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Monday, November 21, 2011

The Best of the Free Man’s Library


Henry Hazlitt was not an economist by trade. He was, however, a very learned man who absorbed more economic knowledge than many professional economists do. And Hazlitt didn’t gain this knowledge by simply hanging around the likes of such brilliant individuals such as Ludwig von Mises (which he did). He not only read; he read a lot! He was as well versed in tomes like Keynes’s The General Theory (which Hazlitt tore apart almost line by line in The Failure of the “New Economics”) as he was in free-market books such as Mises’s Human Action, which he would become famous for popularizing. He was also well versed in other fields, such as ethics, as shown my his The Foundations of Morality.

Thus Hazlitt is a perfect individual to trust when it comes to advice on what individuals interested in economics and freedom should read. It is no surprise that throughout his life, as a writer for many prominent newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times  and Newsweek, Hazlitt’s advice would be sought by eager readers. This prompted him to write The Free Man’s Library. Published by D. Van Nostrand Co. Inc. in 1956, the book contained 550 titles on the philosophy of liberty, covering a wide range of topics: from why free trade and free markets work to the evils of excessive State power. The Free Man’s Library, however, doesn’t simply list the books but also provides a critical description of each work.

Today’s document (sorry for the faded quality) is a short list of the best economics books in The Free Man’s Library.  Hazlitt hoped “that it will answer most inquires by readers along these lines.” He presents his own Economics and One Lesson (no sense being modest with such an amazing book!) and Faustino Ballve’s Essentials of Economics as the best introductory books. Wilhelm Röpke’s Economics of the Free Society is listed as the best intermediate work. The best works critical of government intervention are Röpke’s A Humane Economy and F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The dangers of inflation are explained in Gottfried Haberler’s Inflation: Its Causes and Cures and Hazlitt’s own 

  • Nicholas Snow is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kenyon College in the Department of Economics, and previously a Senior Lecturer at The Ohio State University Economics Department. His research focuses on the political economy of prohibition.