As David Cameron throws open the list to more candidates from outside the political mainstream, I personally recommend these five books from my reading list plus five first-class think tanks.
See the links in the sidebar for more book recommendations.
Tansey and Jackson, “Politics: The Basics”, because you have to start somewhere. Via Amazon:
This highly successful introduction to the world of politics has been fully revised and updated in collaboration with a new co-author, Nigel Jackson of the University of Plymouth. The new edition builds on the reputation for clarity and comprehensive coverage of the previous editions. It explores the varieties of political systems, the main political movements and key issues at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Bartholomew, “The Welfare State We’re In”, because in our essentially rich society, a human tragedy is in progress: we need to know why, and what we can do about it.
See also the reports of The Centre for Social Justice, Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain, where Iain Duncan Smith writes:
For the last six years, I have been visiting many of Britain’s most difficult and fractured communities. I have seen levels of social breakdown which have appalled and angered me. In the fourth largest economy in the world, too many people live in dysfunctional homes, trapped on benefits. Too many children leave school with no qualifications or skills to enable them to work and prosper. Too many communities are blighted by alcohol and drug addiction, debt and criminality and have low levels of life expectancy.
Our interim report Breakdown Britain charted the extent of the problem in extensive detail. Britain tops the ‘league tables’ when it comes to spiraling levels of drug addiction, single parenting, poor education and debt. Many people told us that the quality of their communities had deteriorated, maintaining that the crime levels were much higher than those reported to the police. The recent rise in gang warfare, which resulted in a spate of teenage stabbings and shootings in our cities, is a savage illustration ofthe deep fractures in so many of our inner city communities. A recent UNICEF Report concluded that we have the lowest levels of child well being in Europe. A further report has shown how young people in Britain are more likely to be unemployed and out of education than in almost any other country in Europe.
The 12 years of New Labour have seen an erosion of civil liberties without precedent in modern British history. The list is alarming: identity cards that will store 50 pieces of personal information on each of us; a surveillance system that allows local councils to snoop on us for fly-tipping; a quarter of the world’s closed-circuit television cameras; and a length of pre-trial custody that would be deemed unacceptable in China, Russia or Zimbabwe. In total, 45 criminal justice laws have been passed since 1997, more than the aggregate for the previous century, creating more than 3,000 new criminal offences.
Hayek, The Road to Serfdom — Inspired by the events of its time, this is the ultimate presentation of the direction of comprehensive government intervention in response to economic difficulty:
This book should be read by everybody. It is no use saying that there are a great many people who are not interested in politics; the political issue discussed by Dr Hayek concerns every single member of the community. — The Listener
This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense. — Milton Friedman
This spell-binding book is a classic in the history of liberal ideas. It was singularly responsible for launching an important debate on the relationship between political and economic freedom. It made the author a world-famous intellectual. It set a new standard for what it means to be a dissident intellectual. It warned of a new form of despotism enacted in the name of liberation. And though it appeared in 1944, it continues to have a remarkable impact. — mises.org
And because understanding the ultimate cause of our present economic difficulties is not out of reach, The Austrian Theory of the Trade Cycle and Other Essays, a slim volume of just 120 pages.
If you read nothing else, please read the first, 10-page essay:
Booms and busts are not endemic to the free market, argues the Austrian theory of the business cycle, but come about through manipulation of money and credit by central banks. In this monograph, Austrian giants explain and defend the theory against alternatives. Includes essays by Mises, Rothbard, Haberler, and Hayek. In his later years, Professor Haberler distributed many of these monographs to friends and associates.
Five Think Tanks
- Poverty: The Centre for Social Justice
- Public services and prosperity: Reform
- Free market and localist solutions to public policy questions: Policy Exchange
- Promoting the principles of a free society: The Centre for Policy Studies
- The UK’s original free-market think-tank: The Institute of Economic Affairs