following reading list includes about 125 books, useful for understanding
liberty and the system of individual enterprise. It emphasizes,
with a few exceptions, modern rather than historical works. It makes
no claim to be comprehensive and is nothing more than introduction
to a vast literature. Only books currently in print have been included.
I urge readers to study everything they can get their hands on by
Mises and Rothbard.
note: I welcome suggestions as to other works that should be included;
I am less welcoming to suggestions for exclusion.
Writings of Lord Acton. Three volumes. Edited by J. Rufus
Fears. A comprehensive collection of essays by a great nineteenth-century
classical liberal. Acton distrusted political power, especially
when used for allegedly moral aims. Volumes include: Essays
in the History of Liberty, Essays
in the Study and Writing of History, and Essays
in Religion, Politics, and Morality.
Good and Evil. Adams, in a tour de force, interprets
world history as the story of taxation and resistance to it.
in the Course of Human Events. An excellent defense of the
Southern view of the Civil War. Lincoln does not fare well. The
comparison of Charles Dickens and John Stuart Mill on the Civil
War is especially well done.
and the Public Welfare. Anderson, a free-market economist
who worked for the Chase Manhattan Bank, gives a detailed criticism
of Roosevelt’s New Deal. Far from getting the economy out of the
Great Depression, the New Deal made matters worse.
These basic works set the foundation for all later Western moral
and political thought. Rothbard’s natural rights libertarianism
draws heavily on certain Aristotelian themes, while rejecting others.
Structure of Liberty. An important defense of libertarian
legal theory. Barnett argues for libertarian rights on grounds of
knowledge, interest, and power.
Sophisms. This includes some of Bastiat’s classic satirical
essays attacking protective tariffs and other interventionist measures.
He stresses the unseen results of laws designed to "help"
Law. Criticizes planners who regard people as material to
be molded into a pattern; Hayek took up this line of thought in
The Road to Serfdom.
Peter T. From
Subsistence to Exchange. Bauer, the foremost free-market
expert on development economics, shows that state planning hurts
economic growth. Planners characteristically ignore small traders,
whose activities are vital.
Servile State. A prescient warning against welfare-state
measures that erode individual responsibility.
Enterprise of Law. Almost everyone argues that protection
must be provided by a state that holds a monopoly of force. Benson
subjects this belief to withering assault. Law and protection have
often in history been secured by private means.
By Judiciary. Strong indictment of the U.S. Supreme Court
for usurpation of power, especially through misreading of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Berger defends original intent in interpretation.
Noblest Triumph. Bethell indicts economics for giving no
adequate account of the nature and significance of property rights.
Eugen von. The
Exploitation Theory of Socialism- Communism. This is an
excerpt from the author’s massive three volume Capital
and Interest, which the dedicated may wish to attempt. Böhm-Bawerk
destroys Marx’s labor theory of value.
Better Guide Than Reason. Bradford, an outstanding Southern
literary scholar, denies that equality is a basic value in American
history. Offers strong criticism of Lincoln as a leveling dictator.
Reactionary Imperative. A collection of essays that stresses
the influence of rhetoric on politics.
James M. Cost
and Choice. Buchanan offers a strong argument for the Austrian
subjective view of costs. Buchanan saw in the 1960s, much against
the mainstream, that Mises was correct about socialist calculation.
on History. The great Swiss historian indicts power as evil.
For this he was bitterly criticized by Carl Schmitt and the Nazi
intellectual historian Christoph Steding.
Wrong With the World? Chesterton uses his immense gift for
paradox to show the fallacies of those in revolt against the natural
order. He refuted contemporary feminism in advance of its birth.
Great Terror. The gruesome harvest of Stalinism. Communist
mass murders did not deter many Western intellectuals from championing
the "Soviet Experiment".
Constant: Political Writings. Ed. by Biancamaria Fontana.
Constant’s distinction between ancient and modern liberty is an
Stephane et al. The
Black Book of Communism. Mass murder is a constant characteristic
of Communist regimes. The comparison of Soviet and Nazi atrocities
was too much for some French bien pensants.
Martin van. The
Rise and Decline of the State. An erudite work by a leading
military historian, who argues that the state is a historically
limited phenomenon that is due to be supplanted.
John W. The
Roots of Freedom. An excellent short survey of ideas from
political philosophy that have influenced American constitutional
John V., ed., The
Costs of War. An important anthology that shows the disastrous
consequences of America’s wars. Ralph Raico’s essays on Churchill
and on World War I are especially significant.
John Hart. War
and Responsibility. Shows that the war power under the U.
S. Constitution rests exclusively with Congress. Ely, a noted legal
theorist, refutes the argument that Presidential military initiative
is needed to deal with emergencies.
Grounds. Epstein shows that anti-discrimination laws do
not achieve their aims.
Epstein uses the law of takings to develop an important legal argument
that sharply limits government action.
War Power. Like Ely, Fisher demonstrates who holds the war
power in the U.S. Constitution. Both books supplement each other;
Fisher deals simply and fully with the historical record, while
Ely concentrates on legal arguments.
in Liberty and Justice. An outstanding British philosopher
associated with the ordinary language school assails egalitarianism
as a perversion of justice.
John T. Forgotten
Lessons. Flynn shows how statist regimes, including Roosevelt’s
New Deal, promote militarism and war to distract attention from
Roosevelt Myth. Franklin Roosevelt’s vanity and lack of
principle led him to dictatorial measures and a world war that advanced
the interests of Soviet Russia.
and Rose D. Friedman, Free
to Choose. These two books present a Chicago School defense
of a relatively free market. Although Austrians will disagree with
a number of points, the books offer valuable criticisms of licensing
and other interventionist policies.
and the Scientific Imagination. Vital for the relation of
theology to secular thought in European history. Funkenstein shows
how many political concepts follow a similar logic to key terms
in theology. A work of profound erudition.
Lowell and Richard Vedder. Out
of Work. The authors offer substantial evidence that wage
rates that are rigid downward lead to unemployment. A valuable application
of economic principles to historical examples.
People’s Pottage. America has become an empire, preserving
only the form of a republic. Garrett draws suggestive parallels
between America and Rome in the period when Caesarism replaced the
and Money. An excellent presentation of Austrian macroeconomics.
The Mises-Hayek account of the business cycle is contrasted with
Keynesian and monetarist theories.
David, Ed. Secession,
State, and Liberty. An anthology of essays in defense
of the right to secession; the essays by Donald Livingston and Murray
Rothbard, among others, are of major importance.
Liberalism. Gottfried shows that modern liberals act as
virtual thought police to suppress ideas of which they disapprove.
A perfect illustration of Bastiat’s key point in The Law.
Friedrich von, ed. Capitalism
and the Historians. One of the most frequent arguments of
opponents of capitalism is that the Industrial Revolution worsened
the condition of the British working class. Hayek, W.H. Hutt, and
others refute this convincingly.
Constitution of Liberty. A comprehensive analysis of the
rule of law. Hayek makes some surprising statements, e.g., he disapproves
of some of the Supreme Court’s anti-New Deal decisions (p.190),
but his immensely erudite book deserves careful study.
Counter-Revolution of Science. Perhaps Hayek’s most important
book. Attacks social engineering and defends individualist methodology
in the social sciences.
Legislation, and Liberty. Three volumes. Particularly important
is the second volume, The
Mirage of Social Justice, which argues that the concept
of social justice is incoherent. Other volumes are Rules
and Order and The
Political Order of a Free People.
Road to Serfdom. One of the most famous of all defenses
of classical liberalism. Hayek shows that socialist thinkers wish
to impose their values on others. "Advanced" thinkers
led the way to totalitarianism.
in One Lesson. The lesson, not at all easy for policy makers
to learn, is that interference with the free market has indirect
consequences, usually of a disastrous sort.
Failure of the "New Economics". A chapter-by-chapter
analysis of Keynes’s General Theory.
Foundations of Morality. A brilliantly clear presentation
of moral theory. Hazlitt defends the free market on utilitarian
grounds, in the style of Mises.
Right and Wrong of Compulsion by the State and Other Essays.
Herbert, a follower of Herbert Spencer, extends the law of equal
freedom more consistently and radically than his mentor.
and Leviathan. Higgs shows how wars lead to increased state
control. Statism remains in place in peacetime through the ratchet
and Ethics of Private Property. Presents Hoppe’s important
attempt to show that rejection of libertarian rights is self-defeating.
Jeffrey R. Emancipating
Slaves, Enslaving Free Men: A History of the American Civil War.
Hummel argues that war was not needed to end slavery and defends
the right of secession.
W. H. The
Keynesian Episode. A devastating criticism of the Keynesian
system, based on wide knowledge of the literature. Though Hutt’s
style is difficult, he makes acute points not found elsewhere.
Anthony de. The
State. De Jasay demonstrates, using public choice arguments,
that the state must move in the direction of Leviathan.
History of the American People.
Times. These two books provide a good guide to, respectively,
American history and the history of the twentieth century. In both,
Johnson uses Rothbard’s analysis to account for the onset of the
European Miracle. Why did Europe develop economically, in
a way unlike any other region before the eighteenth century? Jones
shows that free institutions are a large part of the answer.
Bertrand de. On
Power. De Jouvenel traces the growth of the state, showing
that democracy often leads to increased control over the individual.
The treatment of Rousseau is especially good.
Israel M. Competition
and Entrepreneurship. Kirzner presents his influential account
of entrepreneurship, based on perception of opportunity.
Driving Force of the Market. Kirzner attempts to justify
his coordination of plans standard for welfare economics and gives
a sensitive exposition of Mises and other Austrians.
Frank H. Selected
Essays. Two volumes. Although Knight was by no means a supporter
of laissez-faire capitalism, his depth and ability to find problems
with standard arguments for socialism and interventionism make him
must reading. Volumes include Laissez-Faire:
Pro and Con and 'What
is Truth' in Economics.
Boétie, Etienne de. The
Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.
A sixteenth-century essay by a young friend of Montaigne that has
had great impact on libertarian thought. Government requires a level
of popular support to maintain itself. The edition with Murray Rothbard’s
excellent preface is recommended.
and the Law. Leoni extends Hayek on spontaneous order to
show that judge-made law is often superior to the enactments of
Melancholy and Delirium. In the course of a comprehensive
study of Hume, Livingston provides the best discussion of the right
to secession that I have read.
Treatise on Government. The theory of property set forward
here is basic to subsequent classical liberalism.
Rights, and the Moral Community. An excellent philosophical
argument for classical liberalism, based on the need for persons
to pursue their own projects in life.
W. H. A
Critical Examination of Socialism. Mallock, an outstanding
nineteenth-century British thinker, argues that progress and wealth
depend on allowing scope for the creative individual. Socialism
defies this fact and cannot work.
James J. Men
Against the State. The best account of the nineteenth-century
American tradition of individualist anarchism. Tucker, Spooner,
and others are neglected thinkers of major importance.
Edgar Lee. Lincoln
the Man. Masters, fed up with Lincoln hagiography, paints
the Great Emancipator as psychologically abnormal.
Rights and the Union. McDonald shows that the United States
was established as an association of states. With some dissent,
it was so regarded until Lincoln and the Civil War changed things.
Mencken Chrestomathy. A collection of Mencken’s mordantly
funny articles. Thorstein Veblen and other targets were never the
same when Mencken had finished with them.
of Economics. The founding work of Austrian economics. Menger’s
subjectivism revolutionized economic theory.
and Social Theory. Though Milbank is far from a classical
liberal, his book demands attention. He argues that modern social
science rests on dubious theological assumptions. Social science
has as its basic purpose the justification of violence.
Justice, and Rights in Aristotle’s Politics. Argues, contrary
to Alasdair MacIntyre and many others, that Aristotle had a notion
of individual rights.
Ludwig von. Human
Action. The greatest twentieth-century work in the
social sciences. Mises replies convincingly to critics of his socialist
calculation argument, among thousands of other insights.
Mises argues that classical liberalism is the path to peace. Conflicts
among nationalities can be resolved in lasting fashion only by rigid
restriction of the scope of the state.
Government. A penetrating account of how interventionism
in the German economy led to totalitarianism. Together with Hayek’s
to Serfdom, it offers an interpretation of intellectual
tends in pre-World War II Europe of unparalleled depth.
Mises’s calculation argument poses a challenge that socialism cannot
meet. Not content with this fatal blow, Mises raises all manner
of other critical points. After he is through, nothing of socialism
is left standing.
History. Among other things, the best analysis of the Marxist
theory of history. Hayek regarded this as an unduly neglected book.
Theory of Money and Credit. A thorough treatment of monetary
theory. The money regression theorem shows that money must have
begun as a commodity. Mises strongly defends the gold standard as
a means of monetary reconstruction.
and Federalism. An outstanding defense of states’ rights
and interposition by a veteran journalist.
Quest for Community. Nisbet argues that the modern state
has worked to destroy all institutions that stand between it and
the individual. Rousseau is a chief villain.
Albert Jay Our
Enemy, The State. A brilliantly written demonstration that
the state is an instrument of predation. Nock derived his account
from Franz Oppenheimer, The
State, but Nock’s presentation is much clearer.
Reconfigured. Nordlinger maintains that the United States
should avoid foreign entanglements. The noninterventionist argument
for American entry into both world wars is strong.
State, and Utopia. Defends libertarianism with great philosophical
acuity. Nozick’s analysis of Rawls’s theory of justice is the best
Logic of Collective Action. Essential for any study of the
problem of public goods. Hayek preferred it to Buchanan and Tullock’s
Prosperity. Olson shows why limitations on government
are necessary for economic growth.
y Gasset, José. The
Revolt of the Masses. This criticism of mass man is an indictment
of much of twentieth-century political thought.
and Freedom. An outstanding historian of Russia argues that
property rights are essential to freedom. Interesting comparison
of Britain and Russia.
Poverty of Historicism. Popper argues against the possibility
of laws of historical change. His argument is fatal to Marxism.
and the Rise of the State. Like Higgs, but over a wider
historical span, Porter shows how war leads to growth of state power.
Ancient and Modern. Three volumes. A work of enormous scope
and erudition. Rahe offers an excellent analysis of the influence
of classical ideas on the American republican tradition. Although
his Straussian assumptions are questionable, the book is essential.
Volumes include: Inventions
of Prudence: Constituting the American Regime, New
Modes and Orders in Early Modern Political Thought, and
The Ancient Regime in Classical Greece.
the American Right. Raimondo shows convincingly that William
Buckley and other cold warriors derailed American conservatism,
so far as foreign policy is concerned. The Old Right favored peace
Shrugged. These two novels strongly defend the view that
ethics is based on rational self-interest. Though much in her thought
is dubious, the "sense of life" on display in these books
A Treatise on Economics. This massive tome attempts to combine
Ricardian and Austrian economics to defend the free market. The
view of capital theory presented is controversial but deserves study.
Humane Economy. The author uses moral arguments against
Keynesian and inflationist policies.
Great Depression. Contrary to popular belief, the Great
Depression does not prove the failure of laissez-faire capitalism.
Herbert Hoover was a strong interventionist.
Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought. Two
volumes. Rothbard’s brilliant intellectual history is perhaps his
greatest scholarly contribution. He stresses the Spanish scholastics
and gives an outstanding analysis of the religious presuppositions
of Marxism, among much else. Volumes include Classical
Economics and Economic
Thought Before Adam Smith.
in Liberty. Four Volumes. Comprehensive account of the colonial
period and the American Revolution, emphasizing libertarian movements.
Ethics of Liberty. Rothbard’s fullest statement of his natural
law grounding for rights.
Economy, and State. A major treatise that fills out and
extends Misesian economics. Penetrating discussions of monopoly
price, Keynesianism, and myriad other topics.
and Market. A comprehensive classification and analysis
of all types of interference with the free market. Rothbard originally
intended it to form part of Man, Economy, and State.
Government Done to Our Money? A brilliantly
concise answer to the question posed in the title. Rothbard defends
the gold standard and opposes fractional reserve banking.
Socialism, and Democracy. Schumpeter gives an unrivalled
demolition of the perfect competition standard for monopoly. His
elitist view of democracy merits attention; his views on socialist
calculation do not.
Much of socialism and interventionism is rooted in envy. Schoeck
gives a detailed historical and sociological account of envy’s malign
A. John. Justification
Lockean Theory of Rights.
Principles and Political Obligations.
the Edge of Anarchy. These four books are a neglected resource
for classical liberal thought. Simmons argues that Lockean moral
theory is soundly based. Lockean arguments cannot be used to justify
government; and anarchy, or something close to it, is the proper
upshot of Locke’s thought. All major arguments designed to justify
political obligation fail.
and Decisions. Sowell’s magnum opus. It offers a
detailed account of spontaneous orders; Hayek greatly admired it.
Quest for Cosmic Justice. Contemporary leftist thought is
engaged in a futile effort to remodel the world. Economics teaches
us the need to limit our goals, by making us aware that all action
involves choice and cost.
Gulag Archipelago. A riveting discussion of the Soviet concentration
camp system. Communist terror and repression began with Lenin, not
Man Versus the State. A sharp attack on the "New Toryism"
of the late nineteenth century. Spencer’s arguments against the
early manifestations of the welfare state are of far reaching importance.
Principles of Ethics. Volume Two. The definitive statement
of the great British philosopher’s political views, though some
prefer his earlier Social Statics. Spencer’s argument for
rights is outstanding.
Lysander Spooner Reader. Spooner, a key nineteenth century
individualist, razes to the ground social contract arguments for
Essay on Rights. Steiner argues powerfully for an unusual
variant of libertarianism. A key issue for him is to establish which
rights can consistently exist together.
of the Age. A major argument against modern varieties
W. G. What
Do Social Classes Owe to Each Other? Sumner calls attention
to the "Forgotten Man", who must pay for harebrained schemes
by which some endeavor to " do good" for others.
John, et al. Cato’s
Letters. Ed. By Ronald Hamowy. Four Volumes in Two. An eighteenth-century
defense of libertarian natural rights, which decisively influenced
the American Revolution. Hamowy’s scholarly annotations are of great
value in understanding the text.
Economics of Income Redistribution. Tullock shows that the
actions of supporters of massive redistribution to the poor belie
their words. People are unwilling to redistribute large amounts
of income to their own detriment, and plans to do so usually have
some ulterior end.
Have Consequences. The brilliant defense of property rights
is more important than Weaver’s attempt to find the root of modern
evil in medieval nominalism.
Essential Calhoun. An excellent anthology. Calhoun gave
a penetrating defense of the "concurrent majority" as
a limit to political innovation.
as Social Science. A major defense of rule utilitarian ethics,
in the style of Mises and Hazlitt. Yeager’s knowledge of the literature
of ethics is extensive and deep.
Fluttering Veil. An important collection of essays on monetary
disequilibrium and related topics.
Gordon, book editor of LewRockwell.com and author of The
Mises Review, a quarterly book review, is a senior fellow
at the Mises Institute. He was
educated at UCLA, where he earned his PhD in intellectual history,
and is the author of Resurrecting
Philosophical Origins of Austrian Economics; Critics of Marx;
Introduction to Economic Reasoning. He is also editor
State, and Liberty.
Dr. Gordon is also a contributor to such journals as The
Journal of Libertarian Studies
Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.