Which classic books deserve a retro review in 2022?

Every year there is a tsunami of new books on economics, politics, and public policy that are packed with insights and policy recommendations. In any given year, a few of these books end up being widely reviewed and discussed. A hot new book can reignite long-running debates in academia and public policy and have a big impact in the short term. But no matter how good the research, we cannot immediately know its predictive value.

By definition, a new non-fiction book that makes public policy recommendations needs time to test its mode of analysis. But here we have a problem. There are very few people who write — and few outlets publish — reviews of 10- or 20-year-old books. We have many politics books of this vintage and older that initially caused a stir and are still referenced today, but very few people have returned to re-read them and discover the validity of their predictions.

Sounds…not great. We need more “retro journals” that look back and examine whether all the hype around a splashy title was warranted, especially amid a growing reproducibility crisis in the social sciences. My colleague from the Competitive Enterprise Institute Ryan Young and I’ve taken a first hit over the last year and a half with the Retro Reviews series here on the Open market Blog.

I look forward to expanding the Retro Review 2022 concept, to see if the highly cited politics books of the past have truly lived up to their hype. On the other hand, we might find that there were overlooked non-fiction gems that weren’t much advertised in their day but have proven themselves over the years.

Below are some popular titles from previous decades and generations that are celebrating major anniversaries this year. All of these titles would need a new review. Ryan and I will try to do as much as possible. If you have any thoughts on these or other titles reaching milestones this year, please share on Social Media tagged #RetroReview.

2012 – 10 years

  • A Capitalism for the People: Recovering the Lost Genius of American Prosperity by Luigi Zingales
  • Separating: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray
  • Days of destruction, days of revolt by Chris Hedges
  • Declaration [of the Occupy Movement] by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
  • Free market equity by John Tomasi
  • Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in the Age of Networks by Steven Berlin Johnson
  • How many do you need? Money and the good life by Robert and Edward Skidelsky
  • Makers: the new industrial revolution by Chris Anderson
  • Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics by Daniel Stedman Jones
  • The New Hate: A Story of Fear and Loathing for the Populist Right by Arthur Goldwag
  • The Occupation Handbook by Paul Krugman et al., Janet Byrne, ed.
  • The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future by Joseph Stiglitz
  • The Rich and Us: A Manifesto on Poverty by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West
  • The Right Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
  • Robots will steal your job, but that’s okay: how to survive economic collapse and be happy by Federico Pistono
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy by Chris Hayes
  • Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson

1997 – 25 years

  • The black book of communism: crimes, terror, repression by Stephane Courtois et al.
  • Enviro-capitalists: doing good by doing good by Terry Anderson and Donald Leal
  • Guns, germs and steel: the fate of human societies by Jared Diamond
  • Human ecology, human economy: ideas for an ecologically sustainable future by Mark Diesendorf and Clive Hamilton
  • The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Fail Big Companies by Clayton Christensen
  • Principles of Economics by Gregory Mankiw

1972 – 50 years

  • A survival plan by Edward Goldsmith and Robert Allen
  • Anti-Oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
  • Ecology: can we survive under capitalism? By Gus Hall
  • Ecotage! by Sam Love and David Obst
  • Limits to growth by the Club of Rome
  • People of Paradox: An Investigation into the Origins of American Civilization by Michael Kammen
  • SmallꟷOn safety: the inherent dangers of the Volkswagen by Ralph Nader
  • The party of Eros: radical social thought and the kingdom of freedom by Richard King

1962 – 60 years

  • Capitalism and freedom by Milton Friedman
  • The Calculation of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock

1947 – 75 years old

  • Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno
  • eclipse of reason by Max Horkheimer
  • Fundamentals of economic analysis by Paul A. Samuelson
  • Inside the United States by John Gunther
  • The engine of human progress by Henry Grady Weaver

1922 – 100 years

  • Economy and society: an overview of interpretative sociology by Max Weber
  • Eugenic sterilization in the United States by Harry H. Laughlin
  • Public opinion by Walter Lippmann
  • Socialism: an economic and sociological analysis by Ludwig von Mises

1872 – 150 years

  • History of the rise and fall of slave power in America by Henry Wilson
  • Republicanism vs Grantism: The Presidency a Trust; Not a toy and prop by Charles Sumner

About Marcia G. Hussain

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