Friday, November 9, 2012

A Reading List for Gary Johnson

Now that the election is over, Walter Block has put together a reading list for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and for others. During an interview I conducted earlier this year with Johnson, it became apparent that he was sorely lacking in a fundamental grounding on libertarianism.

Here's Professor Block:
My advice to Gary in this election was to take positions as close to Ron’s as he possibly could, so as to get the votes of Ron’s supporters.  He did do a bit of this in my estimation, but not enough. My hope is that if Gary, or Jim Gray, runs for the LP nomination in 2016, that they take the next four years, well, three years, to become more acquainted with libertarian theory. Here are the books, I think, to start with: 
Hazlitt, Henry. 2008 [1946]. Economics in One LessonAuburn, AL: Mises Institute;Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York;Rothbard, Murray N. 1998 [1982]. The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York UniversityRand, Ayn. 1957. Atlas Shrugged, New York: Random House.
Note that the first three of these are available for free on the Mises web.  While I’m unburdening myself of post election thoughts, I think that the LP should spend the next three years on internal education for all its members. We could all do worse than start with these four books.

I hasten to add that Prof. Block is being a bit too humble here by not adding his book, Defending the Undefendable to the reading list.

Back in September, I wrote:

...the more and more I think about his book, Defending the Undefendable, and other writings where Block has written observations about extreme liberty and economics, I have begun to see the great service that Block has done. No one else has thought or written about liberty and economics from these perspectives. 
One really has to think if he had not rushed to the defense of, from an economic and libertarian perspective, the prostitute, scab, slumlord, libeler, moneylender and others, would anyone else have, ever? It's a special kind of genius that can recognize such a gaping hole in theory and then on top of that make the defense of these "undefendables" look easy at a practical level. This is great thinking that makes an important contribution to society. 
I believe that Friedrich Hayek meant every word when he wrote to Dr. Block about the book: 
Looking through "Defending the Undefendable" made me feel that I was once more exposed to the shock therapy by which, more than fifty years ago, the late Ludwig von Mises converted me to a consistent free market position. … Some may find it too strong a medicine, but it will still do them good even if they hate it. A real understanding of economics demands that one disabuses oneself of many dear prejudices and illusions. Popular fallacies in economic frequently express themselves in unfounded prejudices against other occupations, and showing the falsity of these stereotypes you are doing a real services, although you will not make yourself more popular with the majority.

This book is a must read for any student of liberty.

I would also add to the list the book by Peter and Andrew Schiff,  How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes. The first 100 pages are the best introduction to economics, bar none. It's even better than Hazlitt's book. After the first 100 pages, the book does get a bit confused on monetary theory, so stop at page 100. For monetary theory, I recommend, Rothbard's The Mystery of Banking.

And since this is a  3 to 4 year project being suggested by Dr. Block, I think time should be set aside to also read, The Failure of New Economics by Hazlitt, which is a page by page critique of The General Theory by John Maynard Keynes.


  1. "What Has Government Done to our Money" is the best Austrian book, by far, on monetary theory. Shorter and sweeter than the Mystery of Banking. I give copies out to family members at Christmas.

  2. It is a lost cause.

    The WEST has descended into authoritarian statism. People think that it is PROPER to deal with their fellow man by means of a gun in his face - so long as they have payed a representative of government to hold the gun.

    Inasmuch as the Constitution receives even little lip service, and no material support, it is clear that Americans no longer believe in unity through Compact.

    Inasmuch as the powers-that-be enforce their unconstitutional powers by force, per the specifications of Section 3, Amendment 14 to the Constitution it would be correct to declare the offices of the United States Government as VACANT.

    There is no United States. It died long ago.

    It's a pity it has taken so long to bury it as the corpse has begun to STINK.

  3. I'm glad Block has Johnson's ear. Your interview really exposed him. I could not comprehend how a "libertarian" of 30 years has not read For a New liberty.

    I found it interesting that you liked How and Economy Grows so much. I love the book and have been recommended it to friends and family. I suggest reading it before Economics in one Lesson. It is so well written and down to the nuts and bolts that a middle schooler can understand it.

    Its curious you mention the Mystery of Banking as a book to understand monetary theory. Its a fantastic book but I have found some to be intimidated by it. I usually suggest reading What has Government Done to Our Money in combination with The Case for 100% Gold Standard first because they are more approachable. If they are still interested after those books, and how could you not be, then I suggest the Case against the Fed and/or Mystery of Banking.

  4. I quit listening to the LP after they changed their planks (right after Badnarik's run).

  5. "How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes."

    That the best few quid I've ever spent. It's the only text I've found which has managed to turn mainstream voter friends of mine into both free marketeers and thinking of the world economically. For that task, I agree that it's the first read before Hazlitt.

    Granted, it's ultra-basic for anyone familiar with Mises or Rotbard, but people need those first foundations.

  6. As important as Rothbard is, it all starts with Lysander Spooner's No Treason and Bastiat's The Law. All you have to do to find out whether or not someone is afflicted with the "freedom gene" is to have them read those two books and then see what happens.

  7. "I quit listening to the LP after they changed their planks (right after Badnarik's run)."

    The planks were pure Rothbard preserved from the founding days of the LP.

    It would be nice if Johnson read Spooner, Bastiat, and Rothbard's original LP platform and then said,

    "Holy shit! This is what I've kind of naturally understood forever. I just never saw it put into words before. I think I'm going to immediately begin working on changing my new political party's platform back to the old Rothbardian version."

    But I don't think its going to happen.