Public Choice

, Volume 145, Issue 3–4, pp 461–482

The prison in economics: private and public incarceration in Ancient Greece



Recent histories of Ancient Greece describe a transition from customary law to public criminal justice between 800 and 400 B.C. This narrative contains three pieces of evidence against the presumption that prisons are a public good and government must provide incarcerations. First, before the rise of a formal government, Ancient Greece had a functioning system of criminal law enforcement. Second, the timeline surrounding the rise of government institutions in Ancient Greece originated with Solon’s penal reforms. Lastly, the rise of a government system was more the result of private rather than public interest.

Public goods Market failure Prisons Athens Economic history 

JEL Classification

N4 N0 P5 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Loyola University New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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