The American Prison State

EH760 — with Daniel D'Amico

Dates: June 7, 2011 - August 8, 2011
Status: Closed

Click here for Professor D’Amico’s article on the topic and course

It is time to take prisons seriously, subjecting this state institution to serious economic, political, historical and social examination. The United States has by far the largest prison population of any country in the world. One in every one hundred people are in these state-built and state-maintained institutions. Many of the inmates committed no violent crimes. Not a few are in for what might be called political crimes. Some are wholly innocent of both and yet languish in a captive state. Among those who are guilty of crimes, there is no proportionality in their sentencing, and issues like restitution are completely off the table.

In essence, the government has created an second society within a society, one that can’t be described as a situation of slavery, since the typical status of an inmate is far worse than that of a slave. Nonetheless, within prisons, whole social orders have emerged that call on human volition, entrepreneurship, and human choice albeit within the framework of oppression and violence.

What is the origin of these institutions historically? What are the economic implications? What are the costs? Where do prisons fit in within concerns of human liberty? What are the alternatives to prison? It is crucial to ask and answer these questions, and not continue to ignore them. As the state rises in strength and power, its prisons will continue to grow and absorb ever larger segments of society. Reform or even abolition are becoming moral and economic necessities.

This pioneering class will cover all of these seemingly untouchable subjects, from the perspective of Austrian economics and a realistic, libertarian analysis of the state. The professor is Daniel D’Amico of Loyola University, who has emerged as a leader in the profession and one of the most innovative and bravest economists working today.



The video lectures are online, and use Webex, the industry-standard web conferencing service.  Lectures will be Tuesday evenings, 7:00-8:30 pm EDT. They will be recorded and made available for enrolled students to download.


All the readings for this course will be free and online.

Grades and Certificates

The final grade will depend on exams/quizzes.  The Mises Academy is currently not accredited, but this course is worth 3 credits in our own internal system.  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.

Refund Policy

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.


Daniel D'Amico

Daniel D’Amico writes:

I was born in Demarest, New Jersey in 1982 but my family moved to South Florida when I was very young. I grew up in Boca Raton, FL and attended Pope John Paul II High School.

I went to Loyola University New Orleans from 2000 – 2004, double majoring in economics and marketing. After completing an honors thesis and graduating with a Bachelors of Business Administration, I entered the Economics Ph.D. program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

I defended my dissertation, “The Imprisoner’s Dilemma: The Political Economy of Proportionate Punishment,” in May of 2008. Finally, I have since returned to New Orleans as an Assistant Professor of Economics back at my alma mater Loyola.

Four words to describe myself, “I think ideas matter.”

I like music, golf, bowling, collecting vinyl, photography, film and other cool stuff.

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