McGirr makes two major contributions to the historical record. First, she vividly shows how enforcers targeted immigrant and black communities...Second, McGirr tells us that Prohibition gave birth to big government — an argument that could have a major impact on how we read American political history.
McGirr's well-written and accessible volume is essential because she not only recounts familiar aspects of Prohibition with insight and verve — she clearly, cogently and persuasively connects that era's politics and policies to our contemporary Prohibition: America's decades-long 'War on Drugs.'
Lisa McGirr’s The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State is dry and tendentious, like certain counties in Tennessee. But anyone with a serious interest in drug policy should read her book to understand how we arrived at our present tragedy.
Part of the problem with thinking about Prohibition is that the fact of its evident unsustainability tends to overwhelm everything else about it; even McGirr sometimes struggles to make her characters seem sensible enough to be taken seriously.