Regardless of your what your opinion on capitalism may be, capitalism is an ever-present phenomenon around the world. Whether you are for or against capitalism, you have something to learn. We are going to explore and discuss some of the best books on capitalism written over the last decades and centuries.
There are of course many other books on the topic which deserve a place on the list. Feel free to leave a comment if there is any book you feel should be on the list!
Books on Capitalism
Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
Milton Friedman was one of the greatest economists of the 20th-century, and perhaps of all time. Friedman wrote many highly regarded books on capitalism throughout his life. In 1962 he wrote Capitalism and Freedom. In the book, Friedman discusses how economic freedom is a necessity for political freedom (and vice versa). He defends the classical meaning of “liberal”, which has largely been corrupted since, and lays out what he believes the word to mean.
Friedman covers a wide range of topics and explains how the economic and political decisions in society influence our freedom. The book is slightly dated in context, but the principles are as relevant as ever.
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Most people probably already know of Adam Smith, the Scottish economist who revolutionized economics with his book The Wealth of Nations. Smith describes why some nations are wealthier than others, and what exactly wealth is and how it is created. It is a fundamental text for the field of economics, and for free trade and capitalism. The book was a major factor in establishing economics as a field of study, as well as providing the economic grounds for the classic liberal ideology.
The Wealth of Nations is slightly outdated in some ways and should probably not be your first book on capitalism. However, by reading it you will come to know of many concepts and terms that are still used in economy and politics today (such as the invisible hand).
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement by Milton & Rose Friedman
Milton Friedman (along with his wife, Rose) wrote another great book on the topic of freedom called Free to Choose. The book is a little more up to date than his earlier book Capitalism and Freedom. In the book, Friedman explores the effects our economic system may have on our personal freedom, along with the effects the government’s decisions may have as well. Friedman advocates a free-market system and lays out his reasons for believing it to be the best system for society.
Free to Choose is considered an extension to Capitalism and Freedom and was not meant to be a direct replacement of his earlier work. They are both considered some of the best books on capitalism, and you could read them in any order you choose!
Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell is a world-renowned economist and author from the United States. Sowell studied under Milton Friedman and thus his economic views were influenced heavily by Friedman. Basic Economics takes you through the economic landscape and lays out the (often misunderstood) principles of the economy. The book is not solely about capitalism. However, it is a fantastic book to learn about the function free markets and capitalism have in the economy. In the book, Sowell dismantles the fallacious arguments in favor of planned economies, and explain why the alternative of a free market would better serve the population at large.
I truly believe this is one of the best books on capitalism. If you want to get a taste for Thomas Sowell’s work, you should check out the countless videos available on YouTube of Sowell debating and discussing economics.
Capital by Karl Marx
Karl Marx was a 19th-century German philosopher, economist, and author. Marx was the leading figure in developing and expressing the thoughts and principles of Communism. Marx wrote a major critique of capitalism in his book Capital: Volume 1 (1867). When I say major, I mean major. The book is over a thousand pages long. If you are looking for a shorter introduction to the views of Marx, you might want to read The Communist Manifesto (just short of 65 pages long). Marx did not finish the remaining volumes of Capital before his death. However, his friend Friedrich Engels finished the remaining volumes for him from the notes he left.
Remember, even if you are in favor of free markets and capitalism, reading Capital can give you some insight into the opposing views of Capitalism. It is one of the most known books on capitalism, so you can hardly ignore its existence, despite your views.
Economics in One Lesson
Henry Hazlitt was a 20th-century American journalist and economist. Hazlitt adhered to the Austrian School of economics and was an advocacy of free market economics. In his classic book Economics in One Lesson, Hazlitt introduces the reader to free-market economics. Much like Sowell’s Basic Economics, Hazlitt covers a wide range of fallacious beliefs regarding economics and capitalism in general.
Economics in One Lesson serves as a good introduction to free-market economics and economics in general. The book is an easier and shorter read (just over 200 pages) than the others on this list.
I hope you enjoyed this list of books on capitalism. I am constantly reading more books on the subject and I will add them as time goes on. If you have any other books to share, feel free to leave a comment below!