Summer Reading 2012

Foreign Policy magazine’s “Shadow Government” blog recently posted the summer reading recommendations of a number of its contributors.  Several listed Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson.  Why Nations Fail was on my summer reading list too since I’ve assigned it in one of my classes.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really get a summer vacation this year so my non-research reading was light.  But here are some recommendations if you are still looking for something for the beach or, thanks to the economy, your “staycation”:

Luigi Zingales – A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity

I’ve thumbed through a few pages so far and it looks interesting.  Nice to see someone distinguish between a free-market system and corrupt crony-capitalism that often gets confused with true capitalism.  I’m particularly eager to read Zingales’ chapter on “The Responsibilities of the Intellectuals.”

Joel Mokyr – The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 and Dierdre McCloskey – Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World

If Acemoglu and Robinson’s institutionalist argument turns you into a latter-day Madisonian, these books might bring you back to de Tocqueville who noted, according to McCloskey, that institutions exert “only a secondary influence on the destiny of men. . . . Political societies are not what the laws make them, but what sentiments, beliefs, ideas, habits of the heart [in his famous phrase from Democracy in America], and the spirit of the men who form them prepare them in advance to be. . . . The sentiments, the ideas, the mores [moeurs] . . . alone can lead to public prosperity and liberty” (quoted on page 351).

Milton Friedman  – Capitalism and Freedom

For the younger readers of our blog, this classic is a great place to get acquainted with Friedman’s ideas and mode of argument (both of which we can learn from).  The examples are dated but the solutions still noteworthy.  Plus we celebrated his 100th birthday this year, so why not check him out for the first time or again if it has been a while since you read the master.

P.W. Singer – Wired for War

It has a lot of fluff and pop culture references, but don’t let this fool you into thinking it isn’t a very serious work.  Signer will help the lay reader get acquainted with the world of drones and their place in the future of warfare.  There are newer works out there on drones but this is still a great introduction.  An easy, fun read perfect for the beach.

Jason Sorens – Secessionism: Identity, Interest, and Strategy

I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read his book yet – but I think he can forgive me since I’ve heard many of the arguments from the source himself!  Still, I would be remiss in not giving it a plug for the summer list since it is the newest book written by one of our bloggers.  Given that secession is an important and timely topic of inquiry, Sorens is sure to provide a strong foundation to understand the subject and the world around us.

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