Reading Economics: Another Gigantic Project

For more than a decade now, I’ve had more than a passing interest in the field of economics and have done quite a bit of disorganized reading in the field among the classical and Austrian economists. With the Great Books Project taking up a significant amount of my time and energy, I haven’t been as active in this endeavor since the beginning of 2011. Of course, as part of that project I will eventually read representatives of the classical, Marxist, Institutionalist, and Keynesian schools.

To help keep myself active to some degree in reading economics, I’m going to track on this blog a couple of self-study programs I’ve owned for several years, but have never completed:

  1. The Home Study Course in Austrian Economics published by the Ludwig von Mises Institute
  2. George Reisman’s Program of Self-Education in the Economic Theory and Political Philosophy of Capitalism

What I like about both of these courses is that not only do they contain a significant audio component, which will make it easy for me to learn something during my commute, but they also direct you to major works from the classical and Austrian schools in a logical format. I’ll be able to acquire a better grounding in the major responses to 19th- and 20th-century works in the Great Books collections that are more or less hostile to the free market. The project fits with the overall theme of this blog in that economics has many roots in the classical writers (particularly Aristotle) and church tradition, and that in the church today there is much debate over the meaning and application of this discipline. I will also include as part of the project a study of Shawn Ritenour’s Foundations of Economics, a work from a self-consciously Christian perspective published after both of these home-study programs had already been created. I’ve linked to Shawn’s blog for some time now and highly recommend his work.

The Mises Institute’s course contains fifteen books, most of which are relatively short. Reisman’s program has his textbook Capitalism as its centerpiece and several major treatises as auxiliaries. My ballpark estimate of total reading between the two programs is around 15,000 pages, plus more than 100 hours of audio lectures, although I haven’t tried to get an accurate count.

For the time being, this will definitely be a “second-tier” effort for me. I do not plan to spend any time on these works unless I’ve already completed my Great Books readings for a given week or unless the difficulty of the scientific and philosophical works in the Great Books series drives me away to the comparative brain candy of economics temporarily. As a result, I may go several weeks between posts on this project.

I’ll create another page for this site on which to track the project and post links to resources. For starters, the audio lectures and syllabus for the Mises Institute’s course are available online.

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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3 Responses to Reading Economics: Another Gigantic Project

  1. Ginger says:

    Now I’m quite torn. Over the last decade, I’ve become increasingly interested in Economic. I’m even writing a bit on the subject in one of my books. I’m torn because I don’t have time to do both, GB and your economics study along with my scholar mentoring and writing schedule. Hmmmm….maybe I can slow my studies of GB and do both. With an hour or so a day walking and doing chores, I have the perfect opportunity to listen. Thanks for making me think and stretch.

  2. The Austrian school is the way to go. Mises’ was a great mind, and to compliment him is Friedrich von Hayek. A great synopsis of this school of though is listed in Ron Paul’s “Liberty Defined” where he dedicated an entire chapter to Austrian economics — also read the chapter on the business cycle. I wish those folks in Washington would read their material…they might actually fix something.

    • Dr. J says:

      Steven, thanks for the recommendations. I see how the post may have implied that I am a complete novice in this area. I’m actually an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and have read quite a bit of Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and Boehm-Bawerk. I don’t actually expect to learn a lot of brand new material from the LvMI’s home study course because the books that make it up are of an introductory nature for the most part. What I’m going for is the systematic presentation.

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