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A pioneer of free-market economics gives us 3 must-read books on the subject

A pioneer of free-market economics gives us 3 must-read books on the subject

George Gilder speaking at the Cato Institute on December 5, 2013. (Image Source: Cato Institute video screengrab)

Blaze Books sat down with George Gilder, President Reagan's most quoted living author, pioneer of supply-side economics, winner of the White House Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence presented by President Reagan, author of over a dozen books including most notably the best-selling "Wealth and Poverty" (1981) and "Microcosm," (1989) and recent titles including "The Israel Test" (2009/2011) and "Knowledge and Power" (2013), producer of the Gilder Technology Report and the annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm Conference, Chairman of George Gilder Fund Management, LLC, venture capitalist, outspoken futurist and conservative intellectual (and much more), to get his book recommendations on a variety of subjects near and dear to readers' hearts.

Below is the third set in a multi-part series (parts I and II here), in which Mr. Gilder gives us the three books he would recommend on economics if he could only recommend three books, and some commentary on each of the titles he selected.

1. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises

Ludwig Von Mises in "Human Action" expounds the entire field with magisterial authority.

2. Economic Logic by Mark Skousen

Mark Skousen in "Economic Logic" brings Mises up to date in a lucid and luminous text.

3. The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley in "The Rational Optimist" sums up the subject, perhaps for all time: "The cumulative accretion of knowledge by specialists that allows us each to consume more and more different things by each producing fewer and fewer is...the central story of humanity."


*George Gilder is Chairman of George Gilder Fund Management, LLC, host of the Gilder Telecosm Forum and Publisher of the Gilder Friday Letter. He is also a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute where he directs Discovery's program on high technology and public policy, and the former Editor in Chief of the Gilder Technology Report (published by Gilder Publishing. LLC and Forbes Inc. from 1996 to 2007).

Born in 1939 in New York City, Mr. Gilder attended Exeter Academy and Harvard University. At Harvard, he studied under Henry Kissinger and helped found Advance, a journal of political thought, which he edited and helped to re-establish in Washington, DC after his graduation in 1962. During this period he co-authored (with Bruce Chapman) "The Party That Lost Its Head." He later returned to Harvard as a fellow at the Kennedy Institute of Politics and editor of the Ripon Forum. In the 1960s Mr. Gilder also served as a speechwriter for several prominent officials and candidates, including Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney, and Richard Nixon. In the 1970s, as an independent researcher and writer, Mr. Gilder began an excursion into the causes of poverty, which resulted in his books "Men and Marriage" (1972) and "Visible Man" (1978); and hence, of wealth, which led to his best-selling "Wealth and Poverty" (1981).

Mr. Gilder pioneered the formulation of supply-side economics when he served as Chairman of the Lehrman Institute's Economic Roundtable, as Program Director for the Manhattan Institute, and as a frequent contributor to A.B. Laffer's economic reports and the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal,. In the 1980s he also consulted leaders of America's high technology businesses. According to a study of presidential speeches, Mr. Gilder was President Reagan's most frequently quoted living author. In 1986, President Reagan gave George Gilder the White House Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

In 1986 Gilder was made a Fellow of the International Engineering Consortium. The investigation into wealth creation led Mr. Gilder into deeper examination of the lives of present-day entrepreneurs, culminating in many articles and a book, "The Spirit of Enterprise" (1986). The book was revised and republished in 1992. That many of the most interesting current entrepreneurs were to be found in high technology fields also led Mr. Gilder, over several years, to examine this subject in depth. In his best-selling work, "Microcosm" (1989), he explored the quantum roots of the new electronic technologies. A subsequent book, "Life After Television" (1997), was a prophecy of the future of computers and telecommunications and a prelude to his book on the future of telecommunications, "Telecosm" (2000).

Mr. Gilder's "The Silicon Eye" (2005) travels the rocky road of the entrepreneur on the promising path of disruption, and celebrates some of the smartest and most colorful technology minds of our time. In this fascinating narrative of personality and technology, Gilder shares his insider knowledge of Silicon Valley and illustrates how the unpredictable mix of genius, drive, and luck that can turn a startup into a Fortune 500 company.

More recently, Gilder's 2011 "The Israel Test" (2009), relates his work on capitalism to the safety and prosperity of Israel, what Gilder calls "the central issue in international politics" in our time. What critics have hailed as a "unique contribution" to the debate, Gilder argues that hostility toward Israel arises primarily from hostility toward capitalist creativity. How we react to that creativity -- by resenting it or admiring and emulating it -- will impact the future of Israel, the United States, and the world.

Mr. Gilder's most recent "Knowledge and Power" (2013) presents a revolutionary new paradigm in political economy: that information theory best explains the superiority of free-market capitalism and limited government. Put simply, under conditions in which there is minimal governmental "noise," those that drive an economy, namely entrepreneurs, can best generate wealth and thus enable widespread material progress. Gilder builds his theory in a comprehensive and holistic fashion, providing great insight first into the natural sciences and then to economic matters including fiscal policy, monetary policy, regulation, private property rights and a whole host of other areas. "Knowledge and Power" stands athwart the shoulders of men from von Mises to von Neumann in developing a completely knew means of understanding capitalism.

Gilder Publishing produces the Gilder Technology Report and the annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm Conference, both of which offer elite analysis of ascending and disruptive technologies affecting management and investment decisions of investors, executives, engineers and entrepreneurs.

Mr. Gilder is a contributing editor of Forbes magazine and a frequent writer for The Economist, The American Spectator, the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He lives in Tyringham, Massachusetts, in the Berkshire Mountains, where he is an active churchman, sometime runner, and with his wife Nini, parent of four children.

*Source: The Discovery Institute, with slight modifications

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