The Top Ten Books of 2010
This is the biggest year in publishing by the Mises Institute in our entire history. Our open-source model has inspired authors and the staff to do some wonderful things. Donors to the Mises Institute have also enjoyed helping to make our program possible. We never imagined that we would become a full-fledged publishing house and never planned it that way, but this seems to have happened in any case.
But when you look at the list, you have to be struck by how many older books appear in here — the wisdom of the ages! This is a key advantage that the Austrian School has over others. It seeks to present fixed principles that apply in all times and all places, logical structures that explain how the world works regardless of the circumstances of time and place. This is a major difference the Austrians had with the German Historical School - probably even the defining characteristic of the Austrians- and it continues to be a reason for the School's appeal.
We are so honored to be the publisher of the only hardback of this book that Hazlitt wrote in 1946. He did it in about 10 days, and you can tell that the text has a sense of urgency. Simply put, he was fed up with the widespread ignorance of basic economic forces operating in the world, tired of politicians and editors imagining that they can favor or oppose any kind of scheme without predictable results. Here he explains the core of the fallacies that people tend toward — and he blows them up! It remains an outstanding tutorial, and probably the bestselling economics book of all time!
Mises's friends had to cobble together a real entourage to persuade Yale University to go along with this book in 1949. The publisher didn't think it would sell, didn't think anyone was interested in what this old man had to say in the age of Keynes. Then, to everyone's shock, it became a bestseller, and it has been steady ever since. This year we found a way to drop the price to make the hardback affordable for everyone.
This was a surprise innovation of the Mises Institute this year. We repackaged the Scholar's Edition into a $10 pocket paperback that you can carry anywhere. Doing these projects is always a bit scary, because we are working entirely in the digital world until you see the finished product. I can tell you that there was leaping for joy the day that the first box of these arrived. We knew we had a success on our hands. It will be the first of many more, if all goes well. So far, things look good.
There are many editions of this great classic by Frédéric Bastiat available today, but when we put this edition out, we were the only ones publishing it. Then it became rather famous due to the Tea Party movement, which somehow turned this 19th-century defense of freedom and rights into a manifesto of sorts. Of course it is a fantastic book. Leonard Read probably deserves more credit than anyone for having made it famous in the United States. In France, we are told, most people have never heard of the author.
Robert Murphy is the economist who keeps accomplishing the seemingly impossible. He did the study guides for two gigantic treatises, and then he wrote the first complete high-school text with an Austrian bent. This book is a grand success as a tutorial and classroom book, one that will last through the ages. I can promise you that there is no reader — no matter the age or level of education — who will not gain from this work. Murphy's pedagogy is masterful.
This huge book began as a study guide to Human Action and then turned into its own treatise with its own contributions in many areas. It's often said that if you read this book cover to cover, you will carry economic theory in your head for the rest of your life. This edition is special because it rights a wrong: the first publisher refused the last quarter of the book because it was too radical. We brought it all together just the way Rothbard wrote it.
Our library is filled with attempts to write a study guide on the great book. Most writers give up at the fifth chapter or so. It is just too much to take on. Only Robert Murphy succeeded. It is the first, and it is so good that it will probably be the last. For my part, I travel with this book because it permits me to give well-organized, impromptu lectures on any aspect of economics, wherever I have to be. I know many economics professors do the same.
Notice how it is all the old books that are the bestsellers? This says something good about Austrian book buyers, that they understand that truth is truth and economic logic applies in all times and all places. Hayek's most famous work is another case in point. It was given a big boost by being featured on Glenn Beck's show, and it suddenly shot up the bestsellers list. For a few days there, Mises.org was the only source for it, because it sold out everywhere else.
The success of my own book surprised me, I must say. It is not exactly systematic but rather an attempt to bring an Austrolibertarian perspective to everyday-life issues. I'm most happy with the chapters on law enforcement, but I have other favorites, too — like the movie reviews or the tips on getting by in an age of statism. I certainly didn't expect it to sell as well as it has. There are too many outrageous things in here for everyone to agree with all of it, but the point is to inspire thought, and it certainly seems to have done that.
I can well recall the day that Lew Rockwell commissioned Murray Rothbard to write this book. In those days, hardly anyone cared about the Fed either way. It was just some gigantic institution out there doing its thing without controversy. Lew pressed Murray for a short primer on the topic, and Murray delivered only a few weeks later. If you haven't read it, you are in for a treat, because it does all that it is supposed to do. Murray explains the origins, functions, effects, and politics of the Federal Reserve in a wonderful way. Lew was extremely prescient in seeing a need here. It is enormously popular today.
Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.