19 Best Books on Supply-Side Economics

Best Books on Supply Side EconomicsT

he supply-side economics movement developed in the late eighteenth century. At its core, it states that economic growth comes from production rather than consumption. It also believes that this growth will lead to a more equitable distribution of wealth and a better standard of living for all citizens. It has been a controversial topic since its inception, but it has seen major gains in popularity over the past few years. In supply-side economics, there are two main areas of focus: the demand-side and the supply-side. The demand-side looks at how government spending can impact economic growth by looking at what factors people want and need – things like safety, stability, and jobs. On the other hand, the supply side focuses on how changes in taxes

Best Books on Supply-Side Economics: THE LIST

1. Supply-Side Economics | By Richard Fink

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At the time this book was published in 1982, editor Richard Fink was in the Economics Department at George Mason University. He wrote in the Introduction, “This volume is designed to help readers cut through much of the polemics… the focus here is to examine the most important issues in economic theory that converge on ‘supply-side economics.’ For it is on the level of ideas and not on the level of emotion that the policy should in fact be judged… this selection presents a fairly full array of perspectives from the different schools of economic thought.”

He includes papers and essays from well-known proponents (e.g., Paul Craig Roberts, George Gilder), as well as critics (such as Robert Heilbroner and Lester Thurow).

Paul Craig Roberts argues that “when marginal rates of taxation are high, people will prefer additional leisure to additional current income and additional current consumption to additional future income. As work effort and investment decline, production will fall.” The higher the tax rates, the lower the relative price of leisure.” (Pg. 2) He asserts that by increasing the Social Security tax, policymakers reduced both job opportunities and the inclination to work. “It is hard to see how the Social Security system can be saved by decreasing employment…” (Pg. 7)

In Heilbroner’s paper, he contrasts his own view with the supply-side view, but states, “I shall make no attempt to compare the two positions point by point or to refute the supply-side view. No such attempt is possible because the two conceptions are so fundamentally different as to be beyond beyond comparison.” (Pg. 81) More to the point, he asks whether tax reductions and milder regulation will suffice to “turn the automobile industry around, to reinvigorate the steel industry, to strengthen the transportation system, to solve the energy problem, and the like.” (Pg. 86) He also criticizes the “entirely different criteria for waste in the public and private domains.”

A later essay critizes Laffer’s analysis of the effect of the Kennedy tax cuts, which “did not correct for any of the other factors that would have expanded the tax base at the same time, such as tariff cuts and the coming of age of the baby-boom generation.” (Pg. 227)

Lester Thurow argues that the demand for services is only a “problem” if we were “buying more services than we really want.” For example, medical insurance leads us to buy more health care than we would buy if every bill had to be paid in cash, “But who wants to go without health insurance?” (Pg. 361)

Regardless of one’s position in economics, this is a stimulating collection.

2. Foundations of Supply-Side Economics | By Arthur Laffer

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This book explores the origins of Arthur Laffer’s economic theories and how they became a part of mainstream economic policy. Utilizing interviews and archival material, Laffer’s life is traced from his early education through to his time working for the Nixon and Reagan administrations. Laffer’s influence on Reaganomics is discussed alongside the development of supply-side economics, the shift towards neoliberal policies, and the Laffer curve.

This book aims to contextualize the work of Laffer within archival research and wider economic trends. It will be relevant researchers and policymakers interested in the history of economic thought and the political economy.

3. Reaganomics | By Bruce Bartlett

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4. Supply-Side Follies | By Robert Atkinson

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Supply-Side Follies is a progressive political and economic challenge to the current George W. Bush policies. It debunks commonly held assumptions of conservative economic policies centered on the obsession that tax cuts led to greater productivity and prosperity. These fundamentally flawed policies are setting the United States up for a major economic downturn in the near future.

The 21st-century knowledge economy requires a fundamentally different approach to boosting growth than simply cutting taxes on the richest investors. The alternative is not, however, to resurrect old Keynesian, populist economics as too many Democrats hope to do. Rather, as Rob Atkinson makes clear, our long-term national welfare and prosperity depend on a new economic strategy that fits the realities of the 21st century global, knowledge-based economy: innovation-based growth economics.

5. The Supply-Side Revolution | By Paul Roberts

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Don’t buy this book if you just want to know the history of supply-side economics — it is so much more than that. If you want to know how economic policymaking REALLY happens inside the beltway (including even the most boring parts, the ugliest warts, and more!), this book gives it to you straight.

What will you learn from this book? How both good and bad economic policies are distorted by the media and propagandized by politicians. The bottom line — why DC politicians continue to produce economic failure after failure.

6. A Guide to Supply-Side Economics | By Thomas Hailstones

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7. Monetarism and Supply Side Economics | By Arjo Klamer

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Dr. Arjo KlamerMonetarism emerged in the 1960s under the leadership of Milton Friedman, who received the Nobel Prize in 1976. Friedman taught at the University of Chicago during this period, developing monetarism as a branch of Frank Knight’s famous “Chicago School” of economics. Monetarists emphasize the role of money and the government’s monetary policy in economic affairs; they vigorously defend the free market in their work.

Alan ReynoldsSupply-Side Economics, another modern branch of free-market economics, emphasizes the harmful role of impediments to production (such as taxes). Robert A. Mundell is often considered the father of this modern school of economic thought. Supply-side economics advocates government policies that would stimulate increased overall economic production, rather than to redistribute existing production.

8. Econoclasts | By Brian Domitrovic

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This is the perfect antidote to economics as taught by John Stewart, the New York Times, and the evening news. The conventional view of the 1980s, the Reagan years, is one of economic and social disaster — big deficits, forcing the mentally ill to live on the streets, coddling the rich at the expense of the poor. The truth, as you’ll learn from this entertainingly written and meticulously documented history, is quite different, and fascinating.

For at least the last hundred years, the U.S. has experienced cycles of prosperity alternating with economic debacle — usually about 25 years of the former and, fortunately, only ten years of the latter. Our (economically) worst presidents — Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and now Barack Obama — adhered to economic policies loosely described as Keynesian, which means deficit spending, ineffective stimulus packages, high taxes, crippling regulation, and currency manipulation that weakens the dollar. Our best presidents (again, economically) — Calvin Coolidge, John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan — chose the path of tax cuts, deregulation, and a strong dollar, either explicitly or effectively tied to gold.

In the 1970s the dollar lost 90% of its value and economists coined a new term, “stagflation,” to describe the coincidence of high inflation and high unemployment, which until that time were thought to be mutually exclusive. Fortunately for those of us building careers and raising families in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan listened to a group of iconoclasts that included (now) Nobel laureates Robert Mundell and F.A. Hayek, plus economist Art Laffer (the Laffer curve) and Robert Bartley, Wall Street Journal editorial page chief. (Seldom acknowledged is the fact that by Reagan’s third year, annual GDP growth and unemployment were both in the 6% range. Compare that with Obama’s third year.)

Especially interesting to me is the story of JFK’s double-barreled tax cuts that stimulated both the supply side (business) and the demand side (consumers), giving us the longest period of spectacular U.S. economic performance up to that time — 4%-plus GDP growth from 1962 to 1969.

9. New Supply Side Economics | By Lin Xiao

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This book investigates the basic theoretical framework and conducts a logical analysis of China’s new supply-side economics, while also providing a strategic path to remedy the plight of China’s economic development. From the perspective of connotation, theory, and methods, China’s structural reform differs both from that proposed by the Western supply-side school of supply-side economics, and from that proposed by structural economists. The theoretical basis of supply-side structural reform falls under socialist political economics with Chinese characteristics, and the new supply-side economics represent an important component of socialist political economics with Chinese characteristics.

10. Supply Side Economics | By Rosalind Levacic

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11. The Way the World Works | By Jude Wanniski

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Jude Wanniski’s masterpiece defined the policies at the heart of the Reagan economic boom that continues today and promises a coming century of global peace and prosperity. Writing with simplicity and liveliness uncommon to his subject, Wanniski offers a fresh general theory of the world’s political evolution that explains how and why economies fail and succeed, now and as far as we can imagine.

12. The Emergence of Arthur Laffer | By Brian Domitrovic

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This book explores the origins of Arthur Laffer’s economic theories and how they became a part of mainstream economic policy. Utilizing interviews and archival material, Laffer’s life is traced from his early education through to his time working for the Nixon and Reagan administrations. Laffer’s influence on Reaganomics is discussed alongside the development of supply-side economics, the shift towards neoliberal policies, and the Laffer curve.

This book aims to contextualize the work of Laffer within archival research and wider economic trends. It will be relevant researchers and policymakers interested in the history of economic thought and the political economy.

13. The New American Economy | By Bruce Bartlett

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As a domestic policy advisor to Ronald Reagan, Bruce Bartlett was one of the originators of Reaganomics, the supply-side economic theory that conservatives have clung to for decades. In The New American Economy, Bartlett goes back to the economic roots that made Impostor a bestseller and abandons the conservative dogma in favor of a policy strongly based on what’s worked in the past. Marshaling compelling history and economics, he explains how economic theories that may be perfectly valid at one moment in time under one set of circumstances tend to lose validity over time because they are misapplied under different circumstances. Bartlett makes a compelling, historically-based case for large tax increases, once anathema to him and his economic allies. In The New American Economy, Bartlett seeks to clarify a compelling and way forward for the American economy.

14. Viewpoints on Supply Side Economics | By Thomas Hailstones

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15. Trickle Down Theory and Tax Cuts for the Rich | By Thomas Sowell

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One of the great things about Tom Sowell is his ability to explain something so clearly that it seems not only obvious but baffling as to how or why other people do not understand it. In this short but very well-written essay, Sowell clearly and carefully articulates the difference between tax rates, i.e. the percentage of taxes that someone pays, and tax revenues, the amount of money actually received by the government through taxation. As Sowell correctly notes and backs up with data over several generations under four American presidencies, higher tax rates do not always lead to higher tax revenues.

The reason for this is simple: as rates increase, high-income individuals shift their income from highly taxed but capital-producing investments to lower taxed non-capital-producing investments. It is a lose-lose for everyone. Does not seem difficult, does it? But for many people, it is.

And Sowell is best here, as he often is when he shifts gears and explains, again with precision, exactly what prevents a large number of people from understanding this difference. Put simply: because the concept is so antithetical to their larger, overarching worldview, their ideological suppositions, that the obvious just confuses them when the obvious is inconsistent with that vision.

Indeed, Sowell provides example after example of proponents of higher tax rates misrepresenting not only ideas (such as the concept of trickle-down economics, which Sowell correctly notes is not an actual theory proposed by any supported of easing tax rates to increase revenue) but individuals as well. Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury in the 1920s, is a particular focal point.

Mellon argued strenuously, over and over, across a wide landscape of taxation, to lower tax rates to increase tax revenues, and specifically and explicitly made such arguments to ease the tax burden of the poorer and middle classes of society. Yet Sowell points to numerous public school textbooks that portray Mellon in the most defamatory light imaginable, stating with confidence that he tried to lower tax rates to help the rich, a group to which he belonged. Not only is this not true, but it is also literally the exact opposite of what Mellon argued and the exact opposite of why.

As Sowell points out, it is one thing for tenured eggheads to make a patently ignorant statements about history. They are in no danger of being directly affected by the loss of revenue to capital-creating ventures. The story is quite different, however, for those little people that they claim to care about so much. Those little people do pay the price when money goes to friendlier economic climates, an endeavor that gets easier and easier with instant communication and international trade. As is often the case, it is the working men and women who pay the price for the misguided vision of the elite.

16. Supply-Side Tax Policy | By Parthasarathi Shome

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This book contains 12 articles. It examines the relevance to developing countries of the tax policy recommendations of supply-side economists and attempts to delineate policy guidelines to ensure that fiscal management enhances rather than inhibits growth and efficiency in the wider economy.

17. Supply-Side Economics and Globalization | By Richard Trusick

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This book goes through the process of trying to define the present version of supply-side economics; what its social, political, and cultural effect is on society. I will try to find ground to grad its performance, what its parameters are, and who is behind the movement. The first thought one has when reading the title of this book is of politics and economics. This book examines not only the numbers that expose the system, but also the human nature of the leaders that make up the policy. The psychotic numbers attached will prove the “glutton” behavior. I will not attack one side or the other; rather, I will examine the present-day results dominated by the two-party systems. I will examine past events like child labor abuse in the first part of our century, racial inequality, even Vietnam to illustrate the illness behind our judgments of our history. Events such as the stock market crash will be used to quantify the behavior of the present. The catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, will the numbers to the policy and by attaching the past to the present, this book will make it easier to understand today and help predict tomorrow.

18. The Growth Experiment | By Lawrence Lindsey

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The first edition of The Growth Experiment, originally published in 1990 as a response to critics of the Reagan-era tax cuts, became a kind of bible for proponents of supply-side economics. This new and updated edition, which explores the economic effects of America’s tax policy over the last five presidential administrations, makes a bold and timely argument against the centerpiece of Obama’s economic policy — increasing taxes on the wealthy. Lawrence Lindsey provides a data-rich argument showing that because of changes in human behavior prompted by tax cuts, lowering taxes on the wealthy “costs” the treasury far less than most economists calculate and creates an economic boon to middle and lower-income earners. Sure to be controversial, The Growth Experiment Revisited is essential reading for anyone looking to understand the arguments at the heart of this most fractious of American policy debates.

19. From Basic Economics to Supply Side Economics | By Charles Stewart

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Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Supply-Side Economics

Supply-side economics is a theory of macroeconomics that argues for lowering taxes and decreasing regulation in order to increase the supply of goods and services, which in turn makes people more prosperous. The idea behind it is that when you lower taxes and cut regulations, businesses will spend more money on their enterprises, become more profitable, hire more workers, and make greater contributions to economic growth. This list explores the best books on supply-side economics. 

Happy reading!

Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.

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