An Economist's Eight Most Influential Books

Weekend Reads: October 5, 2018

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This week, we bring you a special version of Weekend Reads. Some of our scholars recently participated in a Facebook challenge where they identified some of the most influential books in their lives. Director of the Mercatus Center’s F. A. Hayek Program, Peter Boettke, offered to give us eight of the most influential books in his life and why.

#8: The Meaning of the Market Process: Essays in the Development of Modern Austrian Economics

Israel Kirzner | Routledge

“This book had as big an impact on me in the early 1990s as did the books I read back at Grove City College and George Mason University, and it changed my mind on some fundamental issues in my understanding of market theory and the price system. His distinguishing between the induced variables and underlying variables of the market and the market process which leads to their dovetailing provided for me an intellectual discipline I was lacking.”

#7: What Should Economists Do?

James Buchanan | Liberty Fund, Inc.

“Reading this book, the lead essay in particular had a huge impact on me that grows deeper with each passing year. James Buchanan’s What Should Economists Do? is a brilliant set of essays written with such clarity.”

#6: To Promote the General Welfare: Market Processes vs. Political Transfers

Richard Wagner | Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy

“(This book) convinced me that Austrian market process analysis and public choice analysis are compatible and reinforce one another. This work, and others from Thomas DiLorenzo and Robert Higgs, as well as Wagner’s work with Buchanan on Democracy in Deficit, had a significant impact on how I wanted to pursue research in political economy.”

#5: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Adam Smith | University of Chicago Edition

“I have read and re-read this book over the last 30+ years, and it is held together today with duct tape. Smith grows in importance and insight with each new reading.”

#4: Rivalry and Central Planning: The Socialist Calculation Debate Reconsidered

Don Lavoie | Cambridge University Press

“Studying with Don was the most fortunate and most important ingredient in my development from Grove City College to a professor, and this book was our point of bonding and set the direction of my research for the next decade.”

#3: Free Banking in Britain: Theory, Experience, and Debate

Lawrence H. White | The Institute of Economic Affairs

“Reading White’s book had two major impacts on me. First, it changed my attitude about what we are supposed to do when it came to research and writing about the self-governing properties of the market economy. It wasn't just a matter of determining the right and wrong of the use of coercion by the state. Instead, it was about demonstrating that market forces could deal with difficult problems and resolve (them) without need for external intervention. Second, White demonstrated that the next generation of Austrian economists could pass the argumentative bar at the highest levels of science and scholarship. I was naive at the time in the sense that I thought books mattered more in academic economics than they actually did at that time (and to this day), but I did understand the publishing with Cambridge was a big deal, and signaled something different than publishing with Nash, or Libertarian Press, or Sheed Andrews McMeel.”

#2: Man, Economy, and State

Murray Rothbard | Ludwig von Mises Institute

“For many years, Sennholz actually used Rothbard's book to teach the first-year sequence in economics at Grove City College. He was no longer doing that by the time I showed up on campus. For any of us who decided to study economics seriously at Grove City College, it was known that Rothbard's volumes were the ones to delve into for a better understanding of the principles of economics. And, I did. My first effort to read Mises did not have the effect it would later have on me, but reading Rothbard had a strong impact, and prepared me in many ways for what I was to learn from Mises…I still think Rothbard's work can inspire and teach.”

#1: Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

Ludwig von Mises | Martino Fine Books

“Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson made me switch my major, and Milton Friedman's Free to Choose made me firm in my conviction, but they didn't change my career path. It was only in reading Human Action that made me decide I wanted to devote my life to being a professional economist. My aspirations changed while sitting in the library at Grove City College, reading this book cover to cover in one week during the winter of 1983. It was actually the third time reading in the book, but the third time was the charm. Coaching wasn't in my future, nor was Law School. Instead, I wanted to be an economist and scholar like Mises. I try to remember that week and the power of a book to transform one's life aspiration…this book did that for me.”