I am often asked by those interested in libertarian ideals to recommend books for those new to economics and philosophy. You can find many variations of similar lists, but ours is focused on the every day reader with average time constraints but who still want a solid understanding of the principles behind the increasingly popular political philosophy. While they can be read in any order, we do recommend reading 1 and 2 first.
The Law is absolutely a must. You will find it on nearly every recommended reading list for Liberty based works. It is short, and can easily be finished in one sitting by an average reader. Taking roughly 1.5 hrs from beginning to end, it is the shortest book on the list. However, don’t be fooled by its relative brevity. Bastiat manages to communicate in this short work what many authors have labored to convey using far more ink and paper.
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Economics In One Lesson was inspired by Frederic Bastiat’s collection Essays on Political Economy. This is yet another book that is often recommended on other lists, largely because of how well Hazlitt communicates economic principles in ways that the average reader can easily understand them. He does not intimidate the reader with unnecessarily complex language. Using succinct examples, Hazlitt exposes many modern economic fallacies that lead to disastrous consequences.
Being an economist and philosopher, Hayek approaches free market arguments from both perspectives. You will find this book combines the principles learned from the first two recommended works very nicely. Road to Serfdom was a warning against central economic planning that was embraced during the Great Depression. Hayek argued that big government and central planning resulted in the loss of individual Liberty as well as a reduction in wealth creation, both of which are a great loss to society as a whole.
As you may have noticed, this list focuses a bit more on economics. If you don’t find that economics is your strong-suit do not be intimidated or turned-off. The economic argument for Liberty is perhaps one of the most compelling when making the case. Like the other books on free market economics before, Schiff’s is easy to understand. You will recognize some of the same arguments from Econ in One Lesson, but there is plenty here to make it a worthy addition.
The Constitution in Exile makes the list because it is a great introduction to the US Constitution. Judge Andrew Napolitano takes the strict constructionist perspective, which was argued by Madison, Jefferson and others. The Constitution in Exile covers a lot of ground in relatively few chapters. It includes examining case law that has been used to twist the intended meaning of several key phrases in the US Constitution, which has invented new Federal powers without proper amendment. Even though this book takes on what can become a very convoluted subject, it is very accessible to any reader.
If you are interested in further reading, see our recommended reading list.