May 21, 2020

Mercatus Scholars' Most Influential Books: Peter J. Boettke

Peter J. Boettke

Director, F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, we’ve asked some of our scholars to share the books that have been most influential or formative in the development of their analytical approach and worldview.

From existential engineering to the Salem witch trials to Argentine magical realism, our scholars have drawn inspiration from diverse and dramatic wellsprings of intellectual thought.

Read on for more about why and how the books we will discuss have influenced our scholars’ approaches to policy and philosophy, and what lessons other readers may draw from these works.

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There are five foundational books I published since 1980 that I think every student of economics and political economy should read:  

Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions (1981); 

Don Lavoie's Rivalry and Central Planning (1985); 

Elinor Ostrom's Governing the Commons (1990); 

Chandran Kukathas's The Liberal Archipelago (2003); and 

Lawrence H. White's The Clash of Economic Ideas (2012).

After that intellectual warm-up, I suggest students dive into:

Deirdre McCloskey's The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2006), Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can't Explain the Modern World (2010), and Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016);

The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan (1999-2001); 

The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek (1988- );

The Collected Works of Armen Alchian (2006); and 

The Collected Works of Israel M. Kirzner (2010-2020).

For extra credit, you can watch some of the presentations I have gathered on works from this late decade that have made a significant impact in the field of political economy. And if that hasn’t quenched your thirst for knowledge on economics and society, you can look at some of the work from my colleagues in the F.A. Hayek program—or join us!