This Book Is So Me
by Walter Block
by Walter Block
Writing this introduction is a labor of love for me. You know how women sometimes say to each other "This dress is you!"? Well, this book is me! This was the first book on economics that just jumped out and grabbed me. I had read a few before, but they were boring. Very boring. Did I mention boring? In sharp contrast, Economics in One Lesson grabbed me by the neck and never ever let me go. I first read it in 1963. I don't know how many times I have reread it since then. Maybe, a half-dozen times in its entirety, and scores of times, partially, since I always use it whenever I teach introductory economics courses.
I am still amazed at its freshness. Although the first edition appeared in 1946, apart from a mere few words in it (for example, it holds up to ridicule the economic theories of Eleanor Roosevelt, about which more below) its chapter headings appear as if they were ripped from today's headlines. Unless I greatly miss my guess, this will still be true another 60 years from now, namely in 2068. Talk about a book for the ages. Other books on Austrian economics, too, are classics, and will be read as long as man is still interested in the subject. Mises's Human Action and Rothbard's Man, Economy, and State come to mind in this regard. But those are epic tomes, numbering in the hundreds of pages. This little book of Hazlitt's is merely an introduction, written, specifically, for the beginner. I wonder of how many introductions to a subject it can be truly said that they are classics? I would wager very, very few, if any at all.
There is nothing that pleases a teacher more than when that expression of understanding lights up a student's face. The cartoons depict this phenomenon in the form of a light bulb appearing right above the depiction of the character. Well, let me tell you: I have gotten more "ahas" out of introductory students who have read this book than from any other. I warrant that there have been more conversions to the free-market philosophy from this one economics book than, perhaps, from all others put together. It is just that stupendous.
The only thing I regret in this regard is that never again will I read this book for the first time. That, gentle reader, is a privilege I greatly envy you for having.
A word about style. The content, here, we can take for granted. But the number of economists who could really write can be counted upon one's fingers. Hazlitt is certainly one of them. His verbiage fairly leaps off the page, grabbing you by the neck. In fact, I now venture a very minor "criticism": the author of this book is so elegant a wordsmith that sometimes, rarely, I find myself so marveling at his presentation that I take my eye off the "ball" of the underlying economic message.
November 26, 2008
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable and the newly released Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective.
Copyright © 2008 Ludwig von Mises Institute