The best books on economics and political economy

Peter T. Leeson Author Of WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird
By Peter T. Leeson

The Books I Picked & Why

Economics in One Lesson

By Henry Hazlitt

Economics in One Lesson

Why this book?

There is no book from which you can absorb more economics with less effort. Readers new to economics should start here. Readers familiar with economics should return here often.


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Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

By Ludwig von Mises

Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

Why this book?

This is the most rewarding book in economics—maybe in all of social science—if you’re willing to be patient and attentive (no math, statistical equations, or even graphs, but this is not light reading). Human Actions treatment of economics is comprehensive, tackling questions from the philosophical—What, for example, is the nature of economic laws?—to the practical—What do those laws mean for, say, regulating the price of milk? A true tour de force, this book changed how I think about the world, and it might do the same for you. Just remember what I said about patience and attentiveness!


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How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World

By Nathan Rosenberg, L. E. Birdzell, Jr.

How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World

Why this book?

In the late eighteenth century, Adam Smith famously asked: Why are some nations rich and others poor? You probably aren’t going to read Smith’s Wealth of Nations to find out the answer. And thanks to Rosenberg and Birdzell’s readable book, you don’t have to. While more recent books offer complementary accounts of wealth and poverty, How the West Grew Rich remains the best.


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The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

By David Friedman

The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

Why this book?

A key insight of economics is the power of markets to organize human affairs. The Machinery of Freedom takes that insight to the limit. How might society work if even governmental functions were organized using markets? Friedman’s answer will surprise and challenge you. And whether you come away convinced or not, you will come away with a better understanding of markets.


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The Law by Frederic Bastiat

By Frédéric Bastiat

The Law by Frederic Bastiat

Why this book?

The shortest, surest guide to understanding the government’s relationship to the economy. The Law was first published in 1850, but its relevance, importance, and accessibility are perennial. Multiply your value by getting the Foundation for Economic Education’s newest edition, which includes Bastiat’s classic essays “The Broken Window” and “The Candlemakers’ Petition.”


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