Victor Joecks: Five great gift ideas for liberty lovers


There was no need to scan Black Friday ads to find the perfect gift for someone who loves liberty. Here are five great gifts for your spouse, child, co-worker or friend who enjoys learning about economics or needs an introduction to conservative thought.

These gifts are interesting, informative, quick reads and cheap.

1. “The Law,” by Frédéric Bastiat. Written in 1850 by a French economist, “The Law” is a brilliant explanation and defense of limited government. A just government, or “the law” as Bastiat calls it, is an extension of the individual’s right to “defend his person, his liberty and his property.”

Problems come because “the law has been perverted by the influence of two entirely different causes: stupid greed and false philanthropy.” Unfortunately, those two errors — using government to take someone else’s stuff and socialism — are still with us. This book undercuts the intellectual foundations of both. It shows why government’s job is to “prevent injustice from reigning,” rather than causing “justice to reign.”

It’s available for just $3 from the Foundation for Economic Education, store.fee.org.

2. “Great Myths of the Great Depression,” by Lawrence Reed. Present a free-market point of view in a discussion on economics, and you’re sure to hear about the Great Depression. The conventional wisdom goes something like this. Unbridled capitalism caused the Great Depression, and government fixed the economy through a host of interventions by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Reed calls that the “20th century’s greatest myth” and exposes it by identifying the government actions that caused and prolonged the Great Depression.

He punctuates his easy-to-read narrative with stories of government insanity. For instance, FDR’s secretary of agriculture “personally gave the order to slaughter six million baby pigs before they grew to full size.” Then there was the New Jersey tailor sent to jail for pressing a suit for 35 cents, rather than the government-mandated 40 cents.

It’s a case study you can finish in less than one hour, but it’ll forever change your view on the Great Depression. Available for $2 at store.fee.org.

3. “Citizen Magazine, Focus on the Family”. If you’re ever amused that the “party of science” can’t quite bring itself to acknowledge that life begins at conception, Citizen Magazine is for you. It covers a wide range of contemporary social issues — from religious liberty to gender differences to adoption. Stories drive the articles more than abstract policy analysis, which makes its articles very readable. A year’s subscription is $20 on the Focus on the Family website.

4. “Myth of the Robber Barons,” by Burt Folsom. Did Cornelius Vanderbilt’s success help or hurt the average American? Folsom re-examines some of the most maligned people in American history, the prominent businessmen from the late 1800s known as “Robber Barons.” Folsom, a retired Hillsdale College history professor, divides them into two camps: market entrepreneurs and political entrepreneurs. Folsom describes how market entrepreneurs made their money by offering people better products. In contrast, political entrepreneurs relied on government subsidies or mandates.

A fascinating, easy read. Available on Amazon for $10.

5. “I, Pencil,” by Leonard Read. Even in the age of Twitter, your child or grandchild has a long enough attention span to read this classic pamphlet. In just 10 pages, Read shows how there isn’t a single person in the world who — alone — can make a simple pencil.

Doubt that assertion? Pick up a copy. Available for just $1 at store.fee.org.

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.