Analysis and decision-making without understanding history is like flying a plane with zero flight hours. Each of the books listed is in my personal library and, I believe, can provide perspective and insight relevant to world affairs, commerce, society and our personal lives. Italicized titles can be ordered directly by clicking on the title and ordering through Indiebound.org which supports independent booksellers (and me!). Non-italicized book titles can be ordered at AbeBooks. (Seriously, do NOT give Jeff Bezos more money!).
This list is being built out and expanded regularly but clients and former students are welcome to contact me and ask for recommendations in alignment with their interests and objectives.
– Brian Langenberg
ECONOMICS & POLITICAL ECONOMY
Discourses on Salt and Iron (1967) E.M. Gale (Editor)
Debate held at the imperial court in 81 BCE on state policy during the Han dynasty in China. The prior emperor had reversed free market policies and imposed state monopolies, price stabilization and taxes. The new Emperor Zhao of Han called scholars to debate the government. Key take-away: The debate between economic freedom and control is nothing new!
Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy (2015) Thomas Sowell
Most readable book on economics you will ever find. Explains in plain english markets, price theory, money and what does and does not work. Excellent review of the failures of the Soviet economy, disproves nostrums about labor market discrimination and the benefits of central planning.
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (1999) David S. Landes
Revered professor of history and economics at Harvard University. Incredibly well written and illustrates patterns of societal and national behavior leading to success and those which end in decline and failure. When accused by some of Eurocentrism he retorted that explaining an economic miracle that happened originally only in Europe must of necessity be Eurocentric!
The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History (1996) David Hackett Fischer
Skillful and interesting analysis of prices in Europe across four waves: High Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Victorian Age. Each revolution marked by continuing inflation, widening rich/poor gap, instability and crisis along with social and political upheaval and economic collapse. War, famine, black death, all the good stuff!
Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1949) Ludwig von Mises
First comprehensive treatise on economics written by a leading member of the modern Austrian school of economics. Von Mises pointed out that the whole economy is the result of what individuals do. Individuals act, choose, cooperate, compete, and trade with one another. At a time when collectivization was considered the future of humanity, he stood tall and the lessons are relevant today.
The Road to Serfdom (1944) Friedrich A. Hayek
Austrian-British economist, and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his work on how price changes communicate information. Associated with the Austrian School of Economics as well as the Chicago School. Major social theorist and political philosopher who helped revive classical liberalism after the second world war.
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1979) Milton & Rose Friedman
Milton and Rose Friedman explain how our freedom has been eroded and our affluence undermined through the explosion of laws, regulations, agencies, and spending in Washington. I also recommend watching his videos at https://www.freetochoosenetwork.org.
The Fountainhead (1943) Ayn Rand
Man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress… Ayn Rand’s Herculean story of the triumph of individual freedom and creativity against the stultifying demands of ‘“society” for conformity and mediocrity (read: the losers) by the founder of Objectivism.
Atlas Shrugged (1957) Ayn Rand
Who is John Galt? When he says that he will stop the motor of the world, is he a destroyer or a liberator? Why does he have to fight his battles not against his enemies but against those who need him most? Why does he fight his hardest battle against the woman he loves?
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966) Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan
Altruism is the cause of the modern world’s collapse, according to Ayn Rand. In my view, an elegant and thoughtful argument against collectivism and soft-headed government paternalism even as the disastrous “Great Society” welfare plantation system was being expanded.
A History of Interest Rates (1963) Sidney Homer
First published in 1963 by Salomon Brothers economist Sidney Homer, this plain english book addresses interest rate trends and lending practices spanning over four millennia. Incredibly interesting book and a must read. More helpful than just staring at a computer screen.
The War on Gold (1977) Antony C. Sutton
Antony Sutton is the greatest investigative economic researcher and historian you haven’t heard of…because he has been memory-holed for uncovering uncomfortable truths about the complicity between Wall Street, the U.S. government and totalitarianism. While the advent of central banking in the U.S. in 1913 has provided great benefits at least part of the “progress” has been layering more debt on the backs of citizens since the advent of the “new deal” and thus government’s hostility to the ultimate “hard” money: Gold.
The Case Against the Fed (2007) Murray N. Rothbard
Heterodox economist of the Austrian School, student of Ludwig von Mises and protege (and young thing for a time) of Ayn Rand, Rothbard was a founder of the anarcho-capitalist School of thought. While you wouldn’t actually want the world run the way he thought it should his criticisms and analyses are great for keeping institutions and intellectual schools of thought on their toes.
Much more to come!!!