Mark Thornton

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Dr. Mark Thornton is an American economist who adheres to the principles of the Austrian school. He is widely considered to be one of the foremost experts on Prohibition economics, and has written extensively on that topic, as well as on the economics of the American Civil War, and public finance. His writings have been consistently pro-tobacco.


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. In addition to further political candidacies, Thornton also served in various capacities with the Libertarian Party of Alabama. In 1996 he became an economic advisor to the Alabama Governor of the time, Fob James.

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 at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is currently the Book Review Editor for the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

When Mr. Thornton and Robert Ekelund were both professors at Auburn University, they, along with many others, served as peer review for a controversial study Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination, which was released by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute and funded by the Tobacco Institute.

Documents & Timeline

1986 July 9 A letter to U.S. General Services Administration protesting a proposed smoking ban in all GSA buildings, July 9, 1986, on Auburn University letterhead, signed by Mark Thornton and 6 others. [1]

1993 May 19 A pro-tobacco editorial Punitive taxes on cigarettes are both ineffective, unfair by Mark Thornton and Robert Ekelund, published in the Atlanta Constitution. [2]

1994 Apr 11 Tobacco Taxes Hit Alabamians Disproportionately] April 11, 1994 pro-tobacco editorial by Mark Thornton and Robert Ekelund. [3]

1994 /E Prohibition, the Ultimate Tax], 55 page report by Mark Thornton, publication status unknown, found in files of Joshua Slavitt of Philip Morris. [4]

1994 Aug A Alexis de Tocqueville report "The EPA and the Science of ETS" has been funded by the Tobacco Institute. The author was Adjunct Scholar Kent Jeffreys, and the senior reviewer was S. Fred Singer, a Professor of Environmental Science (on leave from the University of Virginia) and a Senior Fellow at the Institute. The final report was scheduled to be complete mid-June and it would be entitled "Science and Environmentalism".

A confidential memo by the president of the Tobacco Institute, Samuel D. Chilcote, Jr., described how this secret tobacco-funded report was being used in legislative lobbying:

This morning Reps. Peter Geren (D-TX) and John Mica (R-FL) held a press conference announcing the release of a study by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution that evaluates the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) scientific principles used to justify policy decisions. Geren and Mica were joined by Cesar Conda, executive director of the de Tocqueville Institution and coauthors Dr. S. Fred Singer and Kent Jeffreys." [5]

"Press coverage included States News Service, Stephens Publishing and Cable Congress. Several congressional staffers also attended, copies of the Geren/Mica "Dear Colleague" letter, press release and the study are enclosed."


This report is part of a larger coordinated effort to blindside the EPA. A "panel of experts" was assembled to "peer-review" the report. Naturally the majority were people with identified links to tobacco-funded institutes and think tanks, and some who share the same small set of funders.

Academic Advisory Board:

Senior Staff and Contributing Associates
Rachael Applegate,   Bruce Bartlett,   Merrick Carey,   Cesar Conda,   Gregory Fossedal,   Dave Juday,   Felix Rouse,   Aaron Stevens

Ten of the 19 names of the Academic Advisory Board are members of the Cash for Comments Economists Network. At this time S. Fred Singer was a Senior Fellow at the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, but they chose not to credit him with such close links.

These attempt to link the tobacco industry's problems to arguments about climate change were part funded by the Olin Foundation, Koch Family Foundations and Scaife Foundations.

  • 20 page Draft document sent to the Tobacco Institute [7]
  • The release about the final report (August 11 1994) It is now an attack on "environmental regulation" -- ETS, radon, pesticides and agricultural regulation, and the Superfund toxic waste cleanup program ... and based, supposedly, on the quality of the science used by the EPA. [8]
  • The final report was called Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination.' It had the approval of the Cash for Comments Economists Network. [9]


  • Economics of Prohibition
  • Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War (with Robert Ekelund, Jr)

Robert Ekelund and Mark Thornton, Auburn University

Cigarette Tax Is Based on Shaky Numbers
by Robert Ekelund and Mark Thornton. [10] News Op/ed, 1993 before report.

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External links

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<tdo>search_term=Mark Thornton</tdo> [[Category:Tobacco documents biographies|Thornton, Mark}}