Today was the first day of Acton University Online, during which I had the honor of sitting on a panel with two other economists and also the privilege of a more one-on-one in feeling (though there were over 100 in attendance!) “Engage the Speaker” session. The former was a discussion of “Free Market Economics and Christian Thought” with Dr. Adam Hyde (Wake Forest University, but soon of Notre Dame) and Dr. Art Carden (Samford University). The latter was a Q&A session following a screening of my lecture “The Economic Ways of Loving,” available in full here.
Following my sessions, and even during, I received multiple requests for reading suggestions. Most of the suggestions below are accessible to econ newbies and beyond. Anyone who wants to dig deeper into the foundations and historical roots of economic thought should be able to find a fun read among these.
Those that I mentioned today are:
- Money, Greed, and God by Jay Richards: A must-read for Christians who want to understand whether a market system can be moral. As I said in my afternoon talk, I’d struggle to find even a bit of this book I could take issue with. It is thorough but accessible, perhaps because it is written by a super econ-literate non-economist. I read it with my student group every fall. They always love it!
- A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell: This book is not economics, per se, though it is written by an exceptional economist. Sowell outlines two “visions” (basically, understandings of the world that precede worldview formation) to help the reader understand a persistent ideological divide, that is, why we so often find ourselves disagreeing with the same people on different issues. He offers great examples of well-known thinkers in each camp and, by way of application, brings the lens of each vision to the notions of equality, justice, and freedom. What he calls the constrained vision is largely consistent with Christian orthodoxy and the market-friendly economics.
- The Essential Hayek by Donald Boudreaux: This book is an excellent distillation of many of Hayek’s chief contributions to the economics field. It’s a wonderful introduction, after which you can more easily dig into primary text materials. (If you enjoy this approach, I also recommend, The Essential Adam Smith by James Otteson and The Essential Milton Friedman by Steven Landsburg.)
- The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek: This is Hayek’s most popular book (a best-selling economics book?) and is useful, it’s only a slight exaggeration to say, for understanding almost everything. It is particularly timely for understanding the current state of government intervention as opposed to personal liberty and, in the time of COVID-19, I think, both why we’re witnessing the simultaneous blow back against “capitalism” and where things might go from here.
Other excellent resources:
- “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read: An absolute classic that teaches us through the eyes of a simple pencil that the world is too complex for central planning to be successful. (For a more technical but not mathematical follow-up to this, read Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”)
- Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt: The economic way of thinking requires accounting for consequences seen and unseen. Even just the first few chapters of this book, another classic, may shift your perspective on the world, especially the potential for unintended consequences of well-meaning policies.
- The Law by Frederic Bastiat: If you like Hazlitt, peruse the polished prose of an even-longer-ago populizer of the economic way of thinking.
- Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises: I’m including this because it was the book that helped me discover during my freshman year of college that I am an economist. It’s a wonderful explanation of classical liberalism, and was the first time I found a comfortable intellectual home in my schooling.
- Four fun murder mysteries by Marshall Jevons: Murder at Margin, The Fatal Equilibrium, A Deadly Indifference, and The Mystery of the Invisible Hand feature an economist sleuth, Henry Spearman (modeled after famous real-world economist Milton Friedman) who solves mysteries using economic theory, while teaching the reader a ton of solid economic literacy along the way.
And thank you to the audience member who asked about my own work. Some of it is pretty readable (or listenable), too:
- “A Christian Defense of Liberalism:” As I mentioned today, this essay (second in the series linked) was intended by my coauthor and I to defend classical liberal ideas (importantly, as explicated by liberals) against the attacks and decline many perceive in liberal institutions today. (Are these various sorts of decline inherent in a liberal system, as Patrick Deneen suggests in his popular book? We’re not so sure, since, we’re pretty confident that the developed world has largely eschewed liberalism for some time.)
- “We’ll Never Be Royals, But That Doesn’t Matter:” Another coauthored piece, this time on the issues of poverty and inequality in classical liberal perspective.
Finally, on my website, you can find an up-to-date listing with links to
- Podcasts I’ve recorded on love, criminal justice reform, and/or Hayek (who else?)
- Published book reviews, though written for academics, of other books I’d recommend to general audiences, too.
- and guest blog posts
in addition to my own blog with much more.
To stay fully in the loop, I invite you to follow me on this website, on Facebook, and/or Twitter. I welcome your emails or comments below asking for other recommendations or letting me know what you think once you’ve read. Happy reading!