005: The Economics of Prohibition with Mark Thornton

Throughout human history, economics has played a major part in setting policy and inspiring actions of all kinds, including prohibitions – and few have a deeper understanding of prohibitions than Dr. Mark Thornton.

Dr. Thornton is a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute and an economist who’s written and spoken extensively on the topic of prohibition. In addition to his work at Mises, Mark serves as the book review editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, and his own writings spans three decades, starting with The Economics of Prohibition and culminating in his recent book, The Skyscraper Curse: How Austrian Economists Predicted Every Major Economic Crisis of the Last Century.

Today, Dr. Thornton joins the podcast to discuss why prohibitions never successfully squash demand for prohibited products, the common factors that both inspire prohibitions (and lead to their failure), and why he thinks we’re closer than ever to federal legalization.


  • Why government prohibitions of entire product lines are untenable situations – and the factors that historically have led to their repeal.
  • The common reverse side effects of federal prohibitions – and how they ultimately set the stage for these policies to fail.
  • How prohibition led to the creation of income tax as we know it.
  • The restrictions on cannabis that are keeping the black market alive in some states.
  • Why national enforcement of the current cannabis prohibition could blow up in the government’s face and create serious challenges to the will of federal power.


The Baptist preacher and the bootlegger have a shared interest in maintaining alcohol prohibitions.” – Dr. Mark Thornton

Henry Ford and others had built automobile engines to run on alcohol, but alcohol prohibition squashed that whole side of the market.” – Dr. Mark Thornton

If the war on drugs did not include cannabis, the negative effects of the war on drugs would be much more limited than they are today.” Dr. Mark Thornton




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