At AAI’s recent seminar, Three Big Ideas, UALR economics professor Richard Ford spoke about the reading list that he gave to his students in his “Free Markets and Freedom” seminar. Because so many people asked him for it, he wanted me to supply the first few books from it here. (I’ve supplied an Amazon.com listing for each book.)
- The Road to Serfdom: Nobel Laureate F.A. Hayek’s eloquent warning that the growth of the welfare state and central planning might lead to oppression and tyranny.
- The Forgotten Man: Amity Shlaes’s compelling account of the way Hoover’s and Roosevelt’s policies lengthened and worsened the Great Depression.
- Intellectuals and Society: Thomas Sowell’s trenchant discussion of what intellectuals really do, the lack of accountability they face, the incentives that drive them, and their effect on our lives.
- The Financial Crisis and the Free-Market Cure: John A. Allison IV (currently president and CEO of the Cato Institute) describes how economic intervention (such as the housing bubble and activism by the Federal Reserve) created the financial crisis we still suffer from.
- Life at the Bottom: Theodore Dalrymple (Anthony Daniels’s pen name) provides a gripping set of essays describing how the welfare state has destroyed the family – and, indeed, the very lives – of the poor.
After Professor Ford sent me his list, I started thinking about what books I’d recommend to friends on a similar theme – namely, how modern American government has failed to live up to its promises of guarding the people’s rights:
- Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment: If you, like me, are frustrated (but a little fascinated) by the way Congress seems to function primarily as a re-election machine, you should read political scientist Morris Fiorina’s very accessible book on this subject.
- The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom: Levy and Mellor provide a great discussion of the twelve worst Supreme Court decisions it ever handed down. This raises an issue that most of us don’t like to think about: namely, even the highest court in the land isn’t always right. Very readable, even by nonlawyers!
- Terms of Engagement: How Our Courts Should Enforce the Constitution’s Promise of Limited Government: Clark Neily, who is one of the most effective fighters for freedom in our time, wrote this great book that pinpoints the way the courts fail to protect our basic liberties. Again, very readable by nonlawyers!
- Government’s End: Why Washington Stopped Working: Jonathan Rauch – a role model of mine, because of the many complex social phenomena he describes with such great vision, clarity, and beauty – explains the dynamics of ever-growing government and why it’s so difficult to stop that train.
- A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles: Thomas Sowell (notably, a favorite of those with conservative values and a taste for freedom) provides a fascinating explanation of why those who disagree with us often seem to do so in clichéd and predictable ways that resist the evidence of the real world.
- What Caused the Financial Crisis: Jeffrey Friedman provides a complex accompaniment to Allison’s book (described above); in this volume of edited essays, Friedman gives us a deep account by leading academics of the many causes of America’s recent economic meltdown. Not for beginners.
- The Radicalism of the American Revolution: Professor Gordon Wood, arguably the greatest American historian of our time, shows how the American Revolution changed a feudal society into a democratic one. If you’re interested in the ways that our Founders changed America, you must read this book.
A couple of final notes:
- In addition to our Three Big Ideas conference speakers, we also published several papers on tax reform, immigration reform, and free trade. You can find our tax reform papers here: our immigration reform and free trade papers are here.
- If you’re going to order books through Amazon and you want to help the Advance Arkansas Institute and the Arkansas Project, you should use Amazon Smile! Make sure to select the Advance Arkansas Institute when you order books through Amazon Smile; they’ll give us a few pennies each time you order a book.
- Arkansas Project readers, send us your favorite books that you think we should be reading: we’ll do a follow-up post later on.