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Austrian Economics for High School Students


Recently a friend asked for recommendations of books suitable for instructing high school students in Austrian economics. He was already familiar with Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson and David Gordon’s scintillating primer An Introduction to Economic Reasoning. I recommended two additional books for his consideration.

1. Jim Cox, The Concise Guide to Economics. This book is very short, about 120 pages. But it comprises 37 chapters and covers all the basic principles of economics as well as numerous applications. It is plainly written and assumes no prior knowledge of economics. It has a definite Austrian orientation. One advantage of the book is that it fleshes out each short chapter with extensive references to other sources that the teacher may wish to assign or the lay reader may wish to follow up with. It could be used as the organizing text for the course with additional readings assigned. Or its chapters dealing with real-world applications could be assigned as supplementary readings.

2. Robert P. Murphy, Lessons for the Young Economist . This is much longer and more conventionally structured textbook, but also features a strong Austrian orientation. Remarkably it is not written in the dry and soporific style of a typical textbook. Murphy is a clever and entertaining writer with a passion for his subject. Although the book is written at a higher level than Cox’s book, it was vetted for tone and language by a history teacher, who used sample chapters in his junior high school class. Also unlike Cox’s book, Murphy’s book contains some simple graphs and tables, mainly supply and demand curves and schedules. The book covers all the main principles of economics and among its 23 chapters, there are 5 chapters of applications. One notable feature of the book is that it contains an extensive Glossary of technical terms comprising 25 pages. For a teacher who wants to present economics as an integrated science, I would recommend that he use this as his textbook with Cox’s or Hazlitt’s book as a supplement. There is also a teaching manual available for the book.

The four books could also be profitably read by anyone who wishes to familiarize himself with the basic principles of sound economics or wants a firm foundation in Austrian economics before tackling technically more sophisticated treatises like Human Action and Man, Economy, and State. The books are also suitable for use on the college-level to teach a one-semester introductory course at a community college or even at a four-year institution.

Joseph Salerno is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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