ABOUT TOM WOODS

Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History and Meltdown (on the financial crisis). A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods has appeared on MSNBC, CNBC, FOX News, FOX Business, C-SPAN, Bloomberg Television, and hundreds of radio programs... (Read More)



The Tom Woods App


Reader Asks: Best Book on Capitalism?

12th January 2012      by: Tom Woods     

A reader writes:

Hi Tom, I’m 17 years old and come from Luxembourg, Europe. My best friend is a progressive. Which book shall I give him to convince him of capitalism? I probably have just one shot.

It shouldn’t be too difficult!
It should lay out the morality of capitalism.
It should show how capitalism has been working in history.
What book would you recommend?

Before people start recommending Economics in One Lesson, let me note that that’s not what he’s asking for. He wants something on the morality of capitalism with some pro-capitalist history, etc. I’m not sure what to recommend. Any ideas?

Unlearn the Propaganda!

  • http://www.libertariannews.org/ Michael Suede

    This may sound dumb, but I think the most compelling arguments come from the Austrian School’s explanations of current events.

    I would lean toward having him watch “The American Dream” cartoon which will give the kid a good picture of what fractional reserve banking is and why it is bad:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPWH5TlbloU 

    After that, have him listen to Schiff’s lecture on the Meltdown:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgMclXX5msc 

    And after that, have him start looking at some of Wood’s videos to get a real history of the State.

    The videos make learning easy and short.

    Get his appetite wet with the videos first, then hand him a book that makes the case for liberty in a more substantial way.  Perhaps Ron Paul’s book Liberty Defined, or even some of Wood’s books which I like very much.

  • nofiatmoney

    If that is the case Craig, I would have to say he has misread it. That’s usually the case…..

  • jen

    Well argued.  It would be awesome if libertarians would put this in a 27 min video like Newt did to illustrate the difference b/w capitalism and crony capitalism like the Fed.  Unfortunately, Ron is sitting out on this debate of crony capitalism in Texas.  It would be perfect to link Romney’s crony capitalism to Ron’s message and bailouts and the Fed.

  • Anonymous

    Faith of the Fallen (fiction) by terry goodkind.  ayn rand done right.

  • Shane Coley

    I have given out hundreds of copies of “The Law” and “Whatever Happened to Penny Candy”. I recommend both highly, along with the works mentioned already. “I, Pencil” is excellent and quick. And of course Tom Wood’s books are excellent in their various roles.
    Penny Candy may be the best for a quick and easy read.http://mises.org/store/Whatever-Happened-to-Penny-Candy-with-Study-Guide-P303.aspx http://mises.org/resources/2731/The-Law

    Of course “Economics In One Lesson” and also “What Has Government Done To Our Money”.http://mises.org/store/What-Has-Government-Done-to-Our-Money-and-The-Case-For-a-100-Percent-Gold-Dollar-Audiobook-P10734.aspxRegarding morality of capitalism, or free markets, I will also suggest that “Know Stealing” is good for the purpose by way of the reviews which are coming in.http://blog.soundmoneycafe.com/2011/12/bastiat-hazlitt.html“If you liked The Law by Bastiat and Economics in One Lesson by Hazlitt then you will like this book. A book that explores the keys to understanding the way the world works – what money is – How we are stolen from by government and the way back to liberty.” ~ John Barbour http://blog.soundmoneycafe.com/2011/12/revolutionary.html”Shane Coley has succeeded in methodically correcting the most dangerous errors modern American society has in understanding economics, politics, government & Christian theology. A 15 year project with more to show for it than most entire lives. Transformational!” ~ Jimmy Norman 

  • Mark

    I would still vote Economics in One Lesson. 

  • Anonymous

    Peter Schiff: “How an economy grows and why it crashes”.
    Murray Rothbard: “What has government done to our money?”

    For Dutch readers, both in Flanders and Holland we’re fortunate enough to have the Rothbard Institute in Antwerp.
    They’ve published Murray’s book in Dutch and also one by Bastiat. These books are small, cheap, and a real treasure to spread among friends.
    Unfortunately, the good people of Luxemburg, who once spoke the language, now no longer master the noble art of uttering screeching guttural sounds known as Dutch ;)

  • Billy Bublitz

    Thou Shall Prosper – Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    More biblical morality.

  • ThoughtCrime

    Tom, great question. I come from a conservative protestant background and several of my friends and family were converted to libertarianism by Ron Paul’s speech at the values voters summit.  I think a book length treatment expanding on his speech and arguing for liberalism from the Bibile would be very valuable for the movement (and doesn’t exist as far as I know). Too bad it can’t be done for this election cycle… I would be great for the social conservatives. 

  • Billy Maguire

    Friedman’s Free to Choose series(
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3N2sNnGwa4) helped to make a libertarian out of me. While it isn’t perfect it’s a start and should get your friend pointed in the right direction until you get a good book.

  • Shane Coley

    ThoughtCrime, Know Stealing does just what you have described in this post. The argument actually goes back 1600 years to make the case.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Farkas/1182252054 Bob Farkas

    I don’t expect this to be an easy read, but reading all of Ayn’s philosophy work addresses the moral question about Capitalism really quite well.

  • http://revolutionation.org/ MonsieurMadeleine

    Dear Young Reader,
    Please tell us which one you choose!

  • Mgm058

    “FOR 60
    known centuries, this planet that we call Earth has been inhabited by human
    beings not much different from ourselves. Their desire to live has been just as
    strong as ours. They have had at least as much physical strength as the average
    person of today, and among them have been men and women of great intelligence.
    But down through the ages, most human beings have gone hungry, and many have
    always starved.

     

    The ancient
    Assyrians, Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks were intelligent people; but in
    spite
    of their intelligence and their fertile lands, they were never able to get
    enough
    to eat. They often killed their babies because they couldn’t feed them.

     

    The Roman Empire
    collapsed in famine. The French were dying of hunger when Thomas Jefferson was
    President of the United States. As late as 1846, the Irish were starving to
    death; and no one was particularly surprised because famines in the Old World
    were the rule rather than the exception. It is only within the last century
    that western Europeans have had enough food to keep them alive- soup and bread
    in France, fish in Scandinavia,
    beef in England.

     

    Hunger has always
    been normal. Even to this day,
    famines kill multitudes
    in China, India, Africa; and in the 1930′ thousands upon thousands starved to
    death on the richest farmlands of the Soviet Union.

     

    Down through the
    ages, countless millions, struggling unsuccessfully to keep bare life in
    wretched bodies, have died young in misery and squalor. Then suddenly, in one
    spot on this planet, people eat so abundantly that the pangs of hunger are
    forgotten.

     

    The
    Questions

    Why did men die of
    starvation for 6,000 years? Why is it that we in America have never had a
    famine? Why did men walk and carry goods (and other men)on their straining
    backs for 6,000 years -then suddenly, on only a
    small
    part of the earth’s surface, the forces of nature are harnessed to do the
    bidding of the humblest citizen?

     

    Why did families
    live for 6,000 years in caves
    and floorless hovels, without windows or chimneys -
    then
    within a few generations, we in America take floors, rugs, chairs, tables,
    windows, and chimneys for granted and regard electric lights, refrigerators,
    running water, porcelain baths, and toilets as common necessities?

     

    Why did men,
    women, and children eke out their meager existence for 6,000 years, toiling
    desperately from dawn to dark – barefoot,
    half-naked, unwashed, unshaved, uncombed, with lousy hair, mangy skins, and
    rotting teeth – then
    suddenly, in one
    place on earth there is an abundance of such things as rayon underwear, nylon
    hose, shower baths, safety razors,
    ice cream sodas, lip sticks, and permanent waves?

     

    What
    Are the Answers?

    It’s incredible, if
    we
    would but pause to reflect! Swiftly, in
    less than a hundred years, Americans have conquered the darkness of night -from
    pine knots and candles to kerosene lamps, to gas jets; then to electric bulbs,
    neon lights, fluorescent tubes.

     

    We have created
    wholly new and astounding defenses against weather -
    from
    fireplaces to stoves, furnaces, automatic burners, insulation, and
    air-conditioning.

     

    We are conquering
    pain and disease, prolonging life, and resisting death itself -
    with
    anesthetics, surgery, sanitation, hygiene, dietetics.

     

    We have made
    stupendous attacks on space – from
    oxcarts, rafts, and canoes to railroads, steamboats, streetcars, subways,
    automobiles, trucks, busses, airplanes and attacks on time through telegraph,
    telephone, and radio.

     

    We have moved from
    backbreaking drudgery into the modern age of power, substituting steam,
    electricity, and gasoline for the brawn of man; and today the nuclear physicist
    is taking over and finding ways for subduing to human uses the infinitesimally
    tiny atom – tapping
    a new source of power so vast that it bids fair to dwarf anything that has gone
    before.

     

    It is true that
    many of these developments originated in other countries. But new ideas are of
    little value in raising standards of living unless and until something is done
    about them. The plain
    fact is that we in America
    have outdistanced the world in extending the benefits of inventions and
    discoveries to the vast majority of people in
    all
    walks of life.”

    ~ Henry Grady
    Weaver, The mainspring of Human Progress, p11-13

    http://mises.org/books/mainspring.pdf

     

     

  • Anonymous

    “Wingnuts: How the lunatic fringe is Highjacking America” by John Avlon

  • MyFirstNameIsPaul

    Capitalism and Freedom

  • Patrick

    Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman is a personal favorite

  • Anon

    Markets Not Capitalism by Gary Chartier

  • Johnnymaine35

    Ayn Rand gives an excellent moral defense of capitalism although her metaphysics which underlies her framework isn’t theist friendly. The Virtue of selfishness would probably sum it up from an ethical standpoint.

  • Christian Thomas

    >within a few generations, we in America take floors, rugs, chairs, tables,
    >windows, and chimneys for granted and regard electric lights, refrigerators,
    >running water, porcelain baths, and toilets as common necessities? 
    Your Mother Country, perhaps?

    And because the Nation was founded on Christian principles by God fearing men.

  • Scott

    “The Case for Legalizing Capitalism” by Kel Kelly.  Good all incompassing read and very readable.

  • Scott

    “The Case for Legalizing Capitalism” by Kel Kelly.  Good all incompassing read and very readable.

  • http://twitter.com/MooseOfReason Jeff

    Tom didn’t say anything about Luxembourg.  He quoted the reader’s e-mail.

  • Audacityofpope

    the worst thing for me is that I’ve never read anything by rand, only by other objectivists, which has just completely turned me off her.

  • Eric Potter

    Couldn’t agree more.

  • http://twitter.com/theoriginalCL Michael Todd

    Yes. Henry Grady Weaver’s “The Mainspring of Human Progress.” When I first read it, many (many) moons ago, I couldn’t put it down. The best intro to free market morality there is.

  • Keith Krauland25

    I tend to agree with Ralph Raico’s perspective on the subject. he argued that people’s worldviews tend to be shaped by the events that happen around them as well as the facts told to them about the past. That being the case, the most effective way to change a point of view is not necessarily through correct theory but correct history which is then explained using correct theory.

    How Capitalism Saved America is probably the best way to start someone on the path to libertarianism. A libertarian historical narrative will get them to question the underlying facts they have been indoctrinated into for years in government schools. Once they have a questioning attitude, you can reinforce using theory why it was what happened played out in the way that it did.

    Start with “How Capitalism Saved America”, then move on to Jake Huebert’s “Libertarianism Today”. If his friend cares more about theory after that then move on to Man, Economy, and the State. Kel Kelly’s book “Legalize Capitalism” would also be a good substitute to Libertarianism Today.

  • john

    For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard lays out the moral and economic case for capitalism and libertarianism.
    The Revolution by Ron Paul might not be a bad choice either.

  • Wortguy

    Inherit the Earth – by Gary North

  • Wortguy

    Inherit the Earth – by Gary North

  • Yeaalabama

    I’m probably not worthy to post here, but it strikes me that the criteria for the book is impossible to fulfill. Morality is a social concept; capitalism is an economic system that best allows a moral society to exist. As Ron Paul and others have pointed out, morality is found within one’s self. Not until the individual is made both free and responsible, as ony a capitalist economic system ensures, does he have a need to have his morality. Because not until then does his continued existence and fortune depend upon it.

  • Brendon Light

    I agree, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Start by reading the 2 Appendices in the back first. This will give you the proper paradigm to read the rest of the book. Its articles are short enough to understand and read in a short amount of time.

  • Anonymous

    The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth by Ludwig von Mises. Otherwise know as Liberalism in The Classical Traditional.

    I came to libertarianism through and unusual route. I saw a quote from Dr. Thomas Szasz about the drug war being humanity’s latest incarnation of a scapegoat persecution. I read everything that Szasz wrote. Somewhere he mentioned that his hero was Ludwig von Mises so I went to the library to see what the hero of my hero had to say. There was only one Mises book at the library. Plenty of Marx, no shortage of Keynes, one Mises book.

    The book is written for the man on the street rather than the Intellectuals.

    “When, thirty-five years ago, I tried to give a summary of the ideas and
    principles of that social philosophy that was once known under the name
    of liberalism, I did not indulge in the vain hope that my account would
    prevent the impending catastrophes to which the policies adopted by the
    European nations were manifestly leading. All I wanted to achieve was to
    offer to the small minority of thoughtful people an opportunity to
    learn something about the aims of classical liberalism and its
    achievements and thus to pave the way for a resurrection of the spirit
    of freedom after the coming debacle.” –Ludwig von Mises– Introduction to the English Version.

  • Anonymous

    The Free and Prosperous Commonwealth by Ludwig von Mises. Otherwise know as Liberalism in The Classical Traditional.

    I came to libertarianism through and unusual route. I saw a quote from Dr. Thomas Szasz about the drug war being humanity’s latest incarnation of a scapegoat persecution. I read everything that Szasz wrote. Somewhere he mentioned that his hero was Ludwig von Mises so I went to the library to see what the hero of my hero had to say. There was only one Mises book at the library. Plenty of Marx, no shortage of Keynes, one Mises book.

    The book is written for the man on the street rather than the Intellectuals.

    “When, thirty-five years ago, I tried to give a summary of the ideas and
    principles of that social philosophy that was once known under the name
    of liberalism, I did not indulge in the vain hope that my account would
    prevent the impending catastrophes to which the policies adopted by the
    European nations were manifestly leading. All I wanted to achieve was to
    offer to the small minority of thoughtful people an opportunity to
    learn something about the aims of classical liberalism and its
    achievements and thus to pave the way for a resurrection of the spirit
    of freedom after the coming debacle.” –Ludwig von Mises– Introduction to the English Version.

  • Charles

    Here’s links to quotes from a couple of the authors mentioned in comments below.  Perhaps these can whet the tastebuds:

    Ayn Rand:
    http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=media_cui_capitalism

    Milton Friedman:
    http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5001.Milton_Friedman

  • Gary Chartier

    Thanks to Anon. The free Scribd version of this collection of classic and contemporary libertarian essays is here:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/68608541/Markets-Not-Capitalism-Individualist-Anarchism-Against-Bosses-Inequality-Corporate-Power-and-Structural-Poverty

    The book’s central point is that being pro-market isn’t the same thing as being pro-business, and that the statist left’s central concerns can be addressed via the elimination of state-secured privilege and through non-violent activism.

  • Gary Chartier

    Three cheers–excellent suggestion.

  • Gary Chartier

    I suspect that, if one is going to use something from Hayek, both The Fatal Conceit and Law, Legislation, and Liberty may be preferable to Constitution of Liberty, which allows more room for the state than Hayek might have been inclined to do later in life.

  • Gary Chartier

    The Machinery of Freedom is really well written and full of great suggestions.

  • Anonymous

    The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A free-market odyssey. 

    Free in french/german here: http://www.jonathangullible.com/jonathan-gullible-language-translations

    You can also watch the great video, the philosophy of liberty in french/german as well:

    http://www.jonathangullible.com/PoL/philosophy_of_liberty.swf?language=German
    http://www.jonathangullible.com/PoL/philosophy_of_liberty.swf?language=French

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Danta/2041706 Daniel Danta

    Free to Choose. I became a libertarian after reading it. Most people are essentially utilitarians, and this book is an interesting read as well as very persuasive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hans.schulzke Hans Schulzke

    The “Morality of Capitalism” compiled and edited by Tom Palmer. It fits the bill exactly. Any local CLO, YAL, or SFL group will have a copy available for free. I carry 4-5 in my backpack, and I hand them out regularly. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-K-Arrington/1536270378 Andrew K Arrington

    Peter Schiff How an Economy grows and why it busts, simple easy 3 hour or less read. It’s basically a children’s book based of Mises ‘ original fish economic story. 

  • Chris T. Holland

    Yes I have an idea. Anything written by Thomas Sowell – Basic Economics, Applied Economics, Conquest and Cultures, Conflict of Visions. http://www.tsowell.com and http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/

  • Chris T. Holland

    Also on Youtube, Milton Friedman series “Free to Choose” – clear, easy, engaging https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3N2sNnGwa4



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