The Mercatus Summer Reading List

Randy E. Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty

  • “This book is more important today than it was a year ago, two years ago or would have been ten years ago. It is a good reminder that the foundation for a just and moral constitution is one based on the presumption of liberty. It also shows how that was lost and how it may be salvaged.”—Veronique de Rugy
  • “Barnett is the intellectual father of the Affordable Care Act constitutional challenge before it was cool. In this book, he lays out the case for original-meaning constitutionalism (as opposed to original-understanding constitutionalism. Read the book and you will learn the difference). It also makes a compelling case for the Ninth Amendment, taking some conservative constitutional scholars such as Bork and Scalia to task for ignoring it. I underlined, starred, and bracketed more than 50 percent of the passages. It is the perfect retort to those who say the constitution is a living, breathing document.”—Matthew Mitchell

Ann Bernstein, The Case for Business in Developing Economies

  • “This book won the 2012 Atlas Fisher Award for book of the year. Incidentally, it was also my choice for first place. This is a slightly tougher read but worth the effort, since it puts good evidence in place that supports the role of capitalism in the development of economies and the creation of national wealth.”—Maurice McTigue

James M. Buchanan, Cost and Choice

  • “This very short book is one of my favorites by  Buchanan. It’s a book about opportunity cost—a concept almost always forgotten by politicians eager to push through reforms they like.”—Veronique de Rugy

 Edward Conard, Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong

  • “This book by the former managing director of Bain Capital is a good, easy-language look at the recent economic history of the United States, broken into three segments: what went right, what went wrong, and what comes next.”—Maurice McTigue 

Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour

  • “Peru is becoming a leader in philosophical crime stories with terrorist twists.”—Tyler Cowen

Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet

  • “A natural follow-up for fans of An Economist Gets Lunch, the kernel of this new book began as a Mercatus Policy Series.”—Garrett Brown

Paul Dragos Aligica, Prophecies of Doom and Scenarios of Progress: Herman Kahn, Julian Simon, and the Prospective Imagination

  • “I am a huge fan of this book. It is an underappreciated masterpiece and a quick, inspiring read.”—Adam Thierer

David Hackett Fischer, Fairness and Freedom: A History of Two Open Societies

  • “The book is a very interesting comparison of two new countries, New Zealand and America, and how the two concepts of fairness and freedom developed to form part of the culture and the national values system. Yet, today, they mean quite different things in these two countries that came from similar beginnings.”—Maurice McTigue 

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong with America

  • “At a time when it is clear that Republicans and Democrats alike have betrayed those of us who care about freedom—all freedoms—and that changes are unlikely to come from either of these political parties, this book is a great manifesto on behalf of a system structured by the essential libertarian principles of free minds and free markets.”—Veronique de Rugy 

Edward Glaeser, The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier

  • “This book is about the relationship between urbanization and economic growth. It’s also about the many different types of regulations that make it more expensive to live in cities and limit opportunity as a result.”—Emily Washington

Michael S. Greve, The Upside-Down Constitution

  • “This book shows how federalism’s transformation was a response to state’s demands, not an imposition on them. It explains why the current fiscal crisis will soon compel a fundamental renegotiation of a new federalism grounded in constitutional principles.”—Eileen Norcross

Tim Harford, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

  • “A passionate case for why trial and error in tackling issues such as climate change, poverty, and financial crises is better than top-down solutions.”—Jerry Brito

Bill James, The Bill James Baseball Abstract (annual editions published 1977–1988)

  • "When I read this book, I first really appreciated the value of scientific evidence.”—Keith Hall

Arnold Kling and Nick Shultz, From Poverty to Prosperity: Intangible Assets, Hidden Liabilities, and the Lasting Triumph over Scarcity

  • “This book answers the same question that Matt Ridley’s book [see below] does. But it focuses more on recent economic history. This helps illustrate the role that institutions play in shaping economic outcomes. Very well written.”—Matt Mitchell

Theodore J. Lowi, The End of Liberalism: The Second Republic of the United States

  • “This book is a great account of how special interest politics came to dominate in America. A must read for anyone interested in cronyism.”—Veronique de Rugy
  • “A political science classic, Lowi proposes that classic liberalism and capitalism have been replaced by interest group liberalism and explores the flaws and consequences of this development.”—Keith Hall

Jacob Marschak and Roy Radner, Economic Theory of Teams

  • “Investigating the importance of communication and its limits in the transmission of information, this book was part of the first attempt to apply economics to decision-making in organizations. It’s available online for free.”—Keith Hall

Brendan Miniter, editor, The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs

  • “Unless the U.S. economy recovers more quickly, the country could be mired in debt for years to come and millions of Americans will be pushed to the sidelines of the economy. This book offers clear ideas on ways to revive America’s economy by removing government constraints and encouraging saving, investment, and job creation. Charles Blahous and I contributed a chapter that discusses what reforms are needed to the Social Security program to encourage work and personal saving.  It includes chapters by five Nobel Laureates in economics: Robert Lucas, Gary Becker, Edward Prescott, Vernon Smith, and Myron Scholes.”—Jason Fichtner 

Charles Prow, editor, Governing to Win: Enhancing National Competitiveness Through New Policy and Operating Approaches

  • “The traditional approach to increasing national competitiveness has been to increase innovation and government investments in research and development, workforce development, and public infrastructure. Given today’s fiscal realities, the nation must explore alternative policy approaches and ways for government to do its business. I contributed a chapter entitled “Three Approaches to Fostering Economic Competitiveness,” which discusses how our national debt is harming business’ ability to compete and what must be done to correct the problem.”—Jason Fichtner 

Jonathan Rauch, Government’s End: Why Washington Stopped Working

  • “This book explains why America's political system—and, in fact, other political systems as well—are, and will continue to become, increasingly ineffective.”—Jerry Brito

Matt Ridley, Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

  • “This is one of my favorite books of the last several years. What is the key to human prosperity? Others have recently tried to answer this (e.g., Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel). But Ridley’s book may be the most convincing. And it is probably the most important for what we do at Mercatus.”—Matthew Mitchell

Ruchir Sharma, Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles

  • “Why more and more countries will turn things around, even as China fails.”—Tyler Cowen

 David A. Stockman, The Triumph of Politics: The Inside Story of the Reagan Revolution

  • “This book is a must-read for anyone interested in effectively fighting the expansion of government. David Stockman gives the account of his years in the Reagan administration and tells us the sad story about why the Reagan revolution failed and the government continued to grow. There are few good guys in the book and plenty of villains. But while it is discouraging at times, it provides a very good insight into the world of politics.”—Veronique de Rugy

John Tomasi, Free Market Fairness

  • “This is one of the very best philosophical treatments of libertarian thought, ever.”—Tyler Cowen

James Tooley, The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey into How the World's Poorest People Are Educating Themselves

  • “I read this book about three years ago as one of the judges for the Atlas annual book competition. It tells the story of free-market-based education in the poorest of the slums and ghettos of the world and how in these incredibly impoverished places families make extraordinary sacrifices to educate their children and how the results of these impoverished for-profit schools exceed the achievements of their state controlled counterparts.”—Maurice McTigue

Richard E. Wagner, Deficits, Debt, and Democracy: Wrestling With Tragedy on the Fiscal Commons

  • “Budget deficits and accumulating debts that plague modern democracies reflect a clash between two rationalities of governance: one based on private property and the other based on common property. The tragedy of the commons that results can be attenuated by a restoration of a constitution of liberty. This book is a theoretical treatment of a timely subject rooted in public choice theory.”—Eileen Norcross

M. Barton Waring, Pension Finance: Putting the Risks and Costs of Defined Benefit Plans Back Under Your Control

  • “Waring lays out a theoretically solid framework for valuing pensions on an economic basis, ‘de-cluttering’ the present model from all of the actuarial and accounting assumptions that have served to suppress the true value of these plans and inform decades of bad decisions. This is a book for those with some knowledge of pensions, but it is written in an accessible style.”—Eileen Norcross

Luigi Zingales, A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

  • “I know you have book fatigue, popular economics book fatigue, policy book fatigue, and books-with-subtitles-like-this fatigue, all at once.  But this book is really, really good. It hits all the right notes, is clearly written, and refers to academics as ‘the new crony capitalists.’ I agreed with almost all of it. If I had to pick out one book, of this entire lot of books, to explain what is going on right now to a popular audience of non-economists, this might well be it.”—Tyler Cowen
  • “One of the most important (and well-timed) economics books of the year.”—Matthew Mitchell
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