Columnist: Of Brexit, Baptists, booze and a history of naïve blunders

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2016

British voters have spoken and announced their intention to leave the European Union, or so it seems. But now it seems apparent that many supporters of Brexit, the plan to get Britain to exit the EU, were ignorant of the plan, hoodwinked by false data, and may be experiencing buyer’s remorse, now that the economic consequences of the vote are becoming apparent. They resemble the silliness of efforts to prohibit certain types of alcohol.

Back in the 1700s, gin was all the rage, thanks to the policies of King William and Queen Mary, who sought to stimulate consumption of alcoholic drinks made with domestic products, instead of foreign crops. Gin was in style, until 1751.

That year, William Hogarth completed the artwork “Gin Lane,” which showed the “evils” of gin, with British society degenerating into chaos. The worst image was of a mother drinking while her child spills off her shoulder, falling toward the sewer, as noted by BBC.

The artwork produced such an outrage among those who fell for it, that the strongest possible anti-gin prohibition was passed, which nearly eliminated the drink from existence, as much of the stills and trade were banned.

Few know the truth, that Hogarth was actually commissioned by beer producers to make the art. His creation “Beer Street” showed a prosperous London and its people, drinking in moderation while hard at work, according to Camilla Swift and Lara Prendergast with The Spectator.

The same charade was repeated in America, where moralistic types backed the 18th Amendment, which banned the sale of alcohol. Economist Bruce Yandle writes about this phenomenon dubbed “Baptists and Bootleggers.”

Baptists would rail against the evils of beer and liquor, unaware that their efforts were financed by the bootleggers, who benefited from their illegal trade and wanted to ensure that prohibition stuck around. Finally, the Baptists stopped being played for saps when the 21st Amendment passed, which legalized alcohol.

A number of gullible British voters thought they were doing the smart thing, as they were wooed by the Brexit forces who promised them all kinds of goodies if they would leave the European Union. Research on Google searches shows there’s a lot of concerns by British about the consequences of their actions.

Take the 350 million pounds that Brexit supporters said would shift from the EU to domestic programs. Even Brexit supporters admit that this key claim was a lie. The economically hard hit area of Cornwall, England, voted for Brexit expecting to be “protected” now. They won’t be.

A lot of the hoopla was whipped up by former London Mayor Boris Johnson, hoping to take Prime Minister David Cameron’s job. And he may well succeed. But as the country’s currency, stock market and economy crumble, it seems like a high price to pay for someone’s political ambition.

America will soon face a similar number of temptations to renege on all kinds of international agreements that it signed in good faith with other nations. Supporters will promise all kinds of benefits they can’t deliver. Learn from the British and the Baptists, and know what the real motives and consequences are of such rash decisions.

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at