Review: Learning ‘Economics in One Lesson’ with Henry Hazlitt

For those uninitiated in economics, a sycophant may surmise that reading a book on the subject would consist of mammoth words, tiny font, intricate terms and complex formulas. This may be true at a university or college course, but when reading for enjoyment and to obtain an actual education, studying Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” gives a different perception on the field.

Considered to be Hazlitt’s magnum opus, “Economics in One Lesson” contradicts everything that mainstream media outlets, Keynesian economists, CNBC analysts and left-leaning professors have taught for the last few decades. No, war is not good for the economy, printing vast amounts of money will not stimulate economic growth, minimum wage laws do not generate jobs, credit actually diverts production, unions are not helping wages and government intervention into our lives will not spur morality.

It may be a bold statement, but this near 200-page book can provide a lot more important points of information than a four-year university degree can. Instead of being indoctrinated with the idea that without government intrusion capitalism would not exist, the reader is taught that government oversteps its boundaries and corrupts capitalism.

Since the economic collapse of 2007 and 2008, the American people have been intrigued by economics and have been studying the various thoughts. Although it may appear that the general public is Keynesian, this is only so because not a lot of individuals are exposed to the realm of Austrian economics and its theorists: Hazlitt, Ludwig von Mises, Murray N. Rothbard and the like.

Hazlitt reiterates many of the famous libertarian premises: the broken window fallacy, a recession becomes a depression when the government intervenes, savings creates growth and taxation deters production. The author also opines that every government act or policy must be analyzed in the long-term rather than in the short-term, which usually benefits the politicians.

“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: ‘In the long run we are all dead,’” writes Hazlitt. “And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.”

“Economics in One Lesson,” as well as many other books from the Austrian side, espouses the notion that the anointed in our society do not receive any sort of punishment for their failed concepts and measures. In fact, the only ones that get penalized are the ones that have to live with the intellects’ endorsed policies.

The book was first published in 1946 and the thoughts, proposals and statements still remain true to this day. “Economics in One Lesson” contradicts the premise that government spending is the panacea to all of our economic ailments. This widespread belief is immediately shot down with facts that are the antithesis to the Keynesian doctrine.

Indeed, Hazlitt’s writing makes it seem that the situation in the United States and other developed nations are hopeless and the people will languish in perpetuity. After turning the final page, it would appear to be that the American people will have to just deal with government incompetence, a spoiled bunch of intellects, failed policies and Paul Krugman.

As a matter of fact, the book gives the reader with some glimmers of optimism. Since the American people are exceptional and have it in their blood to be wary of government, a book like “Economics in One Lesson” will inspire generations to come to pontificate economic freedom, personal liberty and a society free from the shackles of government’s decadence, dishonesty and uselessness.

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