We have no hard and fast rules for selecting our readings. Yet most of the time each of us devotes to this group is spent doing the required reading. So it is most important to select our readings carefully.
For the time being, I, Charles, make the final selection, even though I also think of it as a group choice. I want to take careful account of the preferences of the group in making our selection. Selections are usually made in our monthly group meetings, by general consensus, while taking account of various voiced preferences and considerations. Yet some factors carry important weight in these decisions, and these factors should be clear to all. So hopefully, this page will be useful to us all in considering upcoming readings.
We could all make a list of books, which we haven’t read, that we might to read and discuss. However, I am generally uncomfortable in recommending that others read books that I have not myself read. Generalizing this discomfort, we are far more likely to take a reading recommendation seriously from someone who has already done the reading and is willing to read it again. This suggests that the recommendation comes from someone who both knows it and thinks it is important enough for the rest of us to take the time to read it. So even though recommendations do not require that the work has been read by whoever recommends it, having read one’s recommendation gives it added credibility.
There are two important exceptions to the above guideline. The first exception is for classics, works that have been historically important or significant in the development of economic ideas. These texts have stood the test of time, and are often important sources in understanding the history and development of economics. The second exception is for works that are currently creating a stir and call for the attention of those interested in the contemporary development of economic ideas. I’ll call these later works “important contemporary contributions”. And by the way, we can also read magazine or periodical articles in addition to books.
So here follows a list of reading nominations, by category. I will try to keep this list up to date as time passes. Anyone with nominations for future readings should indicate their interest by commenting below. Thank you.
Classics are perhaps the most important sources in understanding the development of economic thought. The three most important historical economists are Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and John Maynard Keynes. Two of us have read Smith, a few of us have read a few pages of Marx, and we have read almost nothing of Keynes. So we have a lot to make up for in this category.
David Ricardo, The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. Recommended by Charles. Two of us read this five or six years ago. Portions are worth reading again, especially for those new to the group.
Karl Marx. He wrote a lot. The first volume of Capital may be his most influential book, so we should at least read parts of that.
John Maynard Keynes. Anything he wrote on economic subjects is probably worth reading. His most important book is The General Theory of Employment. Interest and Money so we should at least read parts of it, even if it is difficult and imperfectly presented.
Joseph A. Schumpeter. He wrote a number of influential books. Robert L. Heilbroner puts Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy high on the list. We have read his chapter on Democracy. Schumpeter is not easy to read. It is unclear to me, at least, how completely he really wanted to be understood. Nonetheless, what he wrote is clearly important and we should continue with the struggle his prose presents.
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation.
Important Contemporary Contributions
Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Capital and Ideology. Only two of us have read the first book, so it would be a good idea to at least make a selection from this to reread. I am quite interested in the second, but will either read it myself or rely on someone else who has read it before asking that we all take the plunge.
Robert J. Gordon, The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Although the group read this about six years ago, the group was a lot smaller then. There is too much great information in this book to ignore. We should at least revisit parts.
Other Contemporary Readings
The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, annd thee Fate of Liberty by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson.
Selections Recommended By Trusted Sources