maanantai 11. tammikuuta 2010

Ten Pro Liberty Books of the Decade

Ruotsalaisen Johan Norbergin blogista bongasin Atlasnetworkin tekemän listauksen "Ten Pro Liberty Books of the Decade" vuosikymmenen kymmenestä parhaasta vapautta edistävistä kirjoista. Valitsijaraati ja varsinainen lista ovat sen verran kovaa luokkaa, että vaikka olen lukenut teoksista vain yhden, Johan Norbergin In Defence of Global Capitalism, en voinut vastustaa kiusausta ja laittaa listaa Amazoniin. Listaus on seuraavanlainen:

1. Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere else (Hernando de Soto)

Hernando de Soto’s seminal The Mystery of Capital made him one of the most famous economists in the world. The book earned him praise from New York Times Magazine, “To the leaders of poor countries, de Soto’s economic gospel is one of the most hopeful things they have heard in years.” In Mystery, de Soto revolutionized the development debate, and had the rare privilege of testing the application of his ideas. De Soto offers a more realistic alternative to 20th century redistribution schemes that achieved little more than inflating political power, encouraging corruption, impeding the rule of law, and perpetuating poverty. Aware that developed countries did not start wealthy, and weren’t assisted by foreign aid, the De Soto coordinated a series of empirical investigations to identify what prevents the Third World from reaching the same level of development as the First. He discovered that institutional costs imposed by governments all over the world are the main obstacles to reducing poverty. Real estate is the most emblematic case. The fact that states do not recognize the property rights of millions of people to the homes they effectively own prevents them from capitalizing on goods that sum billions of dollars. Free exchange and initiative has made poverty more of an exception than a rule in the developed world, and it is the lack of freedom that imprisons millions of people in a condition of poverty. No book of this decade demonstrates this better than The Mystery of Capital.

2. Radicals for Capitalism: a Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement (Brian Doherty)

The first decade of the new century marks the end of a tradition in classical liberal literature. Starting in the 1920s, with the release of Mises’s Socialism, the libertarian current has been punctuating each decade with a mark in the liberal tradition. The 1930s had Nock’s Our Enemy, the State; the 1940s had Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom; the 1950s, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; the 1960s, Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom; the 1970s, Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia; the 1980s, Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty; and the 1990s closed the century with The Black Book of Communism. Heirs of a rich tradition, the classical liberals of the 21st century found themselves responsible for carrying the torch of freedom with new intellectual rigor. Radicals for Capitalism is indispensable in that enterprise. With this comprehensive introduction to libertarian thought, Brian Doherty allows scholars of the new century to write their first pages aware of their place in classical liberal tradition.

3. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies (Bryan Caplan)

The central insight in Bryan Caplan’s book is audacious and counterintuitive: the rationality of our actions has a cost, and the incentive structure of democracy makes that cost too high for voters. Instead of guiding themselves rationally in the political sphere, voters are usually guided by the collateral effects of their political beliefs. The Myth of the Rational Voter has served as a theme for TV shows, an entire issue of Critical Review, and was reviewed in The Economist and The New Yorker. Tyler Cowen called it “one of the best books on public choice in twenty years.” For Nicholas Kristof it was the best political book of 2008.

4. Justice and its Surroundings (Anthony de Jasay)

No other anarcho-liberal makes use of the instruments of rational choice with such originality and sophistication as de Jasay. From essays about the needlessness of the state to provide social order to a critique of contemporary theorists of justice, de Jasay manages to produce academic work that blends the technical with the humorous. Justice and Its Surroundings demands careful attention and familiarity with themes of political science and game theory to be properly digested, but the reward is access to one of the most fertile and least conventional minds of contemporary classical liberal literature.

5. The Bourgeois Virtues (Dierdre McCloskey)

Arguably the most ambitious classical liberal academic project of the decade, The Bourgeois Virtues argues not only that the market economy is more efficient, but it makes us better, more virtuous people. Moreover, in her 600+ page tome (supposedly the first in a series of four), McCloskey presents her case to a target audience that has been conditioned to throw rocks at the sound of the word “bourgeoisie.” She balances her herculean effort with a conversational tone that doesn’t compromise her erudition. By promoting hope, faith, love, justice, courage, thrift and prudence, this book manages quite successfully to defend the thesis that the market not only allows man to gain the world, but also helps him not to lose his soul.

6. In the Defence of Global Capitalism (Johan Norberg)

A systematic refutation of the attacks of the anti-globalization movement, In Defense of Global Capitalism became a global phenomenon itself. After becoming a bestseller in Sweden in 2001, Johan Norberg’s title was translated into English in 2003 and into another 13 languages after that. The book eventually served as the basis for the documentary, Globalization is Good, produced by British Channel 4 and presented by Norberg himself. The popularity of his defense stems from the young author’s refusal to hide behind theoretical abstractions. Despite the title, Norberg goes beyond playing defense and tactfully exposes anti-capitalistic fallacies by shooting them down one by one with facts and science.

7. From Mutual Aid to Welfare State (David T. Beito)

The advent of the welfare state did not create aid networks out of nowhere. In fact, the welfare state only replaced voluntary, solidarity-based networks of social aid with a less efficient and more uniform bureaucratic structure. David Beito’s timely From Mutual Aid to The Welfare State tells the oft-ignored tale of mankind’s gravitation toward government-run welfare, and demonstrates that politics is not the only (nor the best) way to meet social needs.

8. The White Man's Burden: Why The West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (William Easterly)

William Easterly is the only author with two titles on this list. At its release in 2007, The White Man’s Burden managed to cause an impact even bigger than its predecessor. The book made it into the Best of The Year lists of both The Financial Times and The Economist, and provoked reactions ranging from Bill Gates (who claimed not to like the book) to Amartya Sen (author of a somewhat positive review for Foreign Affairs). Always provocative, Easterly asks why, after spending 2 trillion dollars on foreign aid in the 20th century, the West has not managed to produce sustainable economic growth in Africa and other developing nations. He argues that top-down prescriptions from Western planners do more to relieve post-colonial guilt than effectively eradicate poverty.

9. Elements of Justice (David Schmidtz)

Elements of Justice brings new depth and originality to the presentation of a classical liberal theory of justice. It presents “to each his own” as a work of cartography. In David Schmidtz’s map of justice – need, equality and reciprocity imprint their traces without the privilege of exclusiveness. Schmidtz offers a serious critique of Rawls’s and Nozick’s theories in this innovative and readable book on the way we think about justice.

10. The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Topic (William Easterly)

At a time when the fight against poverty has become show business, The Elusive Quest for Growth stands out for its lucid and realistic analysis of economic development. William Easterly, a World Bank economist at the time the book was published, combined examples from his years of experience with a theoretical understanding that isn’t that of “a developmentalist”, but of an economist who studies development applying one of the most basic concepts of his science: incentives matter. The book is a written appeal to a wide audience, and it fomented a healthy skepticism in mass media about the bureaucratic altruism of institutions such as IBRD or IMF.

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