Arts & Culture & Economics 101 & Public Square

Top Ten Economics Books for Beginners

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At bottom, economics is about us – what we choose, what we value, what we represent in language and symbols, how we interact with each other in the market, and especially how we produce, exchange, and distribute goods, services, and risk. Understand these things, and you’re well on your way to knowing what you need to know about economics.

– Dr. Jay Richards, in Money, Greed, & God

“At bottom, economics is about us.” This concept makes approaching a complex topic like economics a little less intimidating, doesn’t it? Economics becomes less about confusing charts and graphs and more about how we wish to order our lives and build our society.

As we wrestle with tough questions regarding faith and economics, it’s helpful to have an understanding of basic economic facts.

To that end, today we’re offering some resources we think are helpful to the Christian just beginning to wade into the waters of economic thought. These books by no means represent the entire pantheon of what one could, or should, read regarding the subject. Rather, this list is a primer as you begin your exploration.

Why would we recommend Christians read one or more of these books? Because, as IFWE visiting scholar Dr. Jay Richards argues in Money, Greed, & God,

If we want to know the truth,  if we want to order our economic and social lives justly, if we want to help people rather than merely feel like we’re helping people, we have to learn the economic terrain. 

Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper once said that,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not declare, ‘Mine!’

Economics isn’t exempt from Christ’s domain. As Jay writes, again, in Money, Greed, & God:

Economic truths are truths. But they don’t stand outside God’s dominion. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you can disregard economic facts.

The following books do more than lay out economic facts. They also describe the impact economics can have on our everyday lives.

 Common Sense Economics, by James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee – Three top economists lay out basic principles of economics in clear, straightforward language.




Economics In Christian Perspective, by Victor V. Claar and Robin J. Klay – Drs. Claar and Klay cover economic theory and policy, while also uncovering how Christian principles and values relate to a flourishing, just economy.




Foundations of Economics: A Christian View, by Shawn Ritenour – Using the Christian doctrines of creation, humanity, and the Cultural Mandate, Dr. Ritenour explains basic economic principles and how a Christian ethic can apply these principles when tackling problems like poverty and economic development.




The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek – A fascinating look into the impact economic policy can have on cultures and human flourishing. This book illustrates how economics bears an impact in the realms of politics and culture.




Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell – Another primer for everyday people that explains the basics behind any type of economy.





The Law, by Frederic Bastiat – French economist Frederic Bastiat published this pamphlet in 1850, in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1848. It explores ideas behind France’s then-socialist economy and how it restricted human freedom and flourishing.




Free to Choose, by Milton Friedman  – In Free to Choose, Milton (who would have been 100 this week!) and Rose Friedman show us how the market economy is crucial to a free society and the only way to flourish and grow.  Free individuals engaged in voluntary exchange serve everyone and raise living standards across the board. Values & Capitalism has a pretty thorough review of Free to Choose. 




Are All Economists Basically Immoral? – This is a collection of essays by the late theologian and economist Paul Heyne. These essays explore basic economics and the ties between economics and theology.



Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt – As the book bills itself, it’s one of the shortest, surest ways to understand basic economics.





An Introduction to Economic Reasoning, by David Gordon – Dr. Gordon answers the question “Why care about economics?” while explaining basic economic theory.




What other books would you add to this list?

  • An excellent list. Sowell’s “Basic Economics” is absolutely one of the best places to start. I’d only add a few as other potential starting places:
    Peter Boettke’s brand new “Living Economics” is excellent.
    Larry White’s “Clash of Economic Ideas” is perfect for anyone wanting to better understand the Keynes-Hayek debate.
    Mark Pennington’s “Robust Political Economy” is the best book for getting the full Austrian-Public Choice-New Institutional synthesis. It provides a way to look at every public policy issue and strip away both the economic and political implications.
    Finally, for the individual who really wants to learn economics, Murray Rothbard’s “Man, Economy, and State”.

    • gregoryayers

      Thanks for contributing your suggestions, Nathanael.

  • Ross Emmett

    For a beginning economics book, nothing better than Paul Heyne’s The Economic Way of Thinking (now co-authored by Boettke and co.). Paul’s story is a wonderful one; his willingness to think critically about Christianity and economics was pathbreaking. See the essays in the Liberty Fund collection “Are Economists Basically Immoral?”

  • Roger McKinney

    “School of Salamanca” by Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson and anything one can find on the School of Salamanca, Spain and its writing on economics. It will show the Biblical basis for private property in the Bible and for free markets. God sanctified private property with “Thou shalt not steal”. Free markets make property a reality instead of an airy thought and they establish the only just price.

    Also, the series on “Bourgeois Values” by Deirdre McCloskey demonstrates that capitalism is based on the Godly values of thrift, hard work, and respect for commerce. Until the Dutch Republic, most people considered commerce to be as immoral as prostitution. Economic development was not possible before a change in attitude toward commerce. McCloskey doesn’t say that the shift in attitude towards commerce in the late Middle Ages happened because of Christianity, but once one understands the teachings of the School of Salamanca one can see that they sparked the change in attitude that made economic development possible.

    Just as important, most economists are totally ignorant of what McCloskey calls the hockey stick effect of wealth: per capita wealth remained flat from 10,000 BC until about 1600 AD, after which it exploded. That explosion was touched off by the bourgeois (Biblical) values.

  • sammy

    loved it nice!

  • Javier R.

    Although its Catholic, The Church and the Market by Tom Woods is a good one and Robert Murphy’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism or Mises’ smaller works such as The Anti-Capitialist Mentality are also pretty good.

  • “How to Understand Economics in One Hour” by Marshall Payne. Written as an analogy, definitely worth the read. And it really will only take you one hour.

  • Gigi Foster

    Paul Frijters and i have a book out this year with Cambridge U Press entitled, “An Economic Theory of Greed, Love, Groups, and Networks”, which explains the core of the mainstream economics storyline while also directly addressing the substantial contributions of love, faith, and loyalty in explaining human behavior. It’s also low on technical jargon (no math except in the appendix). Might be worth a look for your list.

  • Stephanie Herman

    Love this list! Will be posting on my Facebook page. I also have a book for really young beginners: Cost Benefit Jr.

  • John Horvat II

    I would like to suggest Bernard Dempsey’s “The Functional Economy” since it gives an excellent overview of economics from a Catholic point of view.

  • Dr. Thomas Carl Rustici

    If I might add to this great list another book entitled Microeconomics: A Free Market Approach. This is an anthology of approximately 60 seminal essays in the economics literature. The book is coedited by Nathan Snow, Carrie Milton and myself.

  • tanya

    how can economic cost vary with output in the short run of firms?

  • Firoz

    There can be no shadow of doubt that above mentioned books are the best choices for the students to start their career in economics. As it deals with the financial and national economical process flow therefore books should be the key elements to make them ease in terms of guiding as well as making the correct proposition in the economical point of view. Some essay writing on this needed.Thanks for sharing the books to all the beginners

  • The Statistician

    I suggest the short essay, “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read. It drives home God’s blessing to us of freedom resulting in spontaneous order.

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