Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about Wealth and Prosperity
James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, Dwight R. Lee, and Tawni Hunt Ferrarini (St. Martin’s Press, 2005)
This non-technical book is a highly readable introduction to basic economics and finance. The authors break the book into four parts: “Ten Key Elements of Economic Theory,” “Seven Major Sources of Economic Progress,” “Ten Elements of Clear Thinking About Economic Progress and the Role of Government,” and “Twelve Key Elements of Practical Personal Finance.”
Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy
Thomas Sowell (Basic Books, 4th edition, 2010)
Sowell’s book is the rare introduction to economics that is both clearly-written and free of graphs and tables, making it both a good introduction to economics and the antidote for most introductory economics courses. He emphasizes the impossibility of effective central planning and the unintended consequences of government intervention.
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
Jay W. Richards (HarperOne, 2009)
In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and associated recession, Richards argues that not only is capitalism actually consistent with Christianity, it is the best way to fulfill certain Christian responsibilities. A biblical defense of capitalist economics.
Financial Founding Fathers
Robert E. Wright and David J. Cowen (University of Chicago Press, 2006)
This non-technical book looks at the role of finance in antebellum America, focusing on nine Americans who shaped the system: Alexander Hamilton, Tench Coxe, William Duer, Albert Gallatin, Thomas Willing, Robert Morris, Stephen Girard, Andrew Jackson, and Nicholas Biddle. Wright and Cowen conclude that most early Americans understood the role that finance played in their prosperity.
The Road to Serfdom
F. A. Hayek (University of Chicago Press, 1944)
Described by The New York Times as “one of the most important books of our generation,” Hayek’s “little book” was the first defining philosophical work of the modern American conservative movement. Hayek describes the disturbing signs of collectivism all around him and proposes a different road—the road of individualism and classical liberalism.
Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
Henry Hazlitt (Harper and Brothers, 1946)
It is not too much to claim that this little book may be the most influential overview of economics published since World War II, and the book’s theme is as relevant today as when it was first published: government’s economic actions frequently have long-term consequences that are the opposite of what policy-makers intended.
Liberalism: A Socio-Economic Exposition
Ludwig von Mises, translated by Ralph Raico (Sheed Andrews and McMeel, 1978 edition)
Ludwig von Mises was one of the greatest “liberals” of the 20th century and led the opposition to big government and the welfare state. Liberalism is a comprehensive exposition of the whole tree of liberty, from the philosophical roots of the free society to the branches of public policy that give our world its social and economic shape.
Capitalism and Freedom
Milton Friedman (University of Chicago, 1962)
Milton Friedman—who, in the words of The Economist, was “the greatest economist of the 20th century”—launched his ardent defense of liberty in Capitalism and Freedom. In this work, Friedman proposes that “we take freedom of the individual, or perhaps of the family, as our ultimate goal in judging social arrangements.”
A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market
Wilhelm Roepke (Regnery, 1960)
In A Humane Economy, German economist Wilhelm Roepke denounces the fundamental immorality of all planned economies and challenged those who insisted that socialist regimes were the wave of the future. He sets forth clearly and cogently the case for free-market capitalism as he rejects socialism as “a philosophy which … places too little emphasis on man, his nature, and his personality.”
Wealth and Poverty
George Gilder (Basic Books, 1981)
In Wealth and Poverty, Gilder illuminates the social, political, and economic grounding of the Keynesian school of economic thought. The true source of wealth, Gilder argues, is not natural resources or industrial production but “non-material forces” such as creativity, new technology, and the willingness to explore new territory.
The Seven Fat Years: And How to Do It Again
Robert L. Bartley (Free Press, 1992)
In The Seven Fat Years, Robert L. Bartley, the late, great editor of The Wall Street Journal, skillfully shows how the severe economic crisis of the 1970s was overcome by policies put into place by President Ronald Reagan over the strong protests and dire warnings of a liberal establishment wed to Keynesian economics.
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
Hernando de Soto (Basic Books, 2000)
Hernando de Soto, the noted Peruvian economist, argues in The Mystery of Capital that most poor countries do not have a structure of law that guarantees private property and encourages enterprise. Without such a legal foundation, they are unable to leverage property into wealth and create healthy free markets.
The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism
Michael Novak (Simon & Schuster, 1982)
In the 1980s, Novak, long one of America’s most prominent socialists, broke publicly with his leftist colleagues, declaring that socialism makes no sense as an economic theory and had resulted in tyranny and poverty in almost all of the countries in which it had been tried. He compounded his “heresy” by embracing capitalism, which alone recognizes that “the cause of the wealth of nations is the creativity of the human person.”
Hayek’s Challenge: An Intellectual Biography of F.A. Hayek
Bruce Caldwell (University of Chicago Press, 2005)
Caldwell, the editor of The Collected Works of F.A. Hayek, explores early influences on Hayek, surveys the Austrian’s unique opinions on economics and other disciplines, and offers an assessment of Hayek’s thought and legacy.
Economic Thought: Online Resources
Index of Economic Freedom
The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking of 183 countries based on economic freedom (trade freedom, business freedom, investment freedom, and property rights).
Library of Economics and Liberty
A searchable online encyclopedia of economics, covering both basic and advanced topics. Particularly helpful are the guides to getting started.