The beginner’s adventure into the economic way of thinking should rest on strong foundations, it is in this desire that we arrange the readings in this way, slowly building up the layman’s ability to comprehend the inner workings of the economy. As such, it is a good decision to introduce the reader to the very basic principles that our analysis builds up from.
The first book is the beautifully written, if somewhat polemical, book by Henry Hazlitt: Economics in One Lesson. If there was any text to introduce one to the general style of thinking that goes behind the head of the economist, it would be this book and its wide breadth. It is much loved and respected for this reason, within the Economics profession and without.
As much as the economic system deals with the matters of political economy, economics is a social science whose method can apply to a great range of phenomenon and Gary Becker’s work is an exemplary example of the power of economic thinking applied to non-traditional economics subjects and Becker’s Nobel prize lecture introduces one to some of the nuance of economics’s methods. Similarly and from a student of Becker himself no less, Walter Block shows us a work of libertarian morality which has been colored heavily by the economic way of thinking. While it is the most radical and explicitly ideological book in this set, it has something to offer to new readers to these methods of analysis. If one has the time and money, David Friedman’s Hidden Order, Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics, and Peter Leeson’s WTF are also books of interest in this tradition of applying economic principles to everyday life.
Next up we have the much more varied and profound works of Friedrich von Hayek. Of greatest importance in this collection are ‘The Use of Knowledge in Society’, ‘The Facts of the Social Sciences’, ‘Economics and Knowledge’, ‘The Meaning of Competition’ and ‘”Free” Enterprise and Competitive Order’; if one is impatient you may ignore everything after ‘The Meaning of Competition’. It is in these works that one learns more of the philosophy of the social sciences and a number of the most goose-bump inducing ideas of economics from an economist widely recognized to be one of the greatest in the 20th century and maybe of all time.
The Mises Reader brings the person interested in economics to a deeper appreciation of the thought of Mises without reading all of much Mises. One will find a greater comprehension of the various parts of the formal economic structure here, from the monetary to the structure of production to what have you with a good spread of the methodology and philosophy of economics all throughout which are an idiosyncratic mark of Mises’ writings. Robert Murphy’s Choice is another good book of this nature but it is sadly not freely available online.
In a series of videos between two minutes to fifteen minutes, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabbarok teaches a student the formal economics of their textbook made video series which we have introduced somewhat with Gary Becker but not so much as we do now as we bring these series of videos to you. Cowen and Tabbarok builds on a small foundation of incentives and various kinds of costs before slowly building up an ediface of interlocking concepts of economics as they show you the determinants of supply and demand, competition in its various forms, international trade, and the like. Transcripts of the videos exist within the page, one need only look for them to read along as the video plays.
All book links linked in this list are free and distributed via legal means, thus its particular composition.
1. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
2. The Economic Way of Thinking by Gary Becker
3. Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block
4. Individualism and Economic Order by Friedrich von Hayek
5. The Mises Reader by Ludwig von Mises, Shawn Ritenour
6. Modern Principles of Economics: Microeconomics by Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabbarok