Forbes editor John Tamny uses entertaining stories from sports, movies, popular culture, and famous businesses to demonstrate the basic principles of economics. The Rolling Stones, the Dallas Cowboys, and Paris Hilton become examples of good and bad tax policy. The Godfather, Gone With the Wind, and The Sopranos reveal the downside of antitrust regulation, while the Michigan Wolverines’ 2007 loss to Appalachian State explains why regulations often fail to achieve their intended purpose. NBA star LeBron James’ exploits on the basketball court illustrate free trade and comparative advantage, while the cooking of chicken wings makes the case for a stable dollar.
Popular Economics is an everyman’s guide to how money really works—a lesson politicians try (and fail) to grasp every day.
Economics is really pretty basic. In fact, it’s everywhere you look.
But a lot of people want you to think economics is terribly complicated. Politicians, bureaucrats, special-interest groups, and economists themselves have managed to turn common sense and simple cause-and-effect into a mystery religion. And they want you, the ordinary taxpayer, to keep a respectful distance. John Tamny is here to break the spell with Popular Economics. You don’t need a Ph.D. and a graphing calculator to understand the economic lessons that are all around us—just the self-confidence to see what’s in front of your nose. Stimulating economic growth is pretty simple, too. It all comes down to Taxes, Regulation, Trade, and Money. Get these four things right, and economic growth would explode.
Taxes. Think of taxes as a penalty for working. If Great Britain raises Mick Jagger’s income tax rate high enough, the Rolling Stones are going to find somewhere else to live, and the amount of taxes Great Britain collects from Mick will be zero.
Regulation. The smartest people in any industry aren’t the regulators, they’re the people making a living at it. Regulation is based on the fantasy that the mediocre can effectively direct the best and brightest. That’s like expecting the Appalachian State football team to beat Michigan every time they play.
Trade. LeBron James could be a pretty good tight end in the NFL, but in basketball he’s the best in the world. So it makes no sense for him to play football. That’s called comparative advantage, and it’s the foundation of free trade.
Money. Imagine playing football if the length of a yard changed on every play. Yet that’s how we run our economy. The value of the dollar—the economy’s unit of measure—changes in value every minute.
Government tries to convince us that free markets are dangerous. To believe that, we have to ignore reality, and plenty of professional economists are trying to help us do that.
But Popular Economics shows that you’re an economist too—and a better one than you think.
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The economics category, as expected, is very well represented within the pages of this site. Of all the economics books, around half are explicitly Austrian Economics texts, and (with a significant overlap) around half discuss monetary theory. You may search specifically for economic treatises or books about economists; you will find historical or theoretical accounts of financial crises; you will stumble upon recent books on crypto-currencies (like bitcoin), books covering topics like income or wealth inequality, as well as more technical subjects like price theory, monopoly, division of labor, public choice theory and others. Additionally, critiques of Keynesian economics are to be found throughout the books in this category.
Of the Austrian Economics books, the largest portion discuss The Austrian Business Cycle and praxeology or human action, but you will find many covering to one degree or another topics like time preference, capital and interest, subjective value, and economic calculation, to name a few.
And for those interested in currency or money, whether sound money or fiat money, you will find books arguing the benefits of the gold standard, debates on inflation and deflation, banking, central banks and the Federal Reserve specifically.
At the heart of the free market system of unregulated, voluntary trade stands capitalism and its emphasis on private property. Unsurprisingly, a large collection of books are available on this subject, many of which outline quite clearly the fundamentals and the outcomes of capitalism, especially in contrast to other economic systems like socialism. Additional related topics, such as free trade, decentralization, risk, uncertainty, and the market process can be found in such books.
A note from the curator: Liberty Classroom provides courses like: Austrian Economics Step by Step, two courses on the History of Economic Thought, and What’s Wrong with Textbook Economics, to name a few. With courses like these, how can you not become a fan of Liberty Classroom? I know I am.
And would you like your homeschoolers to learn economics right the first time around? The Ron Paul Curriculum homeschool program covers 12th grade economics from teachers you can trust. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our links.
Shedding more light where once was dark, this topic includes a wide array of critiques surrounding the function of the State, but mostly around policy critiques and warfare. As it relates to the State’s functioning, everything from central planning, coercion and government expansion through to propaganda, taxation and the act of voting are discussed.
The State apparatus and its institutions, the CIA, FBI, NSA, and other alphabet soup organizations – they are all brought to account together with their counterparts in the military-industrial complex and the deep state. The Supreme Court, criminal justice system and the prisons are not immune to critique. And the filth of politics and lobbying are described in great lengths.
Policy critiques cover everything from abortion to welfare. It all starts with state intervention in the affairs of private individuals and foreign intervention (which includes the seemingly benevolent foreign aid) in the affairs of other groups of people. More specifically, US foreign policy and US military intervention are popular policies to critique.
Some of the other more common topics include: drugs, eminent domain, environmentalism, poverty, protectionism, muh roads, slavery, and other forms of public policy. Needless to say, these and other policies lead to ridiculous levels of government spending, itself a valid topic to critique.
And of course, the most destructive activity perpetrated by the State is warfare. The wars abroad and at home are discussed at length. Of the ‘traditional’ wars, World War I and II and the so-called American ‘Civil War’ (always in quotation marks) feature in the most number of books, some of which include discussions on genocide and war crimes. But then there are also the wars on amorphous, undefined entities, such as: the war on drugs, which leads to domestic violence, militarization and a police state; and the war on terror, which brought us torture, more terror and the ever-increasing drone warfare.
A note from the curator: The State is thoroughly critiqued within Liberty Classroom and the Ron Paul Curriculum homeschool program. In full transparency, I have no direct experience in homeschooling but I have heavily researched Ron Paul’s program and found it to be an outstanding alternative to the public school system (a system where you would never hear a critique of the State).
I am a very satisfied Master Member of Liberty Classroom and have taken the Introduction to Government course that is available through the Ron Paul Curriculum. Between this course and others available through Liberty Classroom, you can’t get a better or more thought out exposition critiquing the State and all its failures or faulty premises (and in a way that is suitable for the younger ages too). I’ll disclose that Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our links.
Legal and political issues aside, it is often the cultural and social issues that are upstream from any legislative action. Especially in a democracy, politicians know that to get reelected they need to tread a fine line and take a stand on topics that are culturally in vogue. Books providing cultural analysis or ones that talk of the social order are numerous within our site.
These books include racism, sexism, feminism and other such social justice issues relating to discrimination, freedom of association, freedom of speech, human rights, or political correctness. The topics of popular culture, American culture and Western Civilization are also represented.
Observations from many writers on these issues are provided through commentary and opinion and often investigative journalism leads down an interesting path, shedding light on these and other topics.
While all books technically fall under this topic, we’ve reserved this mostly as a way to easily filter through the many hundred titles to find works of fiction (whether it be science fiction or dystopian novels), humor, poetry or quotes. The great manifestos are clearly labeled, as are Festschrifts, which are collections of writings published in honor of a scholar. Finally, we've included a range of biographies and autobiographies that shed light on some key individuals.
A note from the curator: With a variety of literature homeschool courses the Ron Paul Curriculum homeschool program does not disappoint. Western Literature, American Literature and Classic Autobiographies are covered in the high school years. My experience of literature in public school was horrendous and I wish I had the curriculum and approach provided by Ron Paul’s program instead. Books of Liberty gets advertising fees for those who purchase through our links.
To make things easier to find, we created a few groupings that allow you to narrow down certain topics that include a large number of named individuals, geographical locations, or geopolitical entities. We created the topics: people and groups; areas and nations; economists; and politicians (who, within it, include also nation state leaders and US presidents).
And if you want a book that seems to have a wide variety of topics, you may just want to filter with the word smorgasbord and see what books come up.
We find topics about the law, laws and legislation, justice, law enforcement and judicial systems fascinating, especially when combined with anarchy, as this seems to be one of the last bastions on the road to understanding an anarchist system and how legal order and property rights would be maintained.
Administrative law, regulations, and licensure as we know them today are artefacts of the State that are critiqued in our featured books, but so are dozens of other legislative issues, such as: labor laws (child labor, labor unions, minimum wage), issues relating to the US Constitution or the Articles of Confederation (e.g. the commerce clause, nullification, fugitive slave laws, gun control / second amendment), civil rights issues, Obamacare, Prohibition, and even earlier established legal concepts, such as the Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus.
A note from the curator: One of the reasons I am a very satisfied Master Member of Liberty Classroom is that I have access to courses like US Constitutional History and others featuring topics related to the law. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our link.