People occasionally tell me that they are new to Austrian economics, and want a reading list. Well if you want the actual books there’s the year-long Home Study Course I developed, but if you’re broke here’s a cheaper way to jump in:
Free-Market Economics with an Austrian Flavor
* Lessons for the Young Economist. My textbook-ish introduction to free-market economics, aimed at the junior high level. However, even if you’re an adult, if you’ve never read these kinds of ideas before, I think you should still start here. I put a spin on certain things that you probably won’t get elsewhere, at least not without a lot of study.
* Economics in One Lesson. This is Henry Hazlitt’s classic. Contains modern statements of the Broken Window Fallacy, explains why machinery doesn’t throw us all out of work, etc.
* The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism. Because this was put out by a commercial publisher, there’s no online version of this book. But most Barnes & Nobles still have a copy in stock, so next time you’re at the store you can peruse it if you want. Anyway, in this book I tried to summarize a defense of the free market, and critique of State intervention, on a variety of topics. If you want to order it, click on the ad on the left.
Actual Austrian Economics
* Choice: Cooperation, Enterprise, and Human Action. This is arguably the most important book I’ve written to date. I distill Mises’ Human Action down to a 300-pageish book that an undergrad econ major would be able to follow. The link gives you a detailed summary, plus you can see blurbs from other economists saying the book accomplishes its purpose. You will definitely understand the Austrian approach to money, banking, and the business cycle if you get Choice.
* Economics for Real People. Before he turned to the dark side, Gene Callahan wrote a very nice introduction to Austrian economics. So the difference between this book, and the ones in the previous section, is that Gene is here distinguishing Austrian economics per se from generic free-market economics.
* Man, Economy, and State. If you are going to call yourself an Austrian, there’s no getting around it–you have to take a month (or more) and just read MES from cover to cover. However, Rothbard is a fantastic writer and he covers just about everything in terms of economic principles in his magnum opus. Be sure to have my study guide when you go through MES.
Readings in Libertarianism
* Liberalism. I can remember when I was in undergrad and soaking up the wisdom of Ludwig von Mises in this little booklet. I had already read his Human Action by that point, but that was a very intimidating and difficult book. In contrast, Liberalism was crystal clear and gave a view of the interaction of ideas, violence, and property rights that was one of the seminal foundations of my current worldview.
* Chaos Theory. Once you have been warmed up, you’re ready to take the plunge and read some nutjob (me) advocate the total elimination of the modern State. In other words, don’t just privatize the Post Office, privatize the police and army too. (Yes, I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.)
* For a New Liberty. Rothbard here paints a comprehensive portrait of the free society, meaning one in which there are no systematic violations of property rights. He argues that just about every modern “social problem”–whether it’s traffic congestion, pollution, police brutality, or nuclear war–is caused by, or at least greatly exacerbated by, government meddling.
Obviously my above list is skewed toward just a few authors, including myself. In my defense, I set out to write a book to fill a gap, so it’s not shocking that afterwards I recommend the book I just wrote…
Tom Woods has a much more extensive program here. Don’t tell Tom–since he’s already arrogant enough–but I bet he’s read more “classics” in economics than I have.