Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
you want to know where American free-marketeers learned economics,
take a look at Economics
in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. A brilliant and pithy work
first published in 1946, it is the best introduction to the economic
way of thinking, and the most popular economics text ever written.
Unlike any book by Keynes or Marx, college students all across America
(and the world) still use it and learn from it.
Hazlitt, born on November 28, 1894, died on July 8 at the age of
98. In his final years, he expressed surprise that this book had
become his most enduring contribution. He wrote it to expose the
popular fallacies of its day. He did not know that those fallacies
would be government policy for the next 50 years.
wanted to be remembered for his other contributions. His lifetime
bibliography (Mises Institute, 1993) has more than 6, 000 entries.
a teenager, Hazlitt started his career at the Wall Street Journal,
and he wrote his first book, Thinking
as a Science, at the age of 21. A few years later, his book-length
attack on psychoanalysis was published at the height of Freud's
popularity in America.
the late 1920s, Hazlitt's reputation as a writer and thinker had
grown, thanks also to his reviews and essays in the New York
Sun. Editors of The Nation noticed and hired him as literary
editor. He wrote about literature as a springboard to his own rich
observations on philosophy, culture, history, economics, and politics.
He even penned an early refutation of literary deconstructionism
called The Anatomy of Criticism (1933).
Hazlitt never changed much during his long life, as his first signed
article in The Nation ("Old-time Government Control") shows.
And when the Great Depression hit, and the New Deal brought state
planning to national economic life, Hazlitt used his literary fame
and post at The Nation to attack Roosevelt's regimentation.
Unfortunately, the magazine shifted to a pro-New-Deal position,
and his firm adherence to principle led to his ouster. (See p. 2.)
Mencken had also noticed his talent ("one of the few economists
in human history who could really write," Mencken said), and made
him his successor at the American Mercury, a position Hazlitt
held for nearly two years until he decided to go back into newspaper
those days, even the New York Times was not so partisan that
it would keep out a great writer. So the paper hired Hazlitt to
write editorials, which he did from 1934 to 1946. He also met Ludwig
von Mises, whose work Hazlitt had admired. Hazlitt and Mises became
fast friends, and Mises thrilled to Hazlitt's blasts against price
controls, union power, government spending, inflationary monetary
policies, and regulation. Most important, he took on Keynes's plans
to reconstruct the monetary system after the war, and his prediction
of world-wide inflation came true.
The Times, however, was moving to the Left, and endorsed
the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Again, Hazlitt
was squeezed out. But he landed a job with Newsweek magazine,
and his weekly "Business Tides" column was enduringly popular.
at Newsweek, Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson,
which has sold more than one million copies and is available in
ten languages. Hazlitt argued that government intervention focuses
on the consequences that are seen, and ignores those that are not.
These include wealth not created and even destroyed by regulation,
inflation, and taxation.