I had an interesting conversation recently about what were the three or four best all-time readings on political economy. If you could read, or have others read, only a handful of relatively short things, what would they be? That question is surprisingly challenging. Here are the suggestions of my interlocutors:
1. F. A. Hayek’s 1945 “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”
2. Frederic Bastiat’s 1850 “What Is Seen and What Is Unseen.”
Specifically on the topic of property, the suggestion was:
3. David Schmidtz’s 1994 essay, “The Institution of Property.” (This essay has been published in revised form in Schmidtz’s Person, Polis, Planet: Essays in Applied Philosophy (Oxford, 2008).)
I agree that the above articles are canonical, central contributions to the field. They should be included in any “Introduction to Political Economy” syllabus. What else should be included? I will post separately more detailed thoughts about this, including seminal works that challenge the broadly classical liberal worldview. But for now let me list a handful of suggestions.
First, I feel compelled to add something from among David Hume’s essays. He has so many, it is difficult to choose. Perhaps these two together:
4, 5. Hume’s “Of the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences” and “Of Public Credit” (both available here).
I might also add two essays that, though coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, come to remarkably—and, I think, frighteningly—similar conclusions:
A different list might include books and other longer formats. Keeping with the spirit of this list, however, what else would you include?