An Economics Reading List

Public Finance and Public Economics Texts, Public Choice

Bastable, Charles, Public Finance.

    One of the first textbooks ever written on the subject, and still eminently readable, with clear organization, definitions and explanations. The taxation of income, capital, imports, consumption goods, etc., and the effects on wages, rents, profits, production, and consumption are major topics, along with the government’s budget constraints. Difficulty Level 1: College

Friedman, Milton and Rose Friedman, Tyranny of the Status Quo

    This book clearly spells out why governments tend to tax and spend far
    beyond any point that can be justified in terms of promoting the general
    welfare. Additional spending can always be targeted in ways that provide
    visibly concentrate benefits on politically organized groups (including
    government bureaucracies) with the costs so widely dispersed (and often
    delayed) that they generate little political opposition. And once a spending
    program is put in place, people make decisions on the basis of its
    continued existence (decisions that would make no sense in its absence),
    interest groups coalesce around it, and so eliminating it becomes almost
    impossible no matter how ill advised it is. Some of the issues used to
    illustrate the problem (e.g., deficits, inflation, and unemployment) are not
    currently as troublesome at they were when the book was written, but, as
    an understanding of the Friedmans’ argument makes clear, there is no
    reason for complacently assuming that these problems won’t return.
    Unfortunately, other issues discussed (education, crime, trade restrictions,
    and excessive government spending) remain serious problems. The book
    ends with an insightful consideration of how the status quo’s tyranny can be weakened, if not completely defeated. Difficulty Level 1: College

Buchanan, James M., Collected Works, in particular:

Frank, Robert, Luxury Fever

Miller, Roger Leroy, Daniel K. Benjamin, Douglass C. North, The Economics of Public Issues

O’Rourke, P. J., Parliament of Whores

    If you would like to laugh and learn at the same time, then there is no better way to learn about public choice than by reading Parliament of Whores. When your customers have no motivation to know anything about the quality or cost of the product you are selling, then you are almost surely a politician and there is no limit to the bamboozle you can get away with, as long as your serve it up with a steady barrage of sanctimonious nonsense. The resulting waste may be depressing, but the absurdities are hilarious when lampooned by a first-rate humorist such as P. J. O’Rourke. The chapter on Agriculture policy alone is worth the price of this book. Difficulty Level 0: High School

Rauch, Jonathan, Demosclerosis