Economics, Reading list

A Reading List for Hug An Economist Day

It’s that time of year yet again. The skies are grey, the sidewalks are dusted with snow, and the biting winter wind slices through each clothing layer like butter. Naturally, we all know these to be signs of everyone’s favorite end-of-January holiday: Hug An Economist Day!

Each January 31st, the US celebrates Hug An Economist Day, an ode to economics as a field and a love letter (or perhaps a Dear John letter) to those who work within its disciplines. In celebration of economists and all that they do, we’d like to draw attention to a handful of our wonderful authors whose books deepen our understanding of this important field.

The Monetarists: The Making of the Chicago Monetary Tradition, 1927–1960

by George S. Tavlas

An essential origin story of modern society’s most influential economic doctrine.

The Chicago School of economic thought has been subject to endless generalizations in contemporary debate. As its lore has grown, so too have the mischaracterizations that’s followed its storied history. The Monetarists is a deeply researched history of the monetary policies—and personalities—that shaped the Chicago School of monetary thought, unveiling the true breadth of research, theory, and intellectualism brought forth by a crucible of minds and debates throughout campus. Through unprecedented mining of archival material, economist George Tavlas constructs the first complete history of one of the twentieth century’s most formative intellectual periods and places.

Welfare for Markets: A Global History of Basic Income

by Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas

A sweeping intellectual history of the welfare state’s policy-in-waiting.

The idea of a government paying its citizens to keep them out of poverty—now known as basic income—is hardly new. Yet despite being one of today’s most controversial proposals, it draws supporters from across the political spectrum. In this eye-opening work, Anton Jäger and Daniel Zamora Vargas chronicle how the idea first arose in the United States and Europe as a market-friendly alternative to the postwar welfare state and how interest in the policy has grown in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis and COVID-19 crash. An incisive, comprehensive history, Welfare for Markets tells the story of how a fringe idea conceived in economics seminars went global.

The Ends of Freedom: Reclaiming America’s Lost Promise of Economic Rights

by Mark Paul

An urgent and galvanizing argument for an Economic Bill of Rights—and its potential to confer true freedom on all Americans.

Since the Founding, Americans have debated the true meaning of freedom. For some, freedom meant the civil and political rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights and unfettered access to the marketplace. As Mark Paul explains, this interpretation has all but won out among policymakers, with dire repercussions for American society: rampant inequality, endemic poverty, and an economy built to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Replete with discussions of today’s most influential policy ideas, The Ends of Freedom is a timely urgent call to reclaim the idea of freedom and carve a path toward a more economically dynamic and equitable nation.

The Two-Parent Privilege: How Americans Stopped Getting Married and Started Falling Behind

by Melissa S. Kearney

The surprising story of how declining marriage rates are driving many of the country’s biggest economic problems.

The Two-Parent Privilege makes a provocative, data-driven case for marriage by showing how the institution’s decline has led to a host of economic woes. Eschewing the religious and values-based arguments that have long dominated this conversation, Kearney shows how the greatest impacts of marriage are, in fact, economic: when two adults marry, their economic and household lives improve, offering a host of benefits not only for the married adults but for their children. Based on more than a decade of economic research, Kearney examines the underlying causes of the marriage decline in the US and draws lessons for how the US can reverse this trend to ensure the country’s future prosperity.

The Continental Dollar: How the American Revolution Was Financed with Paper Money

by Farley Grubb

An illuminating history of America’s original credit market.
The Continental Dollar is a revelatory history of how the fledgling United States paid for its first war. Farley Grubb upends the common telling of this story, in which the United States printed cross-colony money, called Continentals, to serve as an early fiat currency—a currency that is not tied to a commodity like gold, but rather to a legal authority. As Grubb details, the Continental was not a fiat currency, but a “zero-coupon bond”—a wholly different species of money. Drawing on decades of exhaustive mining of eighteenth-century records, The Continental Dollar is an essential origin story of the early American monetary system, promising to serve as the benchmark for critical work for decades to come.

The Economic Approach: Unpublished Writings of Gary S. Becker

edited by Julio J. Elias, Casey B. Mulligan, and Kevin M. Murphy

A revealing collection from the intellectual titan whose work shaped the modern world.

As an economist and public intellectual, Gary S. Becker was a giant. The recipient of a Nobel Prize, a John Bates Clark Medal, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, Becker is widely regarded as the greatest microeconomist in history. After forty years at the University of Chicago, Becker left a slew of unpublished writings that used an economic approach to human behavior, analyzing such topics as preference formation, rational indoctrination, income inequality, drugs and addiction, and the economics of family. The Economic Approach examines these extant works as a capstone to the Becker oeuvre.

Liberalism’s Last Man: Hayek in the Age of Political Capitalism

by Vikash Yadav

A modern reframing of Friedrich Hayek’s most famous work for the 21st century.

Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was both an intellectual milestone and a source of political division, spurring fiery debates around capitalism and its discontents. In the ensuing discord, Hayek’s true message was lost: liberalism is a thing to be protected above all else, and its alternatives are perilous. In Liberalism’s Last Man, Vikash Yadav revives the core of Hayek’s famed work to map today’s primary political anxiety: the tenuous state of liberal meritocratic capitalism—particularly in North America, Europe, and Asia—in the face of strengthening political-capitalist powers like China, Vietnam, and Singapore. Within Liberalism’s Last Man, Yadav channels Hayek to articulate how liberalism’s moral backbone is its greatest defense against repressive social structures.

Statistics for Public Policy: A Practical Guide to Being Mostly Right (or at Least Respectably Wrong)

by Jeremy G. Weber

A long-overdue guide on how to use statistics to bring clarity, not confusion, to policy work.

Statistics are an essential tool for making, evaluating, and improving public policy. Statistics for Public Policy is a crash course in wielding these unruly tools to bring maximum clarity to policy work. Former White House economist Jeremy G. Weber offers an accessible voice of experience for the challenges of this work, dispensing with the opaque technical language that have long made this space impenetrable. Instead, Weber offers an essential resource for all students and professionals working at the intersections of data and policy interventions.

Work, Retire, Repeat: The Uncertainty of Retirement in the New Economy

by Teresa Ghilarducci

A damning portrait of the dire realities of retirement in the United States—and how we can fix it.

While the French went on strike in 2023 to protest the increase in the national retirement age, workers in the United States have all but given up on the notion of dignified retirement for all. Instead, American elders face the highest risk of poverty compared to workers in peer nations. Many argue that the solution to the financial straits of American retirement is simple: people need to just work longer. In Work, Retire, Repeat, Teresa Ghilarducci tells the stories of elders locked into jobs—and shows how relatively low-cost changes to how we finance and manage retirement will allow people to truly choose how they spend their golden years.

Shock Values: Prices and Inflation in American Democracy

by Carola Binder

How inflation and deflation fears shape American democracy.

Many foundational moments in American economic history—the establishment of paper money, wartime price controls, the rise of the modern Federal Reserve—occurred during financial panics as prices either inflated or deflated sharply. The government’s decisions in these moments, intended to control price fluctuations, have produced both lasting effects and some of the most contentious debates in the nation’s history. A sweeping history of the United States’ economy and politics, Shock Values reveals how the American state has been shaped by a massive, ever-evolving effort to insulate its economy from the real and perceived dangers of price fluctuations.

Find all of these books on our website or through your favorite bookseller.