These recommendations will give you an excellent introduction to economics. It will be the Econ 101 class you should have taken, not the one you had in college. The interesting thing about the 2008 Crash, aka, The Great recession, is that the Fed, the bastion of conventional wisdom, and the Bush-Obama Administrations, got it wrong: they never saw it coming, they didn’t understand it when they were in the middle of it, and they had no clue on how to deal with it. Many Austrian School economists did see it coming.
This list is the antidote to the conventional wisdom.
“A Primer On Austrian Economics”
This is an excellent short article from Mises.org to give you introduction to the ideas of Austrian theory.
See also, “A Primer on Mises.” This is an excellent brief biography of Austrian School economist, Ludwig von Mises.
Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt.
This little book has been a best seller for 75 years for a good reason. It is the best introduction to economics ever written. It is written clearly and concisely but it packs a lot of ideas in a small package. Highly recommended.
What Has Government Done to Our Money?/Case for a 100 Percent Gold Dollar, by Murray Rothbard. (Free PDF)
This is another gem of a book. It combines two essays by Murray Rothbard, one of the great Austrian School economists, that takes the mystique out of money and explains what it is and its function in the economy. Highly recommended.
The Concise Guide to Economics, by Jim Cox. (Free PDF)
This fine small economics primer is a more general treatise on economics than Economics in One Lesson and presents economics in a very concise manner, but well versed in Austrian economic theory.
The Law, by Frederic Bastiat. (Free PDF)
This is one of the classics of economics. This booklet deals with many of the issues we see today yet it was written in 1850 at the height of much social and political turmoil in France and Europe. Bastiat’s famous law, “What is Seen and What is Not Seen,” was the basis of Hazlitt’s work. Well worth the read.
The Road to Serfdom, by Friedrich von Hayek. (Free PDF)
This book made Austrian economist Hayek famous. Written in the depth of WWII (1944), “What F.A. Hayek saw, and what most all his contemporaries missed, was that every step away from the free market and toward government planning represented a compromise of human freedom generally and a step toward a form of dictatorship …” (from the Mises Institute). A profound and monumental book.
Another similar book worth reading is The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, by Ludwig von Mises, Hayek’s teacher and mentor. (Free PDF)
“The Pretense of Knowledge” by Friedrich von Hayek.
This is Hayek’s famous Nobel prize lecture on the epistemological problems with contemporary economics. He points out the problem with economists’ attempts to turn economic inquiry into a “hard” science whereby human behavior is measurable like physical matter. He says that econometric empirical research starts out on the wrong foot which why, he says, “as a profession we [economists] have made a mess of things.”
Freedom and Capitalism, by Milton Friedman.
This is another classic that dispels the myths of capitalism to reveal capitalism’s power to positively transform human society. While Austrians reject Friedman’s monetary economics because of his Monetarist views and his dismissal of Austrian theory (he never really understood it), he was a powerful and charismatic defender of freedom, showing that capitalism and freedom are synonymous. There are a lot of good video clips of Milton on YouTube.
Human Action, by Ludwig von Mises.
This is probably one of the greatest books ever written and one of mankind’s greatest intellectual feats. This is a difficult book, not for beginners, but it is a comprehensive “unified field theory” of economics and the social sciences. One in a great line of Austrian School economists, Mises presents Austrian theory in economics, including his own great contributions to economics (including the discovery of the mechanism of the business cycle), as a comprehensive social science. The Mises Institute has a Scholars Edition keyed to a Study Guide.
Man, Economy, and State by Murray Rothbard.
Rothbard was a student of Mises and one could say that it parallels Human Action, but it is much more approachable as a treatise on Austrian School economics.
“Mises: Scholar, Creator, Hero” by Murray Rothbard.
This article is Rothbard’s tribute to the man who inspired him and countless others. It is a brief biography of Mises as well as an examination of his ideas and the historical context into which he fit. Without Mises it is likely that the Austrian school would have disappeared. It is an excellent primer of the ideas and the man. It is an article that is a part of The Essential Mises by Rothbard. This is highly recommended. (Free PDF)
Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism, by Jörg Guido Hülsman.
This is a brilliant biography of an amazing man, Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), who was in my opinion the greatest Austrian scholar and one of history’s greatest thinkers. This book not only details his life but gives you a history of economic thought as well as a history of the times in which Mises lived. Highly recommended.
The Forgotten Man, by Amity Shlaes.
Much of what you have heard about the Great Depression is wrong. This book is a wonderfully written history that highlights the personalities and policies of the times, especially Roosevelt’s New Deal “Brain Trusters.” It isn’t a treatise on economics but more of a personal history of the New Deal. It will open your eyes.
The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Great Depression and the New Deal, by Robert P. Murphy.
While Shlaes is poetic, Murphy’s wonderful little book takes all the myths head on and demolishes them one by one. Murphy is a well-known and prolific Austrian scholar. He points out how Hoover and Roosevelt did almost everything wrong and turned a typical recession into the Great Depression.
America’s Great Depression, by Murray Rothbard.
Rothbard takes a scholarly, classically Austrian approach to the analysis of the Great Depression. This is one of the classics of modern Austrian scholarship and is highly recommended to those who wish to have a more comprehensive analysis of how and why the Great Depression occurred. It will give you a course in Austrian theory economics as you read along.
The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself, by James Grant.
Grant, the publisher of “Grant’s Interest Rate Observer”, compares the severe depression of 1920-1921 to the Great Depression of the 1930s and 1940s. He points out that the government did almost nothing to cure the one in 1921 and it recovered in 18 months. In contrast, the Great Depression lasted for 20 years as a result of government interventions to cure it.
“An Austrian Perspective on the Great Recession of 2008“, by Steven Horowitz.
This is an excellent 25-page summary of Austrian theory and how it explains the Great Recession economic crisis.
Meltdown, by Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
This is currently the best book on the Great Recession of 2008 – It traces the causes of the recession from an Austrian perspective and gets everything right. It was a NYT bestseller. It also gives some good comparisons in history as to why the “cures” proposed by the Bush and Obama Administrations actually inhibited a recovery.
The Great Deformation by David Stockman
Stockman gives a very thorough analysis of current economic events, including the Great Recession, as seen through Austrian School eyes.
The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Fooled By Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
The (Mis) Behavior of Markets, by Benoit Mandelbrot
These three books are radical and groundbreaking in financial analysis. They destroy the foundations of modern financial analysis: Efficient Market Hypothesis, Modern Portfolio Theory, Capital Asset Pricing Module (CAPM), and Black-Scholes. These are epistemological and behavioral views of markets (Taleb) based on probability analysis discovered by Mandelbrot (fractal geometry and Power Laws). All three books are “musts” for investors. Black Swan is readable and entertaining yet very erudite in Taleb’s analysis of conventional economic and financial wisdom. You won’t look at markets the same.
Another access point to Austrian economics is via YouTube. The Mises Institute has produced a number of excellent lectures and posted them on YouTube.