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Well, well. I always thought Americans were the only peoples goofy enough to attempt a ban on sweet mother hooch, but it turns out we weren’t even the first. Iceland was dry from 1915 to 1922 (and beer stayed banned until 1989), Norway was sober from 1916 to 1927 and Finland was thirsty from 1916 to 1932. By contrast, we didn’t climb on the wagon until 1920 (mark your calendars — next year will be our 75th anniversary of the repeal of 1933).

Iceland, Norway and Finland. Jesus. Three places where there’s got to be sweet fuck-all to do but get pissed as a newt and pass out in a snowbank. I bet they were all, like, “dudes. Let’s go to Denmark for the weekend and par-tay!”

Today is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of prohibition in Finland. A European would write the date as 5/4/32 — the “countdown” date was supposedly chosen deliberately. And appropriately — wannabe drunks were lined up ’round the block at the new, government owned and charmingly named Alko stores.

The US still has a patchwork of state regulations. I grew up in a dry county. Beer was allowed, but not liquor. My mother called it the Bootlegger Protection Act. The next county over was wet, but liquor stores were allowed to sell liquor and nothing else, presumably for fear some innocent might wander in for a Coke and stumble out a skid-row bum.

In some states, alcohol is sold by the government in Alcoholic Beverage Commission stores (a friend of mine once humiliated her family by reciting “ABC-Store-EFG” in kindergarten, in all innocence). Whereas in louche Louisiana, liquor is sold in the grocery store. Selling liquor on Sunday was forbidden in Massachusetts and Rhode Island until a couple of years ago. Not that yours truly is ever in danger of running low. I gots backup for my backups.

Anyhow, what got to Finland at last was the depression. No, no…not the perfectly natural depression that would derive from living sober in Finland, I mean the global economic depression of the 1930s. Finland’s sauce-producing trading partners to the South were not happy with prohibition and threatened tariffs on Finland’s…wood. And lumber. And timber. And that liquor tax money began to look pretty sweet.

A rare occasion when the venality of government served freedom.


April 5, 2007 — 9:36 am
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