Life is getting better—and at an accelerating rate. Food availability, income, and life span are up; disease, child mortality, and violence are down — all across the globe. Though the world is far from perfect, necessities and luxuries alike are getting cheaper; population growth is slowing; Africa is following Asia out of poverty; the Internet, the mobile phone, and container shipping are enriching people’s lives as never before. The pessimists who dominate public discourse insist that we will soon reach a turning point and things will start to get worse. But they have been saying this for two hundred years.
Yet Matt Ridley does more than describe how things are getting better. He explains why. Prosperity comes from everybody working for everybody else. The habit of exchange and specialization—which started more than 100,000 years ago—has created a collective brain that sets human living standards on a rising trend. The mutual dependence, trust, and sharing that result are causes for hope, not despair.
This bold book covers the entire sweep of human history, from the Stone Age to the Internet, from the stagnation of the Ming empire to the invention of the steam engine, from the population explosion to the likely consequences of climate change. It ends with a confident assertion that thanks to the ceaseless capacity of the human race for innovative change, and despite inevitable disasters along the way, the twenty-first century will see both human prosperity and natural biodiversity enhanced. Acute, refreshing, and revelatory, The Rational Optimist will change your way of thinking about the world for the better.
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.
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.
Sadly, where there is light, there must be shadow and the topics you’d find in this category pertain to the darker parts of human existence. We’ve included some books that espouse such ideals, such as various communist treatises or books that advocate various forms of socialism or those that hail democracy as some crowning achievement of mankind. I, for one, feel that it is important to know the arguments of the opposing side to strengthen your understanding of your own position. But if you do buy these books and enrich the authors or their publishers, please buy through our links so that at least a liberty-loving outfit would gain a buck or two out of this deal…
Aside from a few books that support such views, the majority of the titles tagged with the above topics are there to shine light on, and provide a critique of these views. Other anti-individualist topics include: the seemingly benign bureaucracy that makes the State inefficient; the deceptive egalitarianism and the nanny state, a path paved with good intentions that we all know where it leads (hint: may include redistribution of wealth and slavery); the outright evil in ideologies such as Fascism and Marxism that lead to despotism, dictatorship, tyranny and totalitarianism; and crony capitalism (corporatism) and its predecessor mercantilism, which masquerades as capitalism in most people’s minds and leads to anti-capitalist views.
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.
Within this topic you’ll find a wide variety of books, many of which we hold in the highest regard. These books are also associated with other topics, such as anarchist traditions and practical liberty. All your great libertarian manifestos, books that discuss individual liberty, the non-aggression principle, laissez faire, objectivism, etc. are found within.
Anarchist traditions would be a great shortcut to find books specifically calling out anarchist principles. The name "anarchist traditions" is purposefully broad, because in addition to anarcho-capitalism and voluntaryism, there are books on anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism or other forms of collectivist anarchism, as well as egoism and other schools of thought.
Practical liberty has a hodge-podge of awesome content, from the great anti-war and abolitionist books to theoretical treatises on private defense and private law; from whistleblowing and WikiLeaks to other forms of activism and civil disobedience; from secession to jury nullification and describing revolution and resistance. We’ve even thrown in some interesting "how to" books on affecting change to further one’s activist ends.
The topic of philosophy is closely associated, as many of the books tagged to the philosophy of freedom contain deep philosophical arguments from ethics and epistemology to political theory and religion. A wide variety of ideologies are represented and critiqued within the pages of the books linked here, covering the full political spectrum: whether it is Fascism versus Communism; Neoconservatism versus Progressivism or Liberalism; Nationalism and Nazism versus International Socialism and everything in between.
A note from the curator: You may see throughout the site banners promoting Liberty Classroom. As a very satisfied Master Member, I cannot recommend enough the courses within Liberty Classroom, all of which are imbued with the philosophy of freedom, including How Freedom Settled the West and History of Conservatism and Libertarianism. In full disclosure, Books of Liberty will get a small advertising fee for purchases made through our link.