This list will work for any body but is particularly suitable for teenaged readers or anyone starting to read or study the ideas behind economics. Where possible we have provided PDF’s of the texts but all of these should be available in your local library, book shop or on-line book shop.
Frederick Bastiat wrote The Law a wonderful defense of limited government (that is government which over-sees economic activity rather than directing it). In the same sequence there is a volume of short essays called The Clichés of Socialism that are well worth reading.
Soon after the publication of F. A. Hayek’s classic The Road to Serfdom an abbreviated version was published due to war time paper shortages. Recently the Institute of Economic Affairs (I.E.A.) has made this text avaiable once more. As a student in Vienna Hayek was thought economics by Ludwig Von Mies.
Von Mies fled from the Nazis to New York where he wrote Planned Chaos in which he summarised his case against all kinds of interventionism.
In Parkinson’s Law the author and historian C Northcote Parkinson wittily describes the inefficiency of bureaucracy. Parkinson, who was Professor of History in The University of Malaysia, also wrote an amusing critique of Socialism Left Luggage.
None of this though is to suggest that governments do not wish to succeed but D. R. Myddletton’s They Meant Well, Government Project Disasters describes what happens all too often.
Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley are eloquent protests against totalitarianism with which everyone should be familiar. neither Orwell nor Huxley were supporters of Market Economics. Orwell expressly denied that 1984 was was an attack on Socialism but he spoke favourably of The Road to Serfdom.
The Russian Revolutions of February & October 1917 created a wave of émigrés who fled from the brutal Bolshevik regime. Among them were Yevgeny Zamyatin (1884-1937) and Alice Rosenbaum (1905-1982) who change her name to Ayn Rand soon after her arrival in the United States. Zemyatin had been a member of the Bolsheviks but soon realised his mistake and his dissallusionment led to his anti-Utopian novel We in which he depicted the immoral and dehumanising nature of totalitarianism. Orwell believed that We inspired Huxley’s Brave New World. While Rand agreed with Zamyatin that totalitarianism was immoral and dehumanising she believed he had left open the possibility that it was efficient. She produced her short novel Anthem to show it was both immoral and inefficient.
The Irish born writer C. S. Lewis was not concerned about Economics. Nevertheless the whole orientation of The Magician’s Nephew and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe ,in reading order the first two of famous Chronicles of Narnia ,is strongly anti-totalitarian in flavour. Most who enjoy The Chronicles of Narnia will also enjoy, if they do not already know them, The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
While both Lewis and especially Tolkein looked at liberty through the prism of tradition, the science fiction writer Robert Heinlen took a more individualistic & optimistic approach.
Some of Heinlen’s conclusions would have horrified both Lewis and Tolkein but his novel, The Moon is A Harsh Mistress which tells the story of a liberal revolt on ther moon against political control from earth, is well worth reading. This is the work in which the famous free-market slogan “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” (TANSTAAFL) first appeared. An earlier novel of Heinlens Rolling Stones or Space Family Stone is a kind of precussor to The Moon is A Harsh Mistress in which the importance of self-reliance and individual initiative are stressed in an attractive way
The history of the twentieth century was the history of competing totalitarianisms of both left and right. The anti-Nazi journalist Leopold Swcartzschild’s Karl Marx, The Red Prussianmakes no pretensions to impartiality but is, in places, extremely funny.
H. B. Acton wrote a simple account of What Marx Really Said while The Communist Manifesto is obviously crucial. Robert Conquest wrote an approachable short book on Lenin while the place to start battling with the immense literature about Nazism is probably still Alan Bullock’s Hitler, A Study in Tyranny although Hitler may have been a more idealogically driven character than Bullock suggests.
Inside The Third Reich by Hitler’s (penitent?) armaments minister Albert Speer is worth reading if not entirely credible. The Diaries . Of Mussolini’s foreign minister Count Galeazzo Cianogive a good insight into the nature of the facist state.
Very different diaries are The Diaries of Anne Frank which show what it was like to be on the wrong side of totalitarian injustice.
A lighter beginners view of post-war and cold war is provided by stories of Giovanni Guareschi set in North Italy. The series starts with The Little World of Don Camillo.
No one interested in the ideas of liberty should miss the writings of William F. Buckley. Buckley shot to prominence as a young man with the publication of God and Man at Yale although the Yale in the title could really be that of any university in the western world Buckley is best approached through Up From Liberalism. Everybody will have their own favourite among Buckley’s huge output but The Unmaking of A Mayor is unlikely to be absent from anyalist of Buckley’s best.