I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in high school, and just re-read it for the fourth time.  It may sound like an eccentric choice, but I’m thinking of starting a new EconLog book club on this work.  AMX is packed with grist for the Big Think social science mill, including:

  • Great accounts of labor markets in the 30s and 40s.
  • The economics of poverty before the modern welfare state.
  • The economics of crime back when the war on drugs was more of a scuffle.
  • The single best story about education as a merit good I’ve ever heard.
  • The economics of taste-based and statistical discrimination.
  • Poverty dynamics, including how to reduce poverty by reducing pathological behavior.
  • The behavioral economics of religion.
  • Markets, greed, politics, and hatred.
  • Discrimination dynamics. 
  • Decolonization: early hopes versus current outcomes.

The book is also extremely well-written and engaging, making #13 on Time‘s list of the All-Time Best Non-Fiction Books.

The main problem with past book clubs, at least for me, was that they dragged on too long.  My remedy is to sharply reduce the number of segments.  Proposed breakdown:

Segment #1: Malcolm’s Childhood and Entry-Level Jobs (Chapters 1-5)

Segment #2: Malcolm’s Life of Crime (Chapters 6-10)

Segment #3: Malcolm and the Nation of Islam (Chapters 11-15)

Segment #4: Malcolm’s Purge, Second Thoughts, and Murder (Chapters 16-19, plus Haley’s Epilogue)

That’s my proposal.  I’ll probably write the first post around August 20, and run subsequent post every two weeks.  Is there demand?

P.S. Used copies of the book are about $4.

Update: Since there is sufficient demand, the Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Club is on.  It’s on!