10 Best Economists till 20th Century & Their Books

Updated: Feb 20

The article includes some of the best-known economists upto the 20th Century and their books. There are still many economists to be included in this list who contributed to a better world. The list is better start to get to know the world of economics and read their life’s works.

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people” _Karl Marx


  1. Adam Smith

  2. David Ricardo

  3. Karl Marx

  4. Joseph Schumpeter

  5. John Maynard Keynes

  6. Alfred Marshall

  7. B. R. Ambedkar

  8. Amartya Sen

  9. Friedrich Hayek

  10. Milton Friedman

Adam Smith (1723-1790)

Adam was a Scottish economist, philosopher as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment, also known as ''The Father of Economics'' or ''The Father of Capitalism''.

1. The Wealth of Nations

In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics.

2. The Theory of Moral Sentiments

It shows that our moral ideas and actions are a product of our very nature as social creatures. It identifies the basic rules of prudence and justice that are needed for society to survive and explains the additional, beneficent, actions that enable it to flourish. The Theory Of Moral Sentiments was a real scientific breakthrough.

David Ricardo (1772-1823)

He was a British political economist, one of the most influential of the classical economists along with Thomas Malthus, Adam Smith, and James Mill. He was an abolitionist, speaking at a meeting of the Court of the East India Company in March 1823, where he said he regarded slavery as a stain on the character of the nation.

1. The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

He concludes that land rent grows as the population increases. He also presents the theory of comparative advantage, the theory that free trade between two or more countries can be mutually beneficial, even when one country has an absolute advantage over the other countries in all areas of production.

2. The Works of David Ricardo: With a Notice of the Life and Writings of the Author

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact and remains as true to the original work as possible.

Karl Marx (1818-1883)

Marx has been described as one of the most influential figures in human history and his work has been both lauded and criticised. His work in economics laid the basis for much of the current understanding of labour and its relation to capital and subsequent economic thought. Many intellectuals, labour unions, artists and political parties worldwide have been influenced by Marx's work, with many modifying or adapting his ideas. Marx is typically cited as one of the principal architects of modern social science.

1. Capital (Das Capital)

Regarded as a significant work of modern economic thought, this magnum opus is a comprehensive critique on the political economy. From the concepts of commodities and money, surplus-value of labor, the accumulation of capital and its process of circulation, to the conversion of surplus-value into profit and transformation of surplus-profit into ground rent, Karl Marx’s Capital presents his theory of the capitalist system.

2. Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, was first published in 1848. It formed the basis for the modern communist movement as we know it, arguing that capitalism would inevitably self-destruct, to be replaced by socialism and ultimately communism.

3. Value, Price, and Profit

Value, price, and Profit' was a speech given to the first international working men's association in June in 1865 by Karl Marx. Those wanted to avoid reading the entirety of capital volume 1 will find an excellent introduction to Marx's ideas in this short publication.

Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950)

Joseph Alois Schumpeter was an Austrian political economist. He was born in Moravia and briefly served as Finance Minister of German-Austria in 1919. One of Schumpeter’s most important contributions was the emphasis he placed on the tremendous power of innovation and entrepreneurial initiative to drive growth through a process he famously characterized as ‘creative destruction.

1. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy

It explains the process of capitalism’s 'creative destruction'–a key principle in understanding the logic of globalization. Schumpeter tried to set long-term economic growth--entrepreneurship and enterprise--at the top of the discipline’s agenda. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy is essential read­ing for anyone who seeks to understand where the world economy is headed.

2. The Theory of Economic Development

It is a vital, magisterial account of economics and the nature of capitalism whose many insights remain highly relevant today. He poses a fundamental question: why does economic development proceed cyclically rather than evenly? Turning prevailing economic theory, which approached economics as equilibrium, on its head, Schumpeter argues it is because economics is constantly transformed by its own internal forces.

3. History of Economic Analysis

A complete history of efforts to understand the subject of economics from ancient Greece to the present, this book is an important contribution to the history of ideas as well as to economics. History of Economic Analysis remains a reflection of Schumpeter’s diverse interests in history, philosophy, sociology, and psychology.

4. Business Cycles: A Theoretical, Historical, And Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process

In Business Cycles, Schumpeter focuses powerfully on the historical role of technological innovation in accounting for the high degree of instability in capitalists societies. He aims to analyze empirically the actual process of economic development using historical and statistical material based on the theoretical framework he developed in earlier writings.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes was an English economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Time magazine included Keynes among its Most Important People of the Century in 1999. The Economist has described Keynes as "Britain's most famous 20th-century economist."

1. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

Far from being destructive, the book alone has been responsible for nearly 60 years of growth without a major depression as we experienced worldwide in the 1930s. Although considered by a few critics that the sentence structures of the book are quite incomprehensible and almost unbearable to read, the book is an essential reading for all those who desire a basic education in economics.

2. The Economic Consequences of the Peace

In his book, he argued for a much more generous peace, not out of a desire for justice or fairness – these are aspects of the peace that Keynes does not deal with – but for the sake of the economic well-being of all of Europe, including the Allied Powers, which the Treaty of Versailles and its associated treaties would prevent.

3. A Tract on Monetary Reform

This book is devoted to the need for stable currency as the essential foundation of a healthy world economy. Describing the various effects of unstable currency on investors, business people, and wage earners, Keynes recommends the implementation of policies that aim at achieving stability of the commodity value of the dollar rather than the gold value.

4. A Treatise on Money: The Pure Theory of Money and The Applied Theory of Money

A central idea of the work was that if the amount of money being saved exceeds the amount being invested - which can happen if interest rates are too high - then unemployment will rise.

Alfred Marshall (1842-1924)

Alfred Marshall was an English economist, who was one of the most influential economists of his time. His book, Principles of Economics (1890), was the dominant economic textbook in England for many years. It brings the ideas of supply and demand, marginal utility, and costs of production into a coherent whole. He is known as one of the founders of neoclassical economics.

1. Principles of Economics

Marshall began writing the Principles of Economics in 1881 and he spent much of the next decade at work on the treatise. His plan for the work gradually extended to a two-volume compilation on the whole of economic thought; the first volume was published in 1890 to worldwide acclaim that established him as one of the leading economists of his time.

2. Industry and Trade

‘Industry and Trade; a Study of Industrial Technique and Business Organization; and of Their Influences on the Conditions of Various Classes and Nations’ has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

3. Money, credit and commerce

Money, Credit, and Commerce, devoted to this economics, was his last major work. Marshall expressed his views on the relation of business fluctuations and the credit market to general unemployment. He saw reckless inflation of credit as the main cause of economic troubles. As the foremost British economist of his time, he influenced a later generation of economists.

B. R. Ambedkar (1891-1956)

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits). He was the member of the Drafting Commission of Indian constitution. He was independent India's first Minister of Law and Justice, and considered as the chief architect of the Constitution of India. In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar. The Reserve Bank of India was conceptualized in accordance with the guidelines presented by Dr Ambedkar to the Hilton Young Commission (also known as Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance) based on his book, The Problem of the Rupee – Its Origin and Its Solution.

1. The Problem Of Rupee

This book raises "Currency question" in British India, which led to the Creation of Reserve Bank of India. One of the best book on economics by the "Father of Economics of India". Ambedkar looked into the problem of the rupee at a time when there was a clash between the colonial administration and Indian business interests on its value. The latter argued that the government was maintaining an overvalued exchange rate to help British exporters who sold their goods in India.

2. History of the Indian Currency and Banking

This book is a unique source of information for the Institutions, Libraries, Universities, Scholars and Researchers of Political Science, Modern History, Social Work, Dalit Studies. This book deals with the Following Chapters: From a Double Standard to a Silver Standard, The Silver Standard and the Dislocation of its Parity, The Silver Standard and the Evils of its Instability, Towards a Gold Standard, From a Gold Standard to a Gold Exchange Standard, Stability of the Exchange Standard, A Return to the Gold Standard.

3. Federation Versus Freedom

The book “Federation Versus Freedom” was originally published in the year 1939. This book deals with the Following Chapters: Birth and Growth, Structure, Powers, Character, Benefits, The Bane, Fatality of the Federation.

Amartya Sen (born in 1933)

Sen is an Indian economist and philosopher. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences[6] in 1998 and India's Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his work in welfare economics. The German Publishers and Booksellers Association awarded him the 2020 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade for his pioneering scholarship addressing issues of global justice and combating social inequality in education and healthcare. He has made contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, decision theory, development economics, public health, and measures of well-being of countries.

1. Development as Freedom

Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world's entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen clearly demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities.

2. The Idea of Justice

It talks about what can be done to make society fairer and the need to realize that tomorrow never comes when it is about seeking justice. In this book, arguments against social evils and words of motivation for what is integral and right for society are discussed. There is integrity, equality, tolerance, benevolence, honesty, and power in this book, making it a torch that spreads the light of a nation's belief system.

3. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

The understanding and use of this rich argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India's democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.

Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992)

Friedrich August von HayekAustrian-born British economist noted for his criticisms of the Keynesian welfare state and of totalitarian socialism. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Prize for Economics with Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal. He believed that the prosperity of society was driven by creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation, which were possible only in a society with free markets.

1. The Road to Serfdom

Since its publication in 1944, The Road to Serfdom has been an influential and popular exposition of liberalism. Hayek argues that Western democracies, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have "progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past". Society has mistakenly tried to ensure continuing prosperity by centralized planning, which inevitably leads to totalitarianism.

2. The Constitution of Liberty

In the 1970s and 1980s - the eras of Thatcherism and Reaganomics - he was championed as a prophet of neo-liberalism by those who were seeking to revolutionize the post-war social consensus. The Constitution of Liberty is crucial reading for all those seeking to understand ideas that have become the orthodoxy in the age of the globalized economy.

3. The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism

Adopting an economic and evolutionary approach throughout, Hayek examines the nature, origin, selection and development of the differing moralities of socialism and the market order; he recounts the extraordinary powers that 'the extended order' of the market, as he calls it, bestows on mankind, constituting and enabling the development of civilization.

Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

Milton Friedman was an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy. Upon his death, The Economist described him as "the most influential economist of the second half of the 20th century ... possibly of all of it".

1. Capitalism & Freedom

In his classic book, Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman presents his view of the proper role of competitive capitalism - the organization of the bulk of economic activity through private enterprise operating in a free market - as both a device for achieving economic freedom and a necessary condition for political freedom. He applies principles of a truly liberal society to a range of pressing problems, including monetary policy, discrimination, education, income distribution, welfare, and poverty.

2. Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

They argue that international free trade has been restricted through tariffs and protectionism while domestic free trade and freedom have been limited through high taxation and regulation. They cite the 19th-century United Kingdom, the United States before the Great Depression, and modern Hong Kong as ideal examples of a minimalist economic policy.

3. A Monetary History of the United States

Friedman and Schwartz marshaled massive historical data and sharp analytics to support the claim that monetary policy--steady control of the money supply--matters profoundly in the management of the nation's economy, especially in navigating serious economic fluctuations. Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976 for work related to A Monetary History.

4. Price Theory

Price theory deals with the allocation of resources among different uses, the price of one item relative to another. The effects of price or rent control on the distribution of income are problems of positive economics. The desirability of these effects on income distribution is a problem of normative economics.

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