This course will cover special topics in Austrian Business Cycle Theory, including the “Skyscraper Index,” the art of predicting downturns, and the causes of the housing bubble and burst that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
Mark Thornton discusses this course in the following episode of the Mises Academy Podcast.
Lectures will be Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.
All readings will be free and online. A fully hyper-linked syllabus with readings for each weekly topic will be available for all students.
Grades and Certificates
The final grade will depend on quizzes. Taking the course for a grade is optional. This course is worth 3 credits in Mises Academy. Feel free to ask your school to accept Mises Academy credits. You will receive a digital Certificate of Completion for this course if you take it for a grade, and a Certificate of Participation if you take it on a paid-audit basis.
If you drop the course during its first week (7 calendar days), you will receive a full refund, minus a $25 processing fee. If you drop the course during its second week, you will receive a half refund. No refunds will be granted following the second week.
Mark Thornton is an American economist of the Austrian School. Thornton has been described by the Advocates for Self-Government as “one of America’s experts on the economics of illegal drugs.” Thornton has written extensively on that topic, as well as on the economics of the American Civil War, economic bubbles, and public finance. He successfully predicted the housing bubble, the top in home builder stocks, the bust in housing and the world economic crisis.
Thornton received his B.S. from St. Bonaventure University (1982), and his Ph.D. from Auburn University (1989). Thornton taught economics at Auburn University for a number of years, additionally serving as founding faculty advisor for the Auburn University Libertarians. He also served on the faculty of Columbus State University, and is now a senior fellow and resident faculty member at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is currently the Book Review Editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.
Libertarian organizations including the Independent Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Mises Institute have published Thornton’s writings on drug prohibition and prohibition in general. Thornton contributed a chapter to Jefferson Fish‘s book How to Legalize Drugs. He has also been interviewed on the topic of prohibition by members of the mainstream press. His research and publications are the basis of the Iron Law of Prohibition which states that the enforcement of prohibition increases the potency and danger of consuming illegal drugs.  Thornton’s first book, The Economics of Prohibition, was praised by Murray Rothbard, who declared:
- Thornton’s book… arrives to fill an enormous gap, and it does so splendidly…. The drug prohibition question is… the hottest political topic today, and for the foreseeable future…. This is an excellent work making an important contribution to scholarship as well as to the public policy debate.
Thornton has also written on economic bubbles, including the United States housing bubble, which he first described in February 2004. He suggested that the “housing bubble might be coming to an end” in August 2005. His work on market bubbles has been cited by journalists and other writers. Economist Joseph Salerno noted that “Mark Thornton of the Mises Institute was one of the first to jump on this—to start writing about the housing bubble.” Similarly, economist Thomas DiLorenzo has written that “[i]t was Austrian economists like Mark Thornton . . . who were warning of a housing bubble years before it burst.” He also called the top in the housing market. He developed and published his Skyscraper and Business Cycle model in 2005. His Skyscraper Index Model successfully sent a signal of the Late-2000s financial crisis at the beginning of August 2007. 
Thornton has also been active in the political arena, making his first bid for office in 1984, when he ran for the U.S. Congress. He became the first Libertarian Party office-holder in Alabama when he was elected Constable in 1988. He was the Libertarian Party Candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1996 (also endorsed by the Reform Party) coming in third of four candidates. Thornton also served in various capacities with the Libertarian Party of Alabama including Vice Chairman and Chairman. In 1997 he became the Assistant Superintendent of Banking and a economic analyst for Alabama Governor, Fob James.
Thornton has been featured as a guest on a variety of radio and internet programs and his editorials and interviews have appeared in leading newspapers and magazines.
- The Economics of Prohibition. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1991. (ISBN 0-87480-379-9)
- Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War (with Robert B. Ekelund, Jr). Delaware: Scholarly Resource Books, 2004. (ISBN 0-8420-2961-3)
- The Quotable Mises (editor). Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2005. (ISBN 0-945466-45-5)
- The Bastiat Collection Volume 1 (editor) Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007. (ISBN 978-1-933550-07-7)
- The Bastiat Collection Volume 2 (editor) Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007. (ISBN 978-1-933550-07-7)
- An Essay on Economic Theory: An English translation of Richard Cantillon’s Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en Général” (Translated by Chantal Saucier) (editor) Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2010. (ISBN:�978-1-61016-001-8)