The best books on what causes economic injustice

Why am I passionate about this?

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, “there are no second acts in American lives.” But I am on my third. I started out in the theatre, then became a lawyer, and then a political philosopher. What drove each move is that I was always outraged by injustice and wanted to find a better way to fight against it. For me, reading, writing, and teaching political philosophy turned out to be that way. The books on this list provide important lessons on how certain economic policies can cause injustice while others can cure it. Each has been around for a long time, but they are as relevant today as when they were first written. 

I wrote...

On Unemployment: A Micro-Theory of Economic Justice: Volume 1

By Mark R. Reiff,

Book cover of On Unemployment: A Micro-Theory of Economic Justice: Volume 1

What is my book about?

Despite the obvious problems caused by unemployment, political philosophers have long tended to ignore it as a source of injustice. Most view unemployment as a technical matter, with solutions dependent on the kind of empirical determinations that are best left to economists. But I think this is a mistake. Work is a major part of our social life, as well as something that provides many people with their sense of identity and self-respect. The unemployed are accordingly missing out on a great deal of what makes for a meaningful life, and not just on economic benefits. Unemployment therefore is a form of injustice, and society has a moral obligation to take action. The nature and extent of this moral obligation is what On Unemployment is dedicated to exploring.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Guide to Keynes

Mark R. Reiff Why did I love this book?

I would have recommended John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, which is one of the great masterworks of the twentieth century, but reading Keynes himself can be difficult.

Hansen’s book is the best summary available despite being more than 70 years old. And understanding Keynes is essential if you want to understand how certain economic policies continue to lead us astray.

Hard to find, but not impossible. 

By Alvin H. Hansen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Guide to Keynes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Book cover of The Rise and Fall of Economic Justice and Other Essays

Mark R. Reiff Why did I love this book?

A series of essays by one of the most respected Canadian political philosophers of the twentieth century.

I have recommended this book for the title essay, which provides a particularly insightful account of how people have thought about economic justice (or haven’t) over time.

But all the essays are worth reading.

By C. B. Macpherson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise and Fall of Economic Justice and Other Essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In his final book, one of the giants of twentieth-century political philosophy returns to his key themes of state, class, and property as well as such contemporary questions as economic justice, human rights, and the nature of industrial democracy. Macpherson not only re-examines historical issues dealt with in his earlier works, such as the impact of Hobbes's economic assumptions on his political theories, but assesses the problematic future of democracy in a market
society. This new edition includes an introduction by Frank Cunningham that places the book in the broader context of Macpherson's work.

Book cover of The Affluent Society

Mark R. Reiff Why did I love this book?

How can a society as rich as ours leave so many people behind?

Published in 1958, this book opened my eyes to the importance of economic justice—I first read it in the late 1970s when I was nineteen.

But it is still mind-blowing today, for neither the wrongheadedness of prevailing economic policy nor the solutions that are available for us to do better have changed.

By John Kenneth Galbraith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Affluent Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Kenneth Galbraith's international bestseller The Affluent Society is a witty, graceful and devastating attack on some of our most cherished economic myths.

As relevant today as when it was first published over forty years ago, this newly updated edition of Galbraith's classic text on the 'economics of abundance', lays bare the hazards of individual and social complacency about economic inequality.

Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - artificial 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why begrudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the…

Book cover of Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy

Mark R. Reiff Why did I love this book?

A renowned economist and Harvard professor with a bit of a cult following, Schumpeter provides a realistic evaluation of what capitalism is and whether it can survive if it does not do more to help a wider range of people.

First published in 1942, Schumpeter’s fear was the rise of socialism, but what he had to say about the failings of capitalism back then applies with equal force today.

Schumpeter was the originator of the term “creative destruction” to describe how capitalism works, and Part II of the book was the inspiration for my paper, “Can Liberal Capitalism Survive?”

The book has never been out of print. 

By Joseph A Schumpeter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Joseph Schumpeter’s classic Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy explains the process of capitalism’s 'creative destruction' — a key principle in understanding the logic of globalization." — Thomas L. Friedman, Foreign Policy

In this definitive third and final edition (1950) of his prophetic masterwork, Joseph A. Schumpeter introduced the world to the concept of “creative destruction,” which forever altered how global economics is approached and perceived. Now featuring a new introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning Schumpeter biographer Thomas K. McCraw, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy is essential read­ing for anyone who seeks to understand where the world economy is headed.

“If Keynes was the…

Book cover of The Just Economy: Principles of Political Economy Volume IV

Mark R. Reiff Why did I love this book?

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1977, Meade was on the moderate left.

He wanted a more just economy but did not advocate jettisoning capitalism. Here he gives his analysis of various economic problems, what causes economic injustice, and how to make this right.

The book can get technical at times, but his analyses and proposed solutions are as relevant today as they were when they were first presented.

Meade’s work was one of the inspirations for John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, the most important work of liberal political philosophy of the twentieth century. 

By James E. Meade,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Just Economy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1979, this fourth part of Principles of Political Economy applies the tools of economic analysis to the distribution of income and property. Professor Meade considers the problems of making interpersonal comparisons of welfare and of distinguishing between the efficiency and distributional aspects of changes in social welfare. He analyses the possible criteria for redistribution as between rich and poor members of the same generation, as between present and future generations, and - in the context of demographic policies - as between the born and the unborn. Special attention is given to the social factors (such as assortative…

You might also like...

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

Book cover of Magical Disinformation

Lachlan Page Author Of Magical Disinformation

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived in Latin America for six years, working as a red cross volunteer, a volcano hiking guide, a teacher, and an extra in a Russian TV series (in Panama). Having travelled throughout the region and returning regularly, I’m endlessly fascinated by the culture, history, politics, languages, and geography. Parallel to this, I enjoy reading and writing about the world of international espionage. Combining the two, and based on my own experience, I wrote my novel, Magical Disinformation, a spy novel set in Colombia. While there is not a huge depth of spy novels set in Latin America, I’ve chosen five of my favourites spy books set in the region.

Lachlan's book list on spy books set in Latin America

What is my book about?

This book is a spy novel with a satirical edge which will take you on a heart-pumping journey through the streets, mountains, jungles, and beaches of Colombia. Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.

Magical Disinformation

By Lachlan Page,

What is this book about?

In the era of ‘fake news’ in the land of magical realism, fiction can be just as dangerous as the truth... Discover Lachlan Page’s Magical Disinformation: a spy novel with a satirical edge set amongst the Colombian peace process. Described by one reviewer as “Our Man in Havana meets A Clear and Present Danger.”

Oliver Jardine is a spy in Colombia, enamoured with local woman Veronica Velasco.

As the Colombian government signs a peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas, Her Majesty’s Government decides a transfer is in order to focus on more pertinent theatres of operation.

In a desperate attempt…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in philosophy, Keynes, and presidential biography?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about philosophy, Keynes, and presidential biography.

Philosophy Explore 1,649 books about philosophy
Keynes Explore 14 books about Keynes
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography