The Law Of Unintended Consequences


If you’re like me, you look at the Constitution with great respect and reverence. So many of our basic freedoms are guaranteed by this great document and through its following amendments. It is the means by which Americans are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But just like any other document, it can be flawed. It’s not perfect. I know. I write documents for a living and trust me, I never get it right the first time. A well researched, well-written document needs to be reviewed, edited, pondered, and perused. Once upon a time, America got it wrong and ratified a really bad ‘first draft’ amendment to the Constitution. The 18th Amendment might have started as “the noble experiment,” but the experiment failed…miserably.


In 1900, a hotel operator in Texas received a direct message from God. She interpreted her dream as a crusade to rid America of “demon rum” and thus the Temperance Movement was born. Carrie Nation, a poorly educated, mentally unstable, twice-divorced “Karen” from Kentucky decided that because she didn’t like alcohol, no one else should have it. Her long crusade, which was punctuated with her hymn-singing gang “hatcheting” bars and saloons in many midwestern states, gained a substantial following of disparate groups, including the KKK and the Robber Barons, culminating in the passage of the 18th Amendment and almost 14 years of misery and the Great Depression.


President Woodrow Wilson, a good man, and distant relative, first vetoed the measure. Congress, however, was swayed by the deep-pocketed anti-liquor lobby (funded by the Rockefellers et al.), voted for it, and sent it to the states. Americans, swayed by newspaper articles promising better days, voted for it — 47 out of 48 states ratified it. Apparently, Rhode Island was the only state that had any sense back then. Prohibition became the law of the land for 13-plus years. Recognizing what a giant mistake had been made, it was repealed by the 23rd Amendment. #ooops By all accounts, Prohibition was a complete failure. New York state tax revenues fell by 74 percent. The restaurant and hospitality industries almost collapsed. Since pharmacies were one of the only places you could get alcohol for “medicinal purposes,” the number of drug stores in the US exploded. Walgreens grew from 20 stores to 525 in less than a decade.


The Federal Government lost $11 billion in tax revenue ($1.3 trillion in today’s dollars) during Prohibition. And the Feds had to spend an additional $300 million ($3.9 billion today) each year to hire Elliot Ness and The Untouchables to enforce this unpopular constitutional amendment. It is also estimated that more than 10,000 Americans died drinking tainted booze. Organized crime gripped the nation, from big-city mobs to small-town bootleggers. The murder rate in the United States jumped by 78 percent during the Prohibition Era.


Somehow, someway 100 years ago, the Law of Unintended Consequences became the highest law of the land. As we usher in a new President and Vice President this week, let’s hope they and the entire Congress remember that when laws are added or changed, you must understand the law of unintended consequences. We must, and they must heed the warnings of John Locke, who so eloquently advised us over 300 years ago about the proper role of government.


Monday, January 18 — Southeast by Southwest

On Monday, I flew back from the Southeast on Southwest, hopping on an $89 roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale to Richmond. I’ve flown a LOT this past year, some for work and mostly for fun, and I have to say I love the culture and brand that Southwest has created. Their people-first approach makes all the difference. It’s no wonder why they’ve been voted Best Place to Work by Glassdoor for 10 years in a row. #PrettyFly Despite the pandemic and subsequent recession, the airline has never had a layoff and its stock is just a few dollars off its all-time high of 2018. #BoldBrandsWin

Tuesday, January 19 — Enjoying the Drive

Lots of fun stuff got postponed in 2020, but the new year seems to be getting back to normal. I had a great time Tuesday evening with my fellow Virginia Council of CEO Roundtable members at Top Golf for a modified, socially-distant version of our annual retreat. Good eats, good drinks, good conversation, and terrible golf swings. Am I the only one who confuses Top Golf with Drive Shack? Or is it the other way around? Our waiter provided great services but terrible photography services.

Wednesday, January 20 — Pioneer Spirit

Speaking of Prohibition, did you know that our client A. Smith Bowman Distillery began producing whiskey one year after the Prohibition ended? In 1934, A. Smith Bowman built an innovative distillery on his farm and turned it into a family business. Over 85 years later, they have been recognized as producers of the World’s Best Whiskey. If you’re interested in a complimentary tour and tasting, A. Smith Bowman Distillery is one of the 15 Best Things to Do in FredericksburgVirginia. Book your visit by clicking here.

Thursday, January 21 — Big Shots At Williamsburg Landing


Virtual events are all the rage these days. Our friends at Williamsburg Landing are participating in an upcoming free workshop on the different models of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) in Virginia. They will also share information and answer any questions about their community and how they work. The team at Williamsburg Landing rolled out vaccinations for their staff and residents this week. CEO Greg Storer was the first vaccinated among the staff. Greg’s team vaccinated 674 people on their campus this week. #WayToGo

Williamsburg Landing

Friday, January 22 — Eye-catching Display!

If you’re driving down  towards beautiful downtown Irvington, Virginia, you will drive past a very stylish new billboard that we designed for our clients at COMPASS Entertainment Complex. I am a big fan of billboards, especially in rural areas. You can’t miss them. They work 24 hours a day. They build brand awareness, especially for destination marketers. Billboards rock for retail clients, if you ask me.

COMPASS Entertainment Complex

A Few of Our Favorite Events


CowanGates Memorial Blood Drive

13620 W Salisbury Rd. | Midlothian, VA 23113

February 16 | 2 – 6 p.m.


CowanGates, in partnership with Village Bank, is sponsoring a blood drive at Salisbury Country Club. Bring your mask and donate — giving blood will help save a life. Sign up today!

Virginia Living Magazine
Now – January 31
Virginia Living Magazine’s Best of Virginia voting has begun! Vote for our clients below who have been nominated — or if you’re feeling special, write some in!
Central Region
Best Summer Camp: Camp Hanover
Veterinary Clinic: Sycamore Vet
Family Entertainment: COMPASS Entertainment Complex (write-in)
Best Distillery: A. Smith Bowman Distillery
Best Law Firm: CowanGates (write-in)
Best Fine Jewelry Store: Vera’s Fine Jewelers
Best Burger Joint: Texas Inn (write-in)
Eastern Region
Best Golf Course: Two Rivers Country Club (write-in)
Best Wedding or Special Event Venue: Two Rivers Country Club (write-in)
Shenandoah Valley Region
Best Wedding or Special Event Venue: CrossKeys Barn
For Best Retirement Communities throughout the state of Virginia, vote for Williamsburg LandingLucy CorrBirmingham Green, and the five locations of Pinnacle Living!
Got an upcoming in-person or virtual event you want to share? Send us the deets! We promise we’ll look presentable.

Got an upcoming event you want to share? Can we come? Send us the deets!


“All men are liable to error; and most men are, in many points, by passion or interest, under temptation to it.”  — John Locke