Friday, October 7, 2016

At What Age Should Students Start Studying Austrian School Economics?

The following exchange took place between Dr. Walter Block and me.

Dear Walter,

At LRC, you write:" I really don’t see much scope for Austrian economics in high school, let alone before that. I think K-12 should be devoted to reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, and little else. "

Reading, writing and arithmetic are surely important but by junior high students' minds are much more curious than you may think. I can recall reading Murray Rothbard's "What Has Government Done to Our Money?" while I was in 7th grade. I started working my way through Human Action when I was a freshman in High School. Indeed, I remember Gary North giving a lecture in Boston before I was old enough to get a government driver license and getting my father to drive me into the city to the event.

Despite usually working 1 or 2 part-time jobs in addition to school, I found that period was one of the most fruitful for absorbing and retaining what I learned.

This summer a friend asked me to tutor in economics his 2 high school students, a freshman and senior. 

I  found them both able to absorb material. They were very curious and had plenty of questions.

Certainly, a sharp seventh grader could work his way through the important first 100 pages of  Peter and Andrew Schiff's  How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes.

And a high school senior should certainly read Tom DiLorenzo's The Problem With Socialism before heading off to college.

I also want to add that current high school students, judging from what I saw of the 2 students I tutored, are being inundated with anti-capitalist propaganda in school. They need some counter pro free market perspectives as soon as possible.

Finally, I think a big problem in libertarianism today is youth who roughly grasp the concept of libertarianism but do not do deep reading and think they understand all. We need to be encouraging more reading of Mises, Rothbard, Hayek and Block, not less.

The basics of reading writing and arithmetic are extremely important but I would think by junior high school it is not an onerous task for the sharp, curious student to study beyond the basics, not lightening the study of the basics but in addition to studying them,

Best regards,



Dear Bob:

I fear I was extrapolating too much from my own high school days. All I did then, to the best of my recollection (it’s been a few years since then), was engage in sports and chase girls. Certainly, I agree with you that high school seniors, if they can read, will be more than equal to masterpieces such as Econ in One Lesson by Hazlitt. But kids in elementary school. Well, I suppose that there will always be a few child prodigies, but, my prudential judgement is that it would be unwise to put much of our limited time and effort into promoting Austrian econ for them.

Best regards,




  1. They should start before the Enemy gets to them.

    The Enemy being the Amerikan Pulbic Skool Seistem Dat Teeches Kudz to Red an Wrait.

  2. Being a home-school dad, I get to pick the books. My high-schoolers have read/will read Hazlitt's 'Econ in One Lesson' and Murphy's 'Lessons for the Young Economist'. We also talk economics on a regular basis - usually after hearing/reading something stupid on the internet, TV or radio.

    Both books were helpful to my oldest who, while in his first semester writing class at college, was asked whether he was for or against profit. He chose 'for' (imagine that), and wound up reading a section in front of his class and also discussing his paper at length with his professor (who found the subjective value part of his paper intriguing) for 45 minutes after class.

  3. I am reading with my seventh-grader "Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?" By Richard J. Maybury.