This list is my opinion of the best nonfiction books on the subject of economics, policy or law that came out in the year 2011 (with one exception). Though it is probably too late to pick these books up in time for Christmas, readers are encouraged to look into the after-holiday sales and check out some of the best work from the past year.
- “Keeping the Republic: Saving America by Trusting Americans” – Gov. Mitch Daniels
Daniels is the current governor of Indiana. He was also the speaker at a recent Mackinac Center event, where he gave a taste of his thoughts on governing. He lays out his vision for what good governance should be, including a smaller, more nimble government that provides quality essential services. It doesn’t hurt that he cites the Mackinac Center’s work on the illegal unionization of home-based day care providers in Michigan.
- “FDR Goes to War: How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling National Debt and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped Wartime America” – Dr. Burt Folsom and Anita Folsom
Burt Folsom is a member of the Mackinac Center board of scholars and a well-known historian of New Deal economics. In FDR Goes to War, he teams up with Anita Folsom and expands his research to discuss Roosevelt’s wartime presidency. In it, their questioning of FDR's wartime spending and expanded executive branch is sure to shatter a few myths.
- “Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World” – Michael Lewis
Lewis is most famous for his sports books The Blind Side and Moneyball, but he actually started out as a business writer. Boomerang follows Lewis’s journey from Greece to Ireland to Germany to California, tracking the worldwide financial crisis as he goes. The book includes some of Lewis’s Vanity Fair articles, which can be found here. Not overly political, the author lays out the underlying economic and social problems that work to destroy whole societies through his masterful storytelling.
An economist at George Mason University, Williams applies economic analysis to issues faced by black Americans from slavery through the civil rights movement to the present. The book examines minimum wage laws, housing subsidies, rent control and other issues to show that market allocation, rather than political allocation, is in the best interest of minorities.
- “The Thomas Sowell Reader” – Dr. Thomas Sowell
Sowell is the author of dozens of books and hundreds of articles spanning economics, policy, law, society and philosophy. He has been called “our greatest contemporary philosopher” by playwright David Mamet. The reader is a selection of his greatest works. Read it.
- “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America” – Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch
Reason employees Gillespie and Welch show how innovation through markets has improved the lives of people around the world, often in ways rarely thought about. The book covers a wide range of areas, from rock and roll helping to bring down the Soviet Union to influencing the two-party system to free markets counteracting discrimination.
- “The Tea Party Goes to Washington” – Senator Rand Paul
The senator-elect from Kentucky embraced tea party principles early and rode the wave to a big win. Paul has clashed with those on the right over war spending, those on the left over domestic programs and with both parties when rolling out a $500 billion spending cut. The book explains why constitutional principles are not merely suggestions, but moral imperatives.
- “The Law (and other works)” – Frederic Bastiat
I cheated on this one. The Law was published in 1850 by a French political economist. And everyone who is affected by government policies should read this classic. Though written over 150 years ago, Bastiat trounces those persistent economic fallacies we hear every day from commentators, politicians and bureaucrats. The book discusses why broken windows aren’t good economics, the government's legal plunder and why some believe we should pass laws limiting the sun. An economics professor once told me that instead of having students take Micro and Macro Economics, they should just reread Bastiat. His works are short, easy-to-read and available online for free.