The most recommended books on the free market

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to the free market, and here are their favorite free market books.
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Book cover of Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism

Raoul Martinez Author Of Creating Freedom: Power, Control and the Fight for our Future

From my list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism.

Who am I?

It has long been claimed that we face a choice between freedom and equality: that advocates of capitalism favour freedom, while critics prioritise equality. Philosopher Raoul Martinez was never persuaded by this claim, yet it took years of research across a number of disciplines to understand not only how problematic it is, but how foundational to our society and its crises it has become. His journey of discovery culminated in the writing of Creating Freedom, which dismantles this misleading narrative while deepening our understanding of human liberty: the many ways it is subverted and the path to its creation.

Raoul's book list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism

Raoul Martinez Why did Raoul love this book?

Drawing on extensive historical research, economist Ha-Joon Chang shows that today’s wealthiest nations became rich not by following the advice they have long given to poorer nations — embrace free and open markets with minimal state involvement — but by doing precisely the opposite: embracing policies of protectionism and significant state intervention. In admirably clear prose, Chang exposes the hypocrisy of the world’s richest nations and lays out a more promising path of development for the poorer countries of the world. 

By Ha-Joon Chang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bad Samaritans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's rare that a book appears with a fresh perspective on world affairs, but renowned economist Ha-Joon Chang has some startlingly original things to say about the future of globalization. In theory, he argues, the world's wealthiest countries and supra-national institutions like the IMF, World Bank and WTO want to see all nations developing into modern industrial societies. In practice, though, those at the top are 'kicking away the ladder' to wealth that they themselves climbed.

Why? Self-interest certainly plays a part. But, more often, rich and powerful governments and institutions are actually being 'Bad Samaritans': their intentions are worthy…


Book cover of An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Liah Greenfeld Author Of The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth

From my list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism.

Who am I?

The Spirit of Capitalism: Nationalism and Economic Growth is the second volume of my nationalism trilogy. When I published the first volume, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity, the accepted view on the subject of nationalism was that it is a product of economic development, specifically, of industrialization and capitalism. On the basis of historical evidence, I proved that its emergence had nothing to do with these economic phenomena: in fact, it preceded both. Reviews of Nationalism, noting that, for this reason, economic developments could not have caused nationalism, raised the question what relationship, then, did exist between nationalism and the economy, and this led me to investigate it. 

Liah's book list on the relationship between capitalism and nationalism

Liah Greenfeld Why did Liah love this book?

The Wealth of Nations is the foundational text of modern economics, reflecting – contrary to the common notion – the clearly national consciousness of its author and demonstrating that modern economic imagination (and activity) is a product of nationalism.

Its nationalist inspiration is the main reason I recommend reading it, for the commonplace interpretations of this classic miss this most interesting aspect of the work. In addition, it is a delightful text. 

By Adam Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1776, the year in which the American Revolution officially began, Smith’s Wealth of Nations sparked a revolution of its own. In it Smith analyzes the major elements of political economy, from market pricing and the division of labor to monetary, tax, trade, and other government policies that affect economic behavior. Throughout he offers seminal arguments for free trade, free markets, and limited government.

Criticizing mercantilists who sought to use the state to increase their nations’ supply of precious metals, Smith points out that a nation’s wealth should be measured by the well-being of its people. Prosperity in…


Book cover of A Lodging of Wayfaring Men

Wyman Wicket Author Of 23 Skiddoo: Way Back Beyond Across the Stars

From my list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans.

Who am I?

As a free man of flesh-and-blood I trust in time-tested verities and traditions; as a spiritual entity I am a man of faith; and as a thinking being I explore in my writing the malleability of consciousness and reality. Through a broad range of experiences I offer images for the minds of readers in novels of a twisted magical realism. I seek the mysteries of God, the beauty of poetry, and the freedom to explore all and everything. I am an American State National who critiques modern society, culture, and politics as an independent scholar who will not be silenced. Awaken, oh human beans, from normative conditioning and screen-gazing complacency!

Wyman's book list on magical realism for metapolitical non-fiction fans

Wyman Wicket Why did Wyman love this book?

Besides having one of the best book titles ever, this novel immediately draws readers in and is hard to put down; the action is matched by its intelligence. In it, freedom-seekers create a fast-growing, virtual society on the Internet that grows so fast it terrifies governments and their “security.” With no possibility of oversight and control, the System fights to co-opt this cyber-society before it undermines and overwhelms the dominance of corruptocrat governing elites. The free souls in this novel lead us through a clever plot wherein principles of economic freedom, individuality, and justice lead to a free market uncontrolled by tax-hungry government lackeys. Profiled here are a group of individuals determined to transcend paradigms that the human psyche often forms for us, almost autonomically, as a reaction to fear.

By Paul Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Lodging of Wayfaring Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Instantly named Freedom Book of The Month and a major influence in the Cyber-underground, A Lodging of Wayfaring Men is the story of freedom-seekers who create an alternative society on the Internet - a virtual society, with no possibility of oversight or control. It grows so fast that governments and “leaders” are terrified, and fight to co-opt this cyber-society before it undermines the power of the governing elite.

The main body of the book is followed by a set of essays and a supplemental narrative that were composed as the book was being written.

For those of you who may…


Book cover of A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism

Greg Berman Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on if you want government to work better.

Who am I?

I have spent my professional career attempting to reform the justice system and create safer communities. For nearly two decades, I served as the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation). Now, I co-edit a policy journal called Vital City that attempts to spark new thinking about how to achieve public safety. Over the years, I have worked with numerous city, state, and federal officials. I have seen that most of the people working within government are trying their best in difficult circumstances. I have also seen that it is enormously difficult to change government systems and solve complicated social problems.

Greg's book list on if you want government to work better

Greg Berman Why did Greg love this book?

When I was the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation), I made a habit of sharing interesting essays with the rest of the team.

One of my all-time favorites was Adam Gopnik’s “The Caging of America.” In the essay, Gopnik offers this analysis of how crime was reduced in New York City throughout the 1990s and 2000s: “There was no miracle cure, just the intercession of a thousand smaller sanities.”

The idea that small changes can make a big difference has been a bit of a personal crusade for me ever since. 

In A Thousand Small Sanities, Gopnik expands upon this argument, offering a full-throated defense of liberalism against critics on both the right and the left. 

By Adam Gopnik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thousand Small Sanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'WITTY, HUMANE, LEARNED' NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times-bestselling author offers a stirring defence of liberalism against the dogmatisms of our time

Not since the early twentieth century has liberalism, and liberals, been under such relentless attack, from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and, even worse, in liberal thought.

A Thousand Small Sanities is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition. Taking us from Montaigne to Mill, and from Middlemarch to the civil rights movement, Adam…


Book cover of Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality

Raoul Martinez Author Of Creating Freedom: Power, Control and the Fight for our Future

From my list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism.

Who am I?

It has long been claimed that we face a choice between freedom and equality: that advocates of capitalism favour freedom, while critics prioritise equality. Philosopher Raoul Martinez was never persuaded by this claim, yet it took years of research across a number of disciplines to understand not only how problematic it is, but how foundational to our society and its crises it has become. His journey of discovery culminated in the writing of Creating Freedom, which dismantles this misleading narrative while deepening our understanding of human liberty: the many ways it is subverted and the path to its creation.

Raoul's book list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism

Raoul Martinez Why did Raoul love this book?

Having read Robert Nozick’s philosophical defence of free markets, Anarchy, State and Utopia, in my early twenties, I started searching for a comprehensive rebuttal. With Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality, my search came to an end. Cohen — who sadly is no longer with us — was a gifted analytical philosopher who developed his critique of Nozick and other free marketeers over many years. The book delivers a clear and powerful distillation of his thought, which corroborates the intuition felt by many of us that there is something profoundly wrong with the conflation of freedom with free markets. 

By G.A. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Self-Ownership, Freedom, and Equality as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book G. A. Cohen examines the libertarian principle of self-ownership, which says that each person belongs to himself and therefore owes no service or product to anyone else. This principle is used to defend capitalist inequality, which is said to reflect each person's freedom to do as as he wishes with himself. The author argues that self-ownership cannot deliver the freedom it promises to secure, thereby undermining the idea that lovers of freedom should embrace capitalism and the inequality that comes with it. He goes on to show that the standard Marxist condemnation of exploitation implies an endorsement…


Book cover of The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets

Steven K. Vogel Author Of Marketcraft: How Governments Make Markets Work

From my list on how markets really work.

Who am I?

I first got interested in how markets really work when I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation on the “deregulation” movement in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan. I quickly discovered that deregulation never happened in the literal sense. In most cases, governments had to increase regulation to enhance market competition. They needed more rules to get “freer” markets. This sounds paradoxical at first, but it really isn’t. It makes perfect sense once you realize that markets do not arise spontaneously but rather are crafted by the very visible hand of the government. So I took that insight and I have been running with it ever since.

Steven's book list on how markets really work

Steven K. Vogel Why did Steven love this book?

Why do governments have to make markets work?

Well for one thing, firms might prefer to collude rather than to compete, if given the choice. So we need antitrust policy to make them compete.

Philippon surveys developments over the past few decades, demonstrating how the United States has weakened antitrust policy and enforcement while Europe has strengthened it.

He also looks at particular sectors, with a particularly compelling chapter on how the U.S. financial sector has grown without delivering more value to consumers and investors.

By Thomas Philippon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Great Reversal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Book of the Year
A ProMarket Book of the Year

"Superbly argued and important...Donald Trump is in so many ways a product of the defective capitalism described in The Great Reversal. What the U.S. needs, instead, is another Teddy Roosevelt and his energetic trust-busting. Is that still imaginable? All believers in the virtues of competitive capitalism must hope so."
-Martin Wolf, Financial Times

"In one industry after another...a few companies have grown so large that they have the power to keep prices high and wages low. It's great for those corporations-and bad for almost everyone else."
-David…


Book cover of Free Market Fairness

Andrew Koppelman Author Of Burning Down the House: How Libertarian Philosophy Was Corrupted by Delusion and Greed

From my list on libertarian philosophy.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in human freedom, and both intrigued and cautious about the path offered by the libertarians. In my book, I finally worked out for my own benefit what is alive and what is dead in their ideals – and the various flavors in which those ideals are available. They have important insights, but too much of what they are selling is snake oil. Until now there hasn’t been any critical introduction to libertarianism for the general reader. This book aims to supply that.

Andrew's book list on libertarian philosophy

Andrew Koppelman Why did Andrew love this book?

Tomasi offers a new synthesis of Rawlsian high liberalism and market-oriented libertarianism, which he calls "market democracy." It treats capitalistic economic freedoms as crucial elements of liberty, but demands that institutions be designed so that their benefits are shared by the least fortunate citizens. His central focus is the value of entrepreneurial activity as a moral ideal. I have a lot of disagreements with this book, but without its smart provocations I might not have written my own.

By John Tomasi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Free Market Fairness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can libertarians care about social justice? In Free Market Fairness, John Tomasi argues that they can and should. Drawing simultaneously on moral insights from defenders of economic liberty such as F. A. Hayek and advocates of social justice such as John Rawls, Tomasi presents a new theory of liberal justice. This theory, free market fairness, is committed to both limited government and the material betterment of the poor. Unlike traditional libertarians, Tomasi argues that property rights are best defended not in terms of self-ownership or economic efficiency but as requirements of democratic legitimacy. At the same time, he encourages egalitarians…


Book cover of The ABCs of Political Economy: A Modern Approach

Raoul Martinez Author Of Creating Freedom: Power, Control and the Fight for our Future

From my list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism.

Who am I?

It has long been claimed that we face a choice between freedom and equality: that advocates of capitalism favour freedom, while critics prioritise equality. Philosopher Raoul Martinez was never persuaded by this claim, yet it took years of research across a number of disciplines to understand not only how problematic it is, but how foundational to our society and its crises it has become. His journey of discovery culminated in the writing of Creating Freedom, which dismantles this misleading narrative while deepening our understanding of human liberty: the many ways it is subverted and the path to its creation.

Raoul's book list on critiquing free-market fundamentalism

Raoul Martinez Why did Raoul love this book?

Hahnel’s work should be more well known. A professor of economics who understands the neoclassical approach inside out, he has spent his career not only critiquing mainstream economics but developing rich alternatives, including a sophisticated economic vision that aims to avoid the pitfalls of both free markets and state planning. I’ve chosen The ABCs of Political Economy as it’s a wonderful introduction to the area, offering a broad scope and a sharp critique of orthodox approaches to the economy.

By Robin Hahnel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This revised edition of ABCs is a lively and accessible introduction to modern political economy. Informed by the work of Marx, Veblen, Kalecki, Robinson, Minsky and other great political economists, Robin Hahnel provides the essential tools needed to understand economic issues today.

Dispelling myths about financial liberalisation, fiscal austerity, globalisation and free markets, ABCs offers a critical perspective on our present system and outlines clear alternatives for the future.

This second edition applies the analytical tools developed to help readers understand the origins of the financial crisis of 2007, the ensuing 'Great Recession', and why government policies in Europe and…


Book cover of The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good

Alex Rosenberg Author Of How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories

From my list on for getting a grip on our reality.

Who am I?

Even before I became a philosopher I was wondering about everything—life the universe and whatever else Douglas Adams thought was important when he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. As a philosopher, I’ve been able to spend my life scratching the itch of these questions. When I finally figured them out I wrote The Atheist’s Guide to Reality as an introduction to what science tells us besides that there is no god. In How History Gets Things Wrong: The Neuroscience of Our Addiction to Stories I apply much of that to getting to the bottom of why it’s so hard for us, me included, to really absorb the nature of reality. 

Alex's book list on for getting a grip on our reality

Alex Rosenberg Why did Alex love this book?

Frank explains why Darwin is a better guide than Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to the problems the economy raises for almost everyone. The most important market and the only market where almost everyone is a seller instead of a buyer is the labor market. Yet it is the one that Adam Smith got almost completely wrong and Charles Darwin got almost completely right. Frank shows us how the Darwinian process of the labor market makes employers rich at the expense of workers, and how they stitched their advantage into the “Right to Work” (at lower wages) laws.

By Robert H. Frank,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who was the greater economist--Adam Smith or Charles Darwin? The question seems absurd. Darwin, after all, was a naturalist, not an economist. But Robert Frank, New York Times economics columnist and best-selling author of The Economic Naturalist, predicts that within the next century Darwin will unseat Smith as the intellectual founder of economics. The reason, Frank argues, is that Darwin's understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Smith's. And the consequences of this fact are profound. Indeed, the failure to recognize that we live in Darwin's world rather than Smith's is putting us all at risk by…


Book cover of Milton Friedman on Economics: Selected Papers

Blaine Stewart Author Of Hourglass Socioeconomics: Vol. 1, Principles & Fundamentals

From my list on reads that are almost economics.

Who am I?

I'm addicted to discovering what lies within the unknown. The biggest mystery, I believe, that baffles us today is not necessarily what lies at the edge of the universe but what lives within this one here. I enjoy attempting to solve large problems and if I can’t compute a result at least understand what the problem suggests. In the realm of the unknown, I'm an expert of nothing. In hours of research and reading and writing, one comes to a point in their process of learning with the realization that it does not matter how much one learns, there will always be that much more, logarithmically multiplied exponentially by the rate of acceleration, to learn.

Blaine's book list on reads that are almost economics

Blaine Stewart Why did Blaine love this book?

Ultimately, I am recommending this book to you because Milton Friedman is one of the founders of Capitalism and winner of the Nobel. I enjoyed reading this book in college for the significant impact it holds. Truly, in a free market society based on survival of the fittest, one is forced to outlive the other. However, a great author will combine the two polar dynamic ideologies into one. While Milton Friedman’s work has historical implications on modern society, it is out of date. 

By Milton Friedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Milton Friedman on Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Upon his death in the autumn of 2006, Milton Friedman was lauded as "the grandmaster of free-market economic theory in the postwar era" by the "New York Times" and "the most influential economist of the second half of the twentieth century" by the "Economist". Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976, Friedman was both a highly respected economist and a prominent public intellectual, the leader of a revolution in economic and political thought that argued robustly in favor of the virtues of free markets and laissez-faire policies. "Milton Friedman on Economics" collects a variety of Friedman's papers on…