10 of the Worst Decisions Ever Made


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Prohibition
Federal agent with a seized illegal still in the 1920s. ©Bettmann/CORBIS

In the 1920s, if you were "going to see a man about a dog," you weren't looking for a rescue pup; you were in the mood for a tipple or two, preferably whiskey. Why so sly? During Prohibition in America, between January1920 when the 18th Amendment was signed until its repeal in 1933, it was illegal to manufacture, transport or sell alcohol (but it wasn't actually illegal to drink it).

Prohibition was considered the "noble experiment." It was supposed to lower crime levels and reduce the amount of money spent on prisons. It was supposed to clean us up socially, as well as improve our health and hygiene. What resulted instead was an explosion of alcohol-related crime, and eventually a corrupt law enforcement and political system willing to take bribes or look the other way. Prohibition didn't stop people from drinking; it just changed the what and where of the equation. Because they were illegal, foot juice (slang for cheap wine around the speakeasy) and jag juice (for those who like something a little harder) were unregulated, and tainted alcohol killed an average of 1,000 during every dry year [source: Lerner]. Unexpected negative financial effects also fell on a country expecting an economic windfall. For example, states lost revenue previously gained from liquor sales.

Author's Note: 10 of the Worst Decisions Ever Made

I had just as much fun digging into each of these bad decisions as I did when I wrote another article, What are the odds? The two have become some of my favorites to both research and write. What are the odds of hitting that iceberg? As it turns out, the odds were pretty good. Also, if you learn nothing else from this article, remember: If you're thinking about invading Russia (any time, but especially in or near winter), you might want to brush up on a lot of history before committing to that decision.

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