Thursday, July 30, 2009

Recommended reading

On the right hand side of the blog I have added a list of books under the title of "recommended reading." While all are worthwhile, here are a few that I found to be particularly excellent:

William W. Lewis, a former director of the McKinsey Global Institute, drives home the essential point that the path to prosperity lies in increased productivity as societies cannot consume more than they produce. Lewis explores areas that have seen increased productivity, the factors that drove this process, and how lessons can be applied elsewhere. Excerpts available here.

No mere theorist, Hernando de Soto goes to the world's slums to better understand why capitalism works so well in the West but struggles elsewhere. The reader will have a new appreciation for the role of property rights and their critical role in capitalism. Excerpts here.

A great introductory book to free market economics, Economics in One Lesson destroys a range of economic myths. This book was my first encounter with the broken window fallacy. Wikipedia description here.

Perhaps more than any other factor a key determinant of economic prosperity is the presence of competition. Where we have deregulated, such as the airline and trucking sectors, prosperity and vibrancy has resulted. In contrast those areas that suffer from a lack of competition, such as health care and education, we find high prices without a corresponding rise in quality.

Bryan Caplan documents in meticulous fashion how ill-informed voters are, making a good case for restricting the political realm to a minimum. Excerpts here.

Author Bjorn Lomborg points out that, contrary to the rampant doom-mongering you often hear, the state of the environment is much better than widely believed. More importantly the book also illustrates some of the many trade-offs found in environmental policy that are often overlooked. Cutting down on the use of fertilizer to stem algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico means that more undeveloped land is devoted to farm use to meet the same food production goals -- what is the net impact? A good counterpoint to much of the conventional wisdom on environmental topics. Excerpts here.

Olaf Gersemann examines the popular perception of Americans as overworked wage slaves one paycheck away from poverty and Europeans as the beneficiaries of generous welfare states that receive plenty of free government-provided services and vacation time. Pouring over the data Gersemann says that a different picture emerges of a much less prosperous Europe and a United States that enjoys almost unparalleled prosperity. Excerpts here.

For the vast majority of human existence people lived lives that were famously described by Thomas Hobbes as nasty, brutish and short. While many people think of human history as a tale of steadily rising prosperity, Gregory Clark reminds of Hobbes's brutal truth and what changed to create the wealth we now enjoy. Excerpts here.

Published in 1981, the book was ahead of its time in questioning the wisdom of foreign aid presenting a superior path -- as represented by Hong Kong -- to growth and prosperity. William Easterly's The Elusive Quest for Growth and Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid follow in Bauer's footsteps. Excerpts here.

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