By David Tulis
At church Monte Pool and I stand in our respective pews after a worship service and talk about books. Monte, 16, and members of his family have just moved to Chattanooga, his dad, Alvin, having taken a job at Memorial Hospital. The newcomer, whose mom Jill bore altogether nine children, is a reader of G.H. Henty novels.
Henty is the beloved English author in the late 1800s who wrote for boys involved in great events in history such as St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre and lives such as that of Gen. Robert E. Lee. His heroes are young men of character and virtue and sometimes end up getting married.
I ask if he has explored free markets and the ideas of liberty. I recommend authors who explore free markets and local economy, which I suggest to the lad are a fruit of Christianity. I mention several slim volumes. Many can be downloaded. But I encourage dads to forget bound or clipped printouts of books. Rather, invest in books. A book is a commitment to exploration, or to a philosophical or religious conviction that it explores. One buys books by their author.
Teens already spend too much time looking at screens. A book in a son’s hand shows a dad’s commitment to knowledge. A book is a secure repository. Allow marks in sharpened pencil.
Short books for your teen’s library
➤ Frederic Bastiat — The Law. 1850. A Frenchman writes this basic introduction to the free market and its enemies among business people (who want licensing and cartels to oppress competitors) and among owners of the state (who want to parasitically feed off of the prosperity of others). He fought France’s decline into socialism in the 1840s. “Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.”
➤ Henry Hazlitt — Economics in One Lesson. 1962. Hazlitt has a gracious, general style whose material is fresh even though some of his economic references are historical.
➤ Ludwig von Mises — Bureaucracy. Appearing in 1944, this work is a brief on how the administrative state operates against free markets and how central planning ends in bankruptcy because pricing any good or service becomes impossible.
➤ Richard Maybury — Whatever Happened to Penny Candy. The Uncle Eric books are written to a young man.
➤ Garet Garrett — The People’s Pottage and The Bubble that Broke the World. Garret was a journalist who covered the Great Depression, and his histories are thrilling and brief. He describes how easy credit in a sort of pyramid scheme creates malinvestment in goods and services not sought in the real marketplace. Notice, above all, his use of imagery, his colorful style. “[A]ll the capital invested in excess shoemaking machinery is lost. Nearly half the capital in the world! Half less the relatively small amount that may be properly so invested. Exactly. It is really lost. The labor it represents is lost. All the wanted things that this labor might have produced in place of that excess of shoe-making machinery—they are lost, and forever lost. You cannot recover the labor by unbuilding the machinery any more than Pharaoh could have recovered his wasted Egyptian labor by unbuilding the pyramid. Then the invisible pyramids—what are they? A delirious stock-exchange speculation such as the one that went crash in 1929 is a pyramid of that character. Its stones are avarice, mass-delusion and mania; its tokens are bits of printed paper representing fragments and fictions of title to things both real and unreal, including title to profits that have not yet been earned and never will be. All imponderable. An ephemeral, whirling, upside-down pyramid, doomed in its own velocity. Yet it devours credit in an uncontrollable manner, more and more to the very end; credit feeds its velocity.”
➤ Paul Hein — All Work and No Pay[;] Lifesaving Lessons in Modern Money. This book, published in Tennessee in 1986, is a primer on banking, currency and the world of fiat money. Without understanding the nature of economics through this lens, no son can grow to become a prudent man.
➤ F. Tupper Saussy — Miracle on Main Street. This book by a Tennessean in 1980 sparked the money wars across the U.S. in which common citizens raised the Article 1 Section 10 provision in the constitution banning paper money. The troublemakers insisted fines and taxes could not be paid in Federal Reserve-denominated dollars without the official’s violating the constitution. They demanded on what authority governments operated in accepting banknotes for official business. The book is a delightful exploration of economics as touching on that most important interest, the means of exchange. The counterrevolution against the friends of paper money fizzled in a legal system committed to upholding what Saussy calls “ideasphere” money. “We don’t need to restore the American dream; we need to wake up from it.”
➤ Gary North — Unconditional Surrender; God’s Program for Victory. Dr. North is perhaps the most exceptional developer of the ideas of Christian or biblical economics. He has written dozens of books, including economic commentaries of Leviticus and Deuteronomy and numerous histories and economic treatises. His biggest book is Tools of Dominion (1,287 pages) and among the shorter is Unconditional Surrender, at 417 pages. It argues for the value of God’s law, the necessity of family enterprise and free markets; it attacks the claims of statism in its many spheres. “The Bible rejects the socialists’ utopia of a caretaker State. The Bible’s description comes far closer to the traditional free market ideal of a night-watchman State” (p. 282). North’s style is appealing, vigorous, often humorous.
➤ R.J. Rushdoony — Roots of Inflation. This book touches not just on inflation, but the basis for prosperity. Envy is its great enemy; contentment and service to others in the “harmony of interests” are its boon. (Fresh editions of this volume title it Larceny in the Heart.)
Works of these two authors have special merit in showing the relevance of Christianity to the world beyond an individual’s life of virtue and piety. Important in a day when biblical faith has been made subjective, personal, private and irrelevant by American evangelicalism.