A controversial chapter in the book of Swedish prohibition
I recently bought a part of Swedish alcohol history. This is a passbook (in Swedish, ”motbok”), given to citizens of Sweden–used to ration the purchase of spirits in the time between 1914–1955. The motbok was a national effort to curb alcohol abuse and ration spirits during the first world war.
In the beginning of the 20th century, alcohol abuse was incapacitating the Swedish workers. The Swedish government was still searching a national solution to alcohol rationing and a new control system was being implemented. Tried as a measure in some parts of Sweden as early as 1914, the motbok was given to ”approved” citizens to stamp when purchasing spirits. The purchase was noted in the motbok, and at the same time in records at the place of purchase.
After narrowly voting against prohibition in 1922, there was still a need to curb consumption, and along with a State-monopoly on both production and sales of alcohol in Sweden, the Bratt system was implemented in full capacity.
The most common ration varied over the years up to its abolition but was at the end per person three to four liters of spirits a month. Today, the average Swede consumes about a 1/10 of that (although a lot more if you also count beer and wine). The Bratt system, controversial and bureaucratic, was not hard to cheat–and alcohol abuse was hardly deterred during the years in effect. Some reports tell of celebration following its abolition in 1955.
The motbok I now own is from Stockholm, issued in 1955, the last year they were used. The places of purchase in Sweden were precursors to the state-controlled stores of today, Systembolaget.
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