America: land of the free, home of… ‘The Experiment’

History September 7, 2021
Listen to ‘The Experiment’

The Atlantic and WNYC Studios present “The Experiment,” a documentary podcast about America. In the grand scheme of our world, it’s interesting to remember that the United States began as an experiment: “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, with liberty and justice for all.” “The Experiment’s” episodes unpack stories of historical significance and dive into current events. Host Julia Longoria has conversations with an assortment of guests to explore subjects ranging from the government, to what guest sex therapist Dr. Ruth calls Hot Vax Summer, and more.

Other recent episodes covered last year’s random seed package deliveries arriving from China, hate-crimes, college sports, and the Battle of the Alamo. Can we learn anything from the TV show, 90 Day Fiancé? How did Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg gain a ‘notorious’ reputation? Why do people murder? What is the main issue with America’s National Parks? “The Experiment” runs the gamut of topics to inform listeners.

The U.S. and alcohol

A recent episode looked at America’s relationship with alcohol. The episode recapped President Biden’s partnership with Anheuser-Busch to buy a beer for anyone who’s vaccinated and over 21. As it turns out, Biden wasn’t the first politician to use alcohol as an incentivized, bargaining chip. This episode shares that in 1758, George Washington started his political career. He was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses by bribing voters with alcohol.

The Atlantic‘s senior editor, Kate Julian, spoke about America’s drinking problem, based on the research for her published article in June. Moreover, she notes sales trends over the last 20 years. Alcohol is available in places where once it was not, like at zoos and coffee shops. Kate said people are drinking more alone to cope, especially during the pandemic.

Kate also spoke about the damaging effects of alcohol abuse. She wonders why evolution is prone to favor activities that are detrimental to humans’ health. When a temple was found in Eastern Turkey, archaeologists determined it was a place to have alcohol-drenched feasts and parties. It’s speculated that chemical intoxicants enabled the people to work together, and also helped build the structure out of large stones. Alcohol is likened to early religions and mass-cooperation of different groups of people, as referenced by author Edward Slingerland. A Google staff member once asked Edward if he had heard of the Ballmer Peak. Edward was intrigued. He learned it referred to Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer’s theory in which he determined a certain blood-alcohol level optimized his coding abilities.

We learn about statistics. Did you know that parts of Southern Europe, like Italy, have the lowest rates of Alcohol Use Disorder in the world? In the United States, it’s the reverse. This stat dates back to the Pilgrims’ arrival. The podcast explains that the Mayflower landed early at Plymouth Rock for several reasons. The episode states a major factor was that the Pilgrims ran out of beer en route. In their diaries, the settlers complained about the lack of alcohol. They could not wait to import more and brew their own.

Later in the podcast’s unraveling of alcohol’s history, we learn about the Temperance Movement, an amendment to the Constitution in an attempt to ban alcohol in the 19th and 20th centuries. Listeners also hear about America’s awareness of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, drunk driving, and the rise of caffeine culture grace à Starbucks.

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