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 Churchill called democracy " the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." Said another way, it has the lesser of flaws compared to other forms of government. Its major flaw can aptly be called the Tragedy of the Commons, which states that when individuals us a public good, they do not bear the entire cost of their actions. If each person seeks to maximize his share of the public pie, he ignores the cost borne by others. Thus over time, democracies suffer economic calamity. In my opinion, the United States and other major countries are moving inexorably in that direction.

It helps to think of the modern nation-state as a corporation with a product to sell itself. It utilizes think tanks and the media to spread it propaganda. The politicians tell you what they want to hear, but take actions contrary to your interests. The average person doesn't have time to acquire the knowledge to see through the lies and myths. It's a religion of a different sort.

The books below are free of jargon. Some cover history so we can learn from the past. They explain the nature of money and how government has been debauching it. My personal advice to anyone who will listen is get out of debt as fast as you practically can. These books provide background to the gravity of the situation.

economics

Federal Reserve

What Has Government Done to Our Money? by Murray Rothbard. Explains the nature of money and how the government debases it through the Federal Reserve System.

The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin. Argues that the Federal Reserve was created to avoid direct taxation by creating new money, which in turn is the cause of inflation. 

Monetary History

America's Great Depression by Murray Rothbard. History books describe Herbert Hoover as a do-nothing president. Actually it was his interference in the economy that made things worse. Unfortunately, Roosevelt continued Hoover's legacy. Uses the Austrian theory of business cycles to refute current myths.

The History of Money by Jack Weatherford. Gives a broad overview from early forms of money to modern banking. It's not the definitive book, but good for first time readers.

Fiat Money Inflation in France by Andrew Dickson White. France had a severe inflation that brought the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The parallels fit into today's economy.

Money Mischief: Episodes in Monetary History by Milton Friedman. Explains through historical events the mischief that can result from misunderstanding the monetary system. Outlines the central role of monetary theory and shows how it can foster inflation.

The Myth of the Robber Barons by Forrest McDonald. Takes a look at 19th century entrepreneurs, noting the difference  between those who built monopolies with private money and those who had government backing.

Financial Reckoning Day: Survive the Soft Depression of the 21st Century by William Bonner & Addison Wiggin. Takes a look at past financial fiascos and examines the probabilities of a major depression.

Economic myths

Economics for Real People by Gene Callahan. Introduces the Austrian School of Economics for first time readers. Explains how government use of statistics for economics planning distorts the price system.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. A master of clear writing explains many common fallacies. At their heart is the failure to look at long term consequences.

Cliches of Politics by Mark Spangler. Covers a wide variety of myths used to promote government that can be done more efficiently in the private sector.

The Power of Economic Thinking by Mark Skousen. A collection of short articles on a variety of topics utilizing simple economic analyses to explain how free markets improve out standard of living.

The Free Market Reader: Essays in the Economics of Liberty by Llewellyn H. Rockwell. Explains many of the deceits you read in the newspapers.

Ludwig von Mises

Arguably one of the greatest thinkers in the twentieth century for his contributions to economics and social theory. He was shunned by the economics establishment for his view that dependency on government leads to economic chaos. The Ludwig von Mises Institute continues to publish articles on contemporary issues and offers a wealth of resources on what is now called the Austrian School of Economics.  

Bureaucracy Makes a distinction between profit management and bureaucratic management. The distinctions bring opposite results.

The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality  Capitalism has raised this country's standard of living to unprecedented level. Explores why Americans are unsympathetic.

Liberalism: The Classical Tradition The word 'liberalism' has been corrupted in recent decades to mean socialism. Explains how classical liberalism means the opposite of socialism: capitalism and the protection of private property. An excellent introductory book.

Socialism If you have a lot of reading time, this is the definitive attack on socialism. The author predicted the demise of the Soviet Union because they had no realistic system of economic calculation.

Liberty verses authority

The concept of liberty is often confused as an every-man-for himself philosophy. Nay! It is a quality of going about your life in peace without aggressing against others. It is in opposition to the common idea that others are entitled to the product of your labor through the force of government. Liberty doesn't deny charity towards other; it denies the right of others to deprive you of your choice of charity. Liberty is compatible with free markets in that it allows us to maximize the utility of scarce resources. To the degree that citizens submit to their liberty to government authorities we are poorer economically and politically.

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. A classic written during WWII. Warns how government social planning poses dangers to freedom.

The Fatal Conceit by Friedrich Hayek. Coined the term "spontaneous order" to distinguish the differences between social planning from the top to argue that natural order works from the bottom. Excellent book.

Free to Choose by Milton & Rose Friedman. Explains the benefits of voluntary cooperation verses the "deadening effects of government controls."

For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray N. Rothbard. Excellent introduction to libertarianism in one volume. Covers moral philosophy, economics, and answers questions on how to replace state functions.

The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority by Rose Wilder Lane. Takes an historical view on man's quest for freedom and government's attempt to quash it. "Government is guns," she says. 

The God of the Machine by Isabel Paterson. Presents a theory of history in defense of individualism. She criticizes all but but the minimum application of government. 

Our Enemy, the State by Albert Jay Nock. He calls the state an efficient instrument for stratifying society and for siphoning goods from producers into the hands of the elite. It's a sobering analyses.

Against Leviathan: Government Power and Free Society by Robert Higgs. Exposes the corrupt foundation of big government from an historical and economic view. Many of its functions produce the effects they aim to cure.

Crises and Leviathan by Robert Higgs. Explains how national emergencies like wars and depressions have prompted federal officials to take over private rights and activities.

How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne. One of my favorites. Discusses the many ways others scheme to draw you into supporting their world. His writing style is as clear as glass.

Why Government Doesn't Work by Harry Browne. He makes the case for shrinking government to its original Constitutional limits. The many social problems today are the result of government excesses.

Beyond Politics: Markets, Welfare, and the Failure of Bureaucracy by William C. Mitchell & Randy T. Simmons. Explodes the myth that "market failures" are common, requiring government intervention. Argues that government intervention is not the cure, but the cause.

Defending the Undefendable by Walter Block. It may be a shock to imagine someone would defend prostitutes, drug addicts, dishonest cops, blackmailers, misers, slumlords and such. Read before you judge.

Frederic Bastiat His clarity and wit make him a pleasure to read. This page takes you to a list of his books in print. His writings touch on economics and liberty. He can be sampled at http://bastiat.org/

Foundations of Morality by Henry Hazlitt. Explores a host of topics: Pleasure, social cooperation, altruism, self-sacrifice, duty, value, asceticism, justice, freedom, free will, capitalism, socialism etc. Highly recommended.

A Mencken Chrestomathy by H. L. Mencken. He was one of the best wordsmiths and social critics of his time. This collection of essays on a variety of topics is a delight to read.

Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do by Peter McWilliams. Argues that you should be allowed to do with your person or property whatever you choose as long as you don't harm the person or property of another.

The Lysander Spooner Reader A 19th century lawyer explains how government tramples on your rights. Contrary to what judges tell jurors, jurors can refuse to prosecute crimes they deem unjust, and more. 

Ayn Rand

According to a survey by the Library of Congress and Book of the Month club early in the 1990s, Atlas Shrugged was rated second to the Bible in its influence. Her mission was to lay out an ethical foundation for personal liberty and free market capitalism. She's been demonized by statists ( economic control by centralized government) and praised by freedom lovers such as me. Here life and works are summarized here

The Virtue of Selfishness The title turns people off before they have read the book. Her objective was to assert man's right to a moral existence, to be the beneficiary of his moral actions. Man needs a code of ethics.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal Argues that free market capitalism is based on the moral foundation of free exchange between suppliers and consumers. It's antithesis is government interference in the process.

Philosophy: Who Needs It To study philosophy one needs to follow the trail like a bloodhound. A common error in thinking is to accept the consequences without pursuing the root causes. Lays out the basic concepts for the study of her philosophy of Objectivism.

For the New Intellectual Contains excerpts from her novels which contain the main philosophical passages and presents the outline of her philosophy.

The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z by Harry Binswanger. Contains excerpts of her writing on a variety of subjects. Good for quick look-up. Not all the entries are hers.

Ayn Rand Amazon search page for other works by and about Ayn Rand. 

History and current controversies

It has been observed that the victors write the history books. These books set the record straight.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. Traces migration patterns, the effects of climate, disease and war on social development.

The Histories (Oxford World's Classics) by Herodotus, Robin Waterfield, Carolyn Dewald. Writing in the 5th century BCE, Herodotus is called the "father of history." His observations cover his travels around the Eastern Mediterranean world. 

Hammond Atlas of World History by Richard Overy. This is a big book physically. Think of this as a short course in human history. It starts with human origins and migration routes, and proceeds through historical eras, covering the globe. The maps are incredible.

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization by Charles Adams. Those great pyramids were built with tax money. Covers episodes in history when empires bankrupted themselves.

The Twelve Caesars by Michael Grant. Roman history can fill several volumes. This are short biographies on the twelve emperors that shaped the Roman empire: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Caligula, Nero and others.

Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel. Unmasks many myths about the Civil War. Initially, Lincoln had no interest in slavery; it was a gambit to reduce Northern and European resistance by giving the war a moral cause. The south wanted to succeed over tax issues.

The Costs of War: America's Pyrrhic Victories edited by John V. Denson. Explains how American's long legacy of war is rooted in how it's leaders lie to win public support.

Lies my Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen. Did you know that the celebrated Christopher Columbus worked his slaves to death, and more.

When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and its Consequences by Eric Alterman. Covers president from Roosevelt to George W. Bush. Lying is an art form that masks ulterior reasons.

Reassessing the Presidency: The Rise of the Executive State and the Decline of Freedom edited by John V. Denson. Establish historians rate the best presidents like Lincoln and Roosevelt for their contributions for expanding the power of the state. This book rates them as the worst presidents and explains why.

Official Lies: How Washington Misleads Us by James T. Bennet & Thomas J. Dilorenzo. Exposes the ways in which the federal government manipulates opinion in the name of promoting its own interests.

A list of favorite Libertarian and Paleo-Libertarian books 

Hoodwinking the Nation by Julian Simon. Explains the fear tactics used to exploit public ignorance about the environment. Argues that people have a too positive a view of the past and too negative about the future.

Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax by Sheldon Richman. Argues that the income tax is a form of theft that turns the state into our master. Explains how we got it and how it is destroying us.

Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State by Sheldon Richman. Traces the history of the welfare state and details how redistribution schemes damage both the taxpayer and the recipient.

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto. An ex-teacher reveals the heart of compulsory schooling as designed to stamp out the self-knowledge and curiosity essential to learning.

Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families by Sheldon Richman. Traces history of government schools from Sparta to America and argues that they are designed to suppress individual initiative while training kids to support the state.

What Has Government Done to Our Health Care? by Terree P. Wasley. Explains how government meddling in health care has exploded costs. Socialized health care in other countries is regulated by rationing.

The Law by Frederic Bastiat. This little book was written 150 years ago, yet his explanation of how the law is used to plunder is as cogent today as when it was written. He grew up during the reign of Napoleon.

The Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Robert & Lawrence M. Stratton. On introductory book identifying the abuses in our legal system. Singles out overzealous prosecutors and bureaucrats.

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality? by Thomas Sowell. Argues that civil rights legislation imputed racial inferiority and resulted in harms of those it was designed to protect.

James Bovard I gave a link to the search page because the author has made a career out of cataloging government transgressions. His writing style doesn't bog you down and it's well researched. Sample