I recently read an essay entitled The Law
by Frederic Bastiat. It's in the public domain so you should be able to find it for free or cheap somewhere. In fact it's even part of a collection of Bastiat's Essays on Political Economy
on Librivox.org if you prefer an Audiobook edition. The basic premise of the essay is to explain the purpose of governmentmental law. A few select quotes:
"If every person has the right to defend--even by force-- his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right--its reason for existing, its lawfulness--is based on individual right."
He explains an idea of how government sometimes is corrupted from its natural and rightful purpose to protect life, liberty, and property to denying those very things from some people using a system he calls Legal Plunder:
"When a portion of wealth is transferred from the person who owns it--without his consent and without compensation, and whether by force or by fraud--to anyone who does not own it, then I say that property is violated; that an act of plunder is committed...
"How is the legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime..."
It's a relatively short read (perhaps 50 pages?) compared to what I'd consider a "normal" length (novel-sized) book, as I suppose essays typically are. But I found the concepts in it enlightening I, for one, agreed with Bastiat.
Additionally I just read another related book entitled The Proper Role of Government
(which appears to also be released under the title The Proper Role & Improper Role of Government) by Ezra Taft Benson.
This one is even shorter than The Law; the edition I read was only 32 pages. In this pamphlet(?) Benson talks of the principles on which government should be formed, the basic function of government, the source of governmental power, the proper role and functions of government, things the government should not do, the basic error of Marxism, the real cause of American prosperity, as well as consequences for disregarding the principles, and suggestions on how to return to basic concepts and principles in government. Benson even quotes Bastiat's The Law a number of times throughout the book. A couple select quotes from the book:
"This means, then, that the proper function of government is limited only to those spheres of activity within which the individual citizen has the right to act. By deriving its just powers from the governed, government becomes primarily a mechanism for defense against bodily harm, theft and involuntary servitude. It cannot claim the power to redistribute the wealth or force reluctant citizens to perform acts of charity against their will. Government is created by man. No man possesses such power to delegate. The creature cannot exceed the creator."
"There is one simple test. Do I as an individual have a right to use force upon my neighbor to accomplish this goal? If I do have such a right, then I may delegate that power to my government to exercise on my behalf. If I do not have that right as an individual, then I cannot delegate it to government, and I cannot ask my government to perform the act for me."
And while I'm on the topic, I'm about to get started on The Five Thousand Year Leap
by W. Cleon Skousen. The Amazon page describes it as follows:
In The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World, Discover the 28 Principles of Freedom our Founding Fathers said must be understood and perpetuated by every people who desire peace, prosperity, and freedom. Learn how adherence to these beliefs during the past 200 years has brought about more progress than was made in the previous 5000 years. These 28 Principles include The Genius of Natural Law, Virtuous and Moral Leaders, Equal Rights--Not Equal Things, and Avoiding the Burden of Debt.