Books on liberty-oriented economics for young people

by on January 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm in Books, Economics, Education | Permalink

I receive requests for recommendations in this area fairly often.  I don’t feel I am qualified to judge the outputs, but here are three that have come across my path as of late and seem to me very good:

Connor Boyack, illustrated by Elijah Stanfield, The Tuttle Twins and The Road to Surfdom.  Recommended ages 5-11.

I.M. Lerner and Catherine L. Osornio, The Secret Under the Staircase, and The Hidden Entrance.  Here the age range seems to be higher, maybe 10-12?  I feel I could have read them younger than that, however.

Someone should write a bibliographic essay on the books in this category.  What else can you recommend?

1 Kevin Burke January 3, 2017 at 2:12 pm

I still recommend the Cartoon Guide to Economics to most people.

2 libert January 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm

I agree that the Cartoon Guide is a good recommendation, but I don’t think it fits the bill as being “liberty-oriented”, which seems to mean written with a certain agenda in mind.

More broadly, I would recommend not limiting yourself to “liberty-oriented” economics reading lists, or any ideologically-driven reading list for that matter.

3 The Original Other Jim January 3, 2017 at 3:50 pm

So Krugman is out then?

4 Careless January 3, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I would recommend not limiting yourself to “liberty-oriented” economics reading lists, or any ideologically-driven reading list for that matter.

What, we’re not supposed to try to indoctrinate our children now?

5 dan1111 January 4, 2017 at 4:59 am

“I would recommend not limiting yourself to ‘liberty-oriented’ economics reading lists, or any ideologically-driven reading list for that matter.”

Yeah, that’s important. But many kids will be exposed to a left-leaning reading list through school curriculum.

6 Dean January 3, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I presume you mean the Cartoon Introduction to Economics, as the Cartoon Guide seems to be a different thing and very poorly reviewed by people who meant to buy the Cartoon Introduction.

7 JWatts January 3, 2017 at 2:26 pm

“…The Road to Surfdom. ”

Well the Road to Surfdom doesn’t sound that bad…..

8 Bill January 3, 2017 at 9:31 pm

Surf’s up!

9 Martin Kaybury January 3, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics is also a great read. As is his Applied Economics.

10 Alex Tabarrok January 3, 2017 at 3:01 pm

The Little Red Hen, of course.

11 Bjartur January 3, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Get your own damn bread!

12 Rich Berger January 3, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Probably the best!

13 Kain January 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.” – John Rogers

14 Ryan January 3, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Liberty-oriented youth literature? Well that is a sure fire way to turn your kid into a communist.

Also: ‘The Tuttle twins and the creature from Jekyll Island’. Yup, it exists.

15 4ChanMan January 3, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Good. Get the kids started on becoming Beta Cucks early.

16 Lanigram January 3, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Let’s ensure that it will be harder for them to change their minds in adulthood – that’s just what we need.

17 Curt F. January 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

So you would recommend that no one read anything until they are 18?

18 Lanigram January 3, 2017 at 11:17 pm

You got me.

Let’s call books on economics fiction and everything will be ok.

19 education realist January 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm

All the Little House books are written with an eye towards personal freedom. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter, Rose Wilder, pretty substantially “edited” her mother’s books to highlight this. They are good reads, and not terribly “girlish”, despite the heroine. And one of them, Farmer Boy, is about Almanzo Wilder.

Here’s an article on Laura and Rose by David Boaz on that point; here’s a politico piece that probably overstates influence.

20 Careless January 3, 2017 at 4:56 pm

What age would you say they’re aimed at?

21 liberalarts January 3, 2017 at 5:52 pm

The books progress in level as one reads through the series. The first book is pitched maybe at 2nd or 3rd graders, but the length of sentences, plots etc. rise across the series, maybe up to 4th or 5th grade.

22 Milo Minderbinder January 3, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Tunnel in the Sky, Citizen of the Galaxy and the other Heinlein juveniles.

23 JWatts January 4, 2017 at 11:56 am

Those are good books. I’m curious what age do you think that children should be introduced to Heinlein? And should it be different according to the child’s sex?

24 OldCurmudgeon January 3, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Hunger Games series. Harry Potter series.

25 Roy LC January 3, 2017 at 7:18 pm

The recent dystopian young teenager novel has been an amazing phenomena. Just as we get “government is the only thing we all belong to” the culture starts to push books all premised on the authorities are murderous and self serving, the game is rigged and always will be and since the revolution is a fraud the only hope is to escape government and hide in the mountains.

The post Harry Potter young adult book is anarcho libertarian agit prop.

26 Procrustes January 4, 2017 at 6:45 am

If you want to go down the dystopian route, I thoroughly recommend Ira Levin’s “This Perfect Day” – it’s a cracking read and a good shot at the dehumanising effects of central planning.

27 DH January 3, 2017 at 5:32 pm

‘How an Economy Grows and Why it Crashes’ by Peter Schiff. It does teach things from an Austrian School perspective but it really gives you a solid foundation upon which you can expand your knowledge.

28 4ChanMan January 3, 2017 at 5:36 pm

For the kind of people who are reading this to their children I also recommend

29 Slocum January 3, 2017 at 6:00 pm

Swallows and Amazons? Written by a lefty Englishman who married Trotsky’s personal secretary, but nonetheless, the personal liberties enjoyed by the kids in those books would be mind blowing, I think, to today’s kids. Perhaps Tom Sawyer for the similar reasons. For skepticism of authority figures, Harry Potter is pretty great too — lots of incompetent, self-important, corrupt and even sadistic officials abusing their power and making a mess of things.

30 Rich Berger January 3, 2017 at 6:10 pm

The Rush Revere books.

31 Ross January 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm

The Little Red Hen is tough to beat. But The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix is an entertaining series of fiction novels. It is not as intellectually lofty as some of the books mentioned here but I read the series to my kids as bedtime stories. They enjoyed the stories and we had some good discussions about human nature and the proper role of government.

32 Richard Maybury January 3, 2017 at 7:46 pm

Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?

33 Daniel Weber January 4, 2017 at 11:17 am

We’re not trying to turn them into gold bugs.

34 Daniel Jelski January 3, 2017 at 8:26 pm

Hey, I gotta recommend my own book (with co-author Tom George) entitled “Your Future Job: Building a Career in the New Normal.” It’s for young people thinking about going to college (or not), and offers them some tools with which to make a decision.

It’s good for parents, too.

35 Mattbrown January 3, 2017 at 8:40 pm

A Wrinkle in Time

36 Scott January 3, 2017 at 8:50 pm

Check out page 8-9 of Richard Scarry’s “What Do People Do All Day?” (use the “look inside” feature).

37 liberalarts January 3, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Frankly, the Great Brain books are hard to beat for kids. Libert is correct–skip the overtly ideological books. Most of us grew up with parents who pushed agendas that we didn’t embrace. Stick with interesting and engaging. Your kids will both make you proud and disappoint you, and how they do that is hard to engineer.

38 Willitts January 3, 2017 at 10:37 pm

We used to call it the Boy Scout handbook.

39 efim polenov January 3, 2017 at 10:38 pm

The Little Red Hen is good. The Epistle to the Philippians is pretty good, too, being the only Pauline Epistle written on a level of assumed complete moral equality between the writer and the addressees (thus lacking the hortatory drama of the other epistles … and so many of us do not like a hortatory tone, even when expressed in words and phrases of genius). Whether or not you subscribe to one of those churches with liturgical readings, the chosen readings for various saint days are interesting: St Joseph (carpenter and carpentry teacher), St Peter (fisherman and then uber-mental-health-care worker); St Damien of Molokai (health care worker and sanitation engineer), St Teresa of Calcutta (community organizer, but in a good way), St Zelie (lace-worker), St Cecilia (communications worker), and the patron saint of economists, St Paul. Of the feasts of the Queen of Heaven, maybe the most relevant is the Visitation. Lots of picture Bibles have relevant pictures of the economically important episodes.

40 John Dougan January 4, 2017 at 12:11 am

I like Bob Murphy’s “Lessons for the Young Economist”.More of a text book format, but the treatment is not heavy.


41 Adovada January 4, 2017 at 12:20 am

Incredible Bread Machine

42 Fuller January 4, 2017 at 12:32 am

Howard Baetjer’s Free Our Markets: A Citizens’ Guide to Essential Economics.

43 Chris January 4, 2017 at 3:12 am
44 4ChanMan January 4, 2017 at 9:03 am

Ayn Rand’s husband was a cuckold and so are most of Rand’s fansboys.

45 Chris January 4, 2017 at 12:05 pm


46 Urstoff January 24, 2017 at 12:27 pm

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

47 Troll me January 4, 2017 at 4:23 am


Aside from its more utilitarian aspects, the defense of freedom is apparent in a fair number of key places, if I remember correctly.

48 Alan January 4, 2017 at 5:22 am

“The Pushcart War,” surely?

Also there’s of course “Animal Farm” though the liberties discussed there go beyond economic.

49 dan1111 January 4, 2017 at 7:23 am

1984 made a bigger impression on me than Animal Farm as a teenager. The former has an emotional appeal that the latter lacks. Animal Farm is a bit clunky, and the reader has to do more work connecting the dots (sometimes to Russian history) to get the point.

50 Troll me January 5, 2017 at 9:18 am

I don’t think anything deep at any level is needed to get the main point of Animal Farm.

If there’s a revolution (or any situation where the previous underdog becomes top dog), the new top dogs become the same as the old. So, often you might get lots of suffering followed by more of the same.

Not directly related, but similar to the military logic (which imperialists can afford) that there’s no point in overturning a hostile foreign head of state (or similar at subnational levels) if there does not seem to be a solid pathway to something that works out much better after. Similarly, then, regardless of what tyranny there may be, it would be dumb to think that violent revolution would make things any better if there is not a strong likelihood of the pathway to things being better coming to fruition and being sustained.

51 Scott Hoffman January 4, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Gwartney, Stroup, and Lee’s COMMON SENSE ECONOMICS is a great resource. It’s witty and engaging, and perfect for high school level students.

52 Jonathan Kennedy January 4, 2017 at 9:27 pm

TC probably could have read “The Wealth of Nations” at a younger age. 😉

53 Willie January 5, 2017 at 8:38 am
54 Bobby Dot January 5, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Second vote for Uncle Eric series by Richard Maybury.

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