The Freeman's Library
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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