Saturday, 2 January 2010

Top ten pro-liberty books of the decade

As we enter a new year we have cause to reflect on the fact that there are too many areas of our lives in which the future looks more bleak for individual liberty than they did a year ago. To counter this we need to find ways to bring the classical liberal message to a wider audience. One method is via books that promote this message. To help in this, the Atlas Foundation has come up with a list of the Top Ten Pro-Liberty Books of the Decade. They asked 22 classical liberal thinkers which were the most important books published this past decade that advance the cause of liberty. The results are now in.
#10 The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (2001) by William Easterly

#9 Elements of Justice (2006) by David Schmidtz

#8 The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (2006) by William Easterly

#7 From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State (2000) by David T. Beito

#6 In Defense of Global Capitalism (2003) by Johan Norberg

#5 The Bourgeois Virtues (2007) by Dierdre McCloskey

#4 Justice And Its Surroundings (2002) by Anthony de Jasay

#3 The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (2008) by Bryan Caplan

#2 Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement by (2008) by Brian Doherty

#1 Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2001) by Hernando de Soto
More detail on each book can be found at the webpage. Its good to see Bill Easterly on the list ... twice. And also to see Bryan Caplan in at number 3. About the number one book the Atlas Foundation writes,
Aware that developed countries did not start wealthy, and weren’t assisted by foreign aid, the De Soto coordinated a series of empirical investigations to identify what prevents the Third World from reaching the same level of development as the First. He discovered that institutional costs imposed by governments all over the world are the main obstacles to reducing poverty. Real estate is the most emblematic case. The fact that states do not recognize the property rights of millions of people to the homes they effectively own prevents them from capitalizing on goods that sum billions of dollars. Free exchange and initiative has made poverty more of an exception than a rule in the developed world, and it is the lack of freedom that imprisons millions of people in a condition of poverty. No book of this decade demonstrates this better than The Mystery of Capital.
The list would make for a good summer of reading.

As for books not on the list, Damon W. Root at Reason makes the case for David Bernstein’s "Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, & the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal". He writes
Obviously any such list will have its omissions, but I’d like to nominate one additional book that deserves real attention: legal historian David Bernstein’s excellent Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, & the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal. Bernstein meticulously documents the ways that Progressive and New Deal economic regulations, including labor laws, occupational licensing laws, and prevailing wage laws, directly harmed African Americans. In contrast, on those occasions when state and federal courts actively protected economic liberty against this state abuse, blacks were among the prime beneficiaries, a process that the New Deal takeover of the Supreme Court brought to a disastrous end.

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