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November 06, 2010 – Comments (26)

It's been requested by at least one blogger (maybe two?) that I put up some reading recommendations, just in time for Christmas shopping. 

Some notes before I start:

1. This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
2. I'm going to try to stay away from obvious recommendations (at least obvious picks for well-read liberty lovers), but it's hard to know what you would expect or not expect.  I'll just do my best. ;)
3. Every book I recommend I will have read, at least in part. I don't finish every book I pick up.  But I can't recommend a book that I have never opened.
4. Man, I hope I get all these links formatted correctly.
5. I would love to recommend dozens more. Sorry that I had to trim it to a handful.

Beginner Economics

The Myth of the Robber Barons by Forrest McDonald

A nice introductory work that explodes the idea that every capitalist of the Industrial Revolution exploited society within a frame work of a free market.  Forrest correctly points out that those capitalists that were the most notorious gained their positions of wealth by using the government (usually through subsidies) to drive out competition or gain monopoly privilege.  Meanwhile, there are many success stories of market entrepreneurs competing freely and providing major benefits to society that are completely ignored by academic historians.

The Freeman's Library by Henry Hazlitt

The perfect desk reference for any libertarian.  Hazlitt sums up hundreds of books in a paragraph or less. :)  Books you know and books you don't know.  Books from the 20th century and books from the 2nd century.  Anything that covers or investigates the subject of human freedom is covered. 

The Driver by Garet Garrett

A good story that serves as an introduction to risk taking versus rent seeking.  Some people claim that Rand plagiarized The Driver for Atlas Shrugged.  That's nonsense.  There are similarities in the themes and the characters, but just similarities. (At one point in The Driver a character asks, 'who's Henry Galt?')  It took me three days to read The Driver and nine months to digest Rand's opus so I know which one I'll read again if I get the chance.

End the Fed by Ron Paul

I actually wasn't going to read this one, since I figured he wouldn't say anything I hadn't covered elsewhere. Well, I'm an arrogant fool. I borrowed the book from a friend and all I can say is Dr. Paul did it again, covering new ground and offering better explanations for concepts I did understand.  It's cheeky to put this book on the list, but it's really that good. Dr. Paul attacks the Fed from every angle, leaving it exposed to the reader as an incompetent and archaic institution of central planning. 

Advanced Economics

An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought (2 vol. set) by Murray N. Rothbard

This was X. This was X's idea. This was Y. This was Y's idea. Here's how the argument played out in the events. Here's why X's influence triumphed over Y's. Here's how X's idea impacted society.  It's my favorite feature of Rothbard's writing.  He doesn't settle for simply stating that certain events transpired. He doesn't obscure or offer immunity to the people behind the ideas. A bogus idea is a bogus idea.  A rotten scoundrel is a rotten scoundrel - even if modern day economists ape their ideas without mentioning their source.

Economics and the Public Welfare by Benjamin Anderson

Benjamin Anderson's excellent investigation of the events that shaped the monetary and economic chaos from WWI to WWII.  It's grounded in Austrian School theory and provides insighs into the workings of stock markets, clearing houses, and banks as they attempted to cope with the increasing chaos brought about the worldwide destruction of money and lives.

Forty Centuries of Wage and Price Controls by Robert Schuettinger

Four thousand years of bureaucratic arrogance and conceit rolled into one enlightening book.  You'll think to yourself, "who could be dumb enough to believe they can repeal economic law through mere decree?"  Then you'll turn on the news.... and vomit.

Money, Bank Credit, and Economic Cycles by Jesus Huerta De Soto

A romp through the history of fractional reserve banking, an analysis of Keynesian theory, a study of business cycle theory, and a plan for reform.  De Soto might be the finest economic theorist alive.

The Ethics of Money Production by Jorg Guido Hulsmann

A look at the history of money, focusing on how money has entered the market place - from the time when it was freely produced up to modern day fiat privilege - from a Catholic perspective.  I'm not a Catholic, but I found the analysis fascinating with the religious backdrop very well done.  I quoted this back heavily when I did my series on money last year.

Politics

Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans Herman-Hoppe

Not exactly a stocking stuffer.  Hoppe looks critically a few different forms of government and concludes that some are better at some things, but democracy is among the worst in many ways.  It's a thorough analysis of the idea that democracy is some sort of panacea for social ills, or that majority rule is the highest form of government.  After reading Hoppe, you won't want to vote.

Anarchism and other essays by Emma Goldman

A feminist turned commie turned libertarian turned anarchist. It's a fun ride!  Emma makes me laugh when she ridicules women's suffrage movements as a waste of time.  "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."  She's a female version of H.L. Mencken.

The State by Franz Oppenheimer

I recommend this book whenever I can. It's the book that started me on the path to anarchy. The premise is simple and well researched: every government in history has its origin in the conquest and subjugatino of one group of people by another. From there, every government goes through several stages, some faster than others, as they acquire hegemony in a particular geographical area.  The root of all governments is the plunder of free people by a minority group with a comparative advantage in violence.  States can only fail when they can no longer maintain that advantage.

War

As We Go Marching by John Flynn

Flynn, a FDR contemporary and critic, never bought into the new conservative daydream and progressive promise that wartime fascism was a temporary measure. Flynn correctly saw that the expansions of State power during WWII would become a permanent part of American society.  It's worth reading just to see how correct he was.

Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege by Antony Beevor

Every last excruciating detail of the most horrific urban warfare in human history. A blood soaked tribute to centrally planned economies and the end of freedom.

Omnipotent Government: The Rise of Total Government and Total War by Ludwig Von Mises 

This book is scary good.  Mises details Nazi arguments that we are not familiar with, as they do not fit the cookie-cutter Nazi stereotype that our historians allow.  The Nazi Party was primarliy driven by economic ideals.  They were not a group of political ideologues, as I was taught growing up.  In page after page, Mises shows how economic ideas drove the Nazis to commit atrocities.  Now the scary part: You will recognize many of these economic ideas.  They will sound eerily familiar to the arguments of George Bush and the modern day neoconservative.

History

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

A socialist gets a book on a libertarian list?  Definitely. To begin with, unlike most historians, Zinn is upfront about his subjective selection of facts from the book's outset.  I appreciated that.  Second, the book offers a great deal of evidence that government caused most of the worst atrocities in American history.  How Zinn comes to the conclusion that all of these horrors were caused by private property is never explained, and we will probably never know.  But aside from that frustrating point, the book is an excellent review of one abuse of government power after another.

1776 by David McCullough

A little light on the ideas that motivated the revolutionaries, but excellent detail of the events of that year.  There was a lot of information in here that I had never known.  I have a greater respect for the dire situation faced by Washington armies after reading this.  It's also a page turner. You will not be bored by this book.

Empire by Gore Vidal

Vidal's description of McKinley has a creepy resemeblance to Dubya.  My distaste for Teddy Roosevelt also started here.  He was a pompous, racist warmongerer that would say anything to get elected. He had no ideology except that which was popular and won votes.   

Science Fiction

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

Classic sci-fi investigation into the effects of military training and the unintended consequences of war.  My favorite aspect of this book is the description of Internet discussion forums.  The book was written in the 1970's.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

One of my favorite science fiction books. It's one part libertarian political thriller and one part paranormal religious orgy performed by a martian and his hot girlfriends. How can you go wrong?

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

One of the earliest dystopian novels, written by a witness to the early days of Russian communism. Alduos Huxley borrowed very liberally from Zamyatin (as did Orwell and Rand.)  It's a good book and worth the read for any fan of the dystopia genre.

Miscellaneous

The Satanic Versus by Salman Rushdie

An unfortunately maligned and propagandized book that is beautifully written and dramatic.  It is complex and spellbinding.  It has little to do with liberty, but a great deal to do with understanding our prejudices.

The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter

I can't do a book list without including my favorite baseball book. It's a collection of interview with the legends of the early days of baseball in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  One of the coolest thing about reading their stories is learning how non-conformist and independent thinking Americans used to be back then. Today every athlete bends over backward to show how conforming he/she is. 

Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

Pretty much every financial advice guru copies Hill's ideas to some extent.  This is the original motivational "you can be rich too" pamphlet.  I enjoyed it.  I've read it cover-to-cover at least three times.  I understand it.  I understand it's message and why Hill wrote it the way he did.  Others don't get it.  That's fine. Correlation isn't causation but I had $3 to my name, no job, no future, not even a girlfriend when I read this book and now I make over 6 figures, have a beautiful fiancee, and a solid skill set that should keep me employable for a long time.  So that's progress, right?

David in Qatar

26 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On November 06, 2010 at 8:34 AM, Valyooo (99.43) wrote:

Awesome! Thanks, David!

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#2) On November 06, 2010 at 8:40 AM, Valyooo (99.43) wrote:

Did you ever read Lombard Street by Walter Bagehot?  If so, should I still get the  jesus huerta de soto book?  Do they each teach you different things or are they similiar?  Which is better?

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#3) On November 06, 2010 at 9:14 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Valyooo,

Thanks man!

I read Lombard Street on a recommendation from someone here last year. I think it was chk99 but I can't remember for sure.  It is very good. 

They are different books though. Bagehot was thinking about how to explain the inherent instability of fractional reserve adn the problem can be easily (he thought) solved through responsible central bank policy.  (Google: Bagehot Principle)  He takes the existence and necessity of central banks as a given (which, if you have fractional reserves with cartel privilege they are a given.)  His language is clear but his assumptions lack the depth of understanding that De Soto presents.  I'll say this, if you read only Bagehot, you will think the Fed can operate perfectly fine as long as they follow responsible policy. If you read De Soto immediately after, you will see that Bagehot is missing the big picture: that responsible policy depends on who benefits from that policy.  In the case of central banking, the government and big banks are the primary benificiaries at the citizen's expense.  Suddenly the discussion over responsible central bank policy is elementary.

As for De Soto's book, it is a treatise, so it is far more encompassing.  There are chapters that many people just aren't going to find interesting. His plan for reform, the last chapter of the book, involves transitionary steps from fractional reserve to 100% reserve banking where no central bank is needed.

David in Qatar  

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#4) On November 06, 2010 at 9:23 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

One more thing on Bagehot.

Like many central bank supporters, he has no conception of how bubbles are created.  He goes to great lengths in Lombard to talk about how this bubble or that bubble damaged the economy, and how the crash could have been averted with quick central bank reaction (notice that the book was written 150 years ago and the boom/bust cycle still continues despite central bank intervention.)  But the analysis of the business cycle doesn't go beyond the "it's all speculation" phase.

WIth De Soto, as with all Austrian School economists, you are going to get a healthy does of business cycle theory, with the blame placed squarely on the disruption of the structure of production by the excess creation of money (and money substitutes), i.e. through fractional reserves.  That being the case, you can bet these two wouldn't like each other ;)

David in Qatar

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#5) On November 06, 2010 at 10:09 AM, starbucks4ever (94.15) wrote:

Great post. I'll use the "Follow" feature to have ready access to your recommended list. 

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#6) On November 06, 2010 at 10:20 AM, kdakota630 (29.64) wrote:

Thanks for the recommendations.  I was surprised there wasn't more Rothbard in the list, but you did say that wanted to keep fairly condensed.  And I love that you kept books in their own categories as well.  When you have the time, I'd love a more extensive list, perhaps even including a list you're interested in reading even if you haven't had the time to read it yet.

The most beautiful thing about this blog (in my opinion) is the likely discussion from others who have read their own books and have their own recommendations.

Kudos to you, David.  Kudos.

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#7) On November 06, 2010 at 10:52 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

zloj,

Thanks man! 

kdakota630,

LOL, any book by Rothbard should be on this list, but I wanted to keep it spread out a little bit.  

Kudos to you, David 

Thanks!

David in Qatar 

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#8) On November 06, 2010 at 10:57 AM, catoismymotor (< 20) wrote:

David,

Your list is very interesting. I'll have to delve deeper into your recommendations. Have you ever read the Hitchickers Guide series by Douglas Adams. If not, I recommend them. 

My best to you and yours.

Cato

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#9) On November 06, 2010 at 11:16 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

catoismymotor,

I love that book.  Should have put it on the list!  Hilarious story with libertarian undertones.

My best to you as well. 

David in Qatar 

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#10) On November 06, 2010 at 11:21 AM, RonChapmanJr (39.12) wrote:

I hope these are all affiliate links so that you get paid if people buy the books directly from here.  :)

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#11) On November 06, 2010 at 11:29 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Ha! If only I could get paid for doing nothing.  Oh wait, that's why I went into the Information Technology field. Nevermind.....

David in Qatar 

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#12) On November 06, 2010 at 11:33 AM, rd80 (97.59) wrote:

Great post.

I need to do more reading and appreciate the ideas.

I have read  McCullough's 1776 and concur with your summary and including it in the list.  It's an excellent reminder of the sacrifices made to found this country.

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#13) On November 06, 2010 at 11:44 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

rd80,

I have read  McCullough's 1776 and concur with your summary and including it in the list.  It's an excellent reminder of the sacrifices made to found this country. 

You bet. They made the ultimate risk and came so close to getting wiped out before leaving New York. It's crazy how close Washington came to blowing it in the early going.

David in Qatar  

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#14) On November 06, 2010 at 12:38 PM, Valyooo (99.43) wrote:

When I am done with my investing books I will read The State.  As for Lombard street versus De Soto, I can only afford one right now...you think De Soto is the way to go?

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#15) On November 06, 2010 at 1:01 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Valyooo,

you think De Soto is the way to go 

If it's your first book on Austrian economics, no.  You should get something like Thomas Woods' Meltdown first so you get a feel for the Austrian approach, or Peter Schiff's How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes.

Btw, even though every link up there is to a pay site (almost all Amazon, I think), many Austrian School books are free with the consent of the authors.  Do a pdf search for them and you'll find them easily.  They want you to buy it, if you want.  But they always want you to read it, if you can.

David in Qatar 

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#16) On November 06, 2010 at 6:07 PM, ChrisGraley (29.69) wrote:

Perfect timing David.

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#17) On November 06, 2010 at 7:48 PM, Option1307 (30.06) wrote:

Fantastic list, thanks!

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#18) On November 07, 2010 at 12:50 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

ChrisGraley and Option1307,

Thanks guys!

David in Qatar

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#19) On November 07, 2010 at 1:15 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

Phil in Dubai...... I am David in Jealousy =)  I was looking at an opportunity in Abu Dhabi recently but it didn't work out.  It's too bad. I wanted to take a few laps around the new Ferrari Park :)

I've spent a lot of time thinking about the impact of dollar devaluation on GCC countries.  I correctly deduced thta we were in the last stages of a housing bubble in Qatar last. I was expecting prices to fall this year, and they have fallen pretty hard, >30% in most areas, which should allow me to move again very soon.)

So basically Dubai and Qatar went through similar bubbles to the US, due to the large increase in paper money (they have to keep the peg constant.)  But the crucial difference between the GCC and the US is that Islamic banks are less speculative in nature, so the pyramid of paper that makes US banks so unstable - and the boom/bust cycle so pronouced - is not as significant in the GCC. Economic revocery will come quickly here as long as the governments stay out of the way.

Very funny side note on Qatari housing.  File this under bureaucrats will be bureaucrats: In response to tumbling housing prices (with most of the big real estate projects being owned by members of the Al Thani family or business partners), the Qatari government needed to "do something."  So they passed a new law that designated certain properties "family properties" and outlawed single people from living in these homes.  Of course, it should be obvious that this will only reduce demand for housing, thus accelerating the drop in prices, but the majority of Al Thani business interests are in low income high-volume housing complexes, so go figure...

As for any chance that GCC countries will end the peg, you can forget about it.  They couldn't break the peg if they wanted to (and some members of the Al Thani family have publicly spoken about the possibility.) 

David in Qatar

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#20) On November 07, 2010 at 1:29 AM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

LOL, where did Phil's comment go?  It looks like I'm talking to myself.

 

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#21) On November 07, 2010 at 1:39 AM, ttboydxb (28.84) wrote:

Thanks for the Shopping list buddy!  :)  I have a toally OT question for you my fellow GCC friend.

 

IF the dollar continues it downward spiral, how do you think it'll play out here in the GCC where most of the places are pegged to the US$.  Is it Qatar or Kuwait that has a basket peg, I think it's Qatar??  If so, I wonder how that would affect inter GCC relations if one of the currencies starts to appreciate quickly compared to the others???

 

Your thoughts?

 

Thanks again....

 

Phil in Dubai....

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#22) On November 08, 2010 at 4:31 PM, rfaramir (29.33) wrote:

Another beginning economics book would be Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. It's short and sweet, and while it is only one simple principle, it has examples for several different problems to illustrate it: maximum price controls (rent controls, many wartime products), minimum price controls (minimum wage, farm subsidies), unions, and more.

I'd also like to add that a great many books are available as free audiobooks at either mises.org or iTunes University. Rothbard's books on Economic History were particularly good.

I've loved just about every Austrian economist I've read and can recommend them whole-heartedly, even if I haven't read the particular books you list above: Mises, Rothbard, Hülsmann, Hoppe, Hazlitt, and De Soto.

I'll definitely be mining your list! 

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#23) On November 09, 2010 at 9:24 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

rfaramir,

Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is a great call! I would always recommend it.

I'm going to have to do another blog that excludes Austrian School stuff, as they are always going to dominate my lists.

David in Qatar

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#24) On November 09, 2010 at 9:58 PM, NOTvuffett (< 20) wrote:

David,

I didn't know about Hazlitt's book until you mentioned it to me.  Instructive and easy to understand.  I am surprised you left Adam Smith off the list.  Not as easy to follow because of the arcane language.  Truth is immutable.

 

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#25) On November 10, 2010 at 11:42 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

NOTvuffett,

Wealth of Nations is in my desk drawer at work :)  Like you, I had a hard time working through it.  I pick it up every now and then and read a chapter.  Btw, did you notice on my blog last month on Marxism that there is a clear similarity between Marx's LTV in Das Kapital and Smith's theory of value in Wealth?

David in Qatar

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#26) On November 15, 2010 at 2:43 PM, kdakota630 (29.64) wrote:

I'm not sure how many people will get this as it's been 5 days since the last post, but I just found this from LewRockwell.com and thought I'd contribute, even if it is someone else's list:

Anarcho-Capitalist Reading List

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