of law and order it caused, remind them of the privileged few who reaped it's fruits, and the joy and power it gave them.