For decades when asked what single book I’d recommend to explain basic economics, I always responded with Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. Anybody who has read this minor classic knows the first chapter is worth the price of the book. That chapter articulates the one lesson, consisting of two parts: when assessing any economic philosophy or policy, always consider (1) its long-term consequences, and not simply its short-term benefits, and (2) its impact on the wide population, and not just a single group of people. Consistently keeping this dual-pronged lesson in view will help prevent (or cure) a multitude of economic fallacies.
But after last month, my answer has changed. Hazlitt’s book will always remain invaluable, but now I must answer that the best single book on economic truth I’d recommend is David L. Bahnsen’s new There’s No Free Lunch: 250 Economic Truths. This remarkable — and remarkably readable — book contains 250 short entrees subsumed under 22 categories touching every major aspect of modern economics. It communicates more economic truth in less space (without charts or graphs or jargon) than any such book I’ve read, and probably than has ever been written in recent memory.
Bahnsen, my dear friend of many years, is considered one of the leading financial advisors in the country and CCL’s Senior Fellow of Economics and Finance. He’s a committed economic conservative (what in a European context would be considered a classical liberal), and the great forte of his book is its succinctly tucking so many economic truisms into 300 plenty-of-white-space pages.