Until recently, The Fountainhead would be the one book I would recommend to anyone who asked me for any advice as far as what books one should read. It is one of those very few books that can really change people.
However, I now have a new book occupying the top spot on my all time favorites list: The Price of Everything.
First of all, let me tell you what The Price of Everything is not. It is not fancy literature. It admits so in its full title (The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity). Like most parables, it is a simple and straightforward story. So much so that it doesn’t even read too much like fiction. It could be the transcript of a true story that you would hear at the dinner table.
This book is also not sophisticated in the technical sense. People who are acquainted with economics will probably know most of the principles taught here. Yes, I did say taught, which brings me to the final ‘warning’ about the book: it is not unbiased. It is a totally pro-market, pro-capitalism, and most of all, pro-American book.
All of that being said, this is a great and very important book. It is great because it uses its simplicity as a weapon. It is able to explain complex concepts in a methodical yet clear and easy to read fashion. What is the free market? Why is it so efficient? What is the profit motive and how it helps society? How can you apply these principles to our day to day life? It is an important book because the system which is founded under these very principles is not based on common sense. It is actually based on assumptions and knowledge that many times seem counter-intuitive. And for that very reason it is a system that is always under assault – specially now, when we are in a down cycle (after many highs).
The Fountainhead is a book about personal freedom. It is a book that reminded me just how much my actions are of my choice and how my life really is what I do. However, The Fountainhead only makes sense because we have a system that allows such personal freedom to exist. Without free market capitalism and all the advances it brought to us in the last 200 years, Howard Roark would still be working 18 hours a day in a farm or dying very quickly of hunger.
So if you have a few hours and $10 to spare, read this book. And then give it as a gift to a lefty friend. It could make all the difference.