If you judge a book’s quality by how frequently you come back to it or think about it, Daniel Klein’s Knowledge and Coordination: A Liberal Interpretation is a very good book. I keep pulling it off the shelf for different things. This is a deep and provocative treatment of things economists usually take for granted: without entrepreneurs and the information-generating capacity of a profit and loss system, we can’t discover the economy’s underlying parameters (tastes and technological possibilities). Sometimes, this succeeds (Big Box retailers and warehouse clubs). Sometimes it fails (New Coke). Profits and losses help us figure out when people have sown wheat and when people have sown tares. I doubt that a People’s Ministry of Retailing and Distribution would have let someone like Sol Price–a San Diego lawyer who didn’t start adulthood looking to get into retail but who helped revolutionize the industry in the middle of the twentieth century–succeed. I sometimes wonder:

Here’s a discussion from when I got back into blogging and op-ed writing. Here’s the Google Books preview of Knowledge and Coordination. Volume 7 of Studies in Emergent Order contained a symposium to which I, Garret Jones, Deirdre McCloskey, and others contributed.