Friday, April 08, 2005

Economics in One Lesson

The Foundation for Economic Education has graciously made Henry Hazlitt's wonderful book available online. If you've never read it, you should. My treasured copy was a gift from Dr. Ikeda, one of my economics professors when getting my economics B.A. at SUNY Purchase. At the end of his "Business, Government and Society" class, he gave a copy of Bastiat's The Law to each student except me. He knew I had already read it, so he gave me a copy of Economics in One Lesson.

I once argued with a young Keynes-worshipper who stupidly derided Hazlitt: "Amaaazing. Oooh. So he took somebody else's ideas and applied them to Keynes. How powerfully intellectual." It's true that Economics in One Lesson owes much to Bastiat, which Hazlitt readily and gratefully acknowledged from the start:
The volume is therefore primarily one of exposition. It makes no claim to originality with regard to any of the chief ideas that it expounds. Rather its effort is to show that many of the ideas which now pass for brilliant innovations and advances are in fact mere revivals of ancient errors, and a further proof of the dictum that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.

...My greatest debt, with respect to the kind of expository framework on which the present argument is hung, is to Frédéric Bastiat's essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas, now nearly a century old. The present work may, in fact, be regarded as a modernization, extention and generalization of the approach found in Bastiat's pamphlet...
Does one accuse St. Paul of merely "applying" the principles of St. John? Of course not, and it's likewise a gross oversimplification to say Hazlitt did the same with Bastiat. That's why I don't think Hazlitt gave himself enough credit. He did offer much of his own original insight, if you read the book and his other writings, but he also helped us see the principles in modern terms.


Blogger Brad Warbiany said...

That reminds me... When I finish my move, I finally need to unpack the ridiculously heavy box of books I haven't opened in over two years and reread my copy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 3:13:00 AM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

But now you don't have to, it's online! Granted not the most aesthetically pleasing PDF, but it's still the book.

I wonder if FEE could OCR scan it, then export it in a "cleaner" PDF. They might have to acquire more rights to the book. Or maybe the rights they have prevent them from publishing it as a text-copyable PDF. I'll have to ask Dr. Ebeling about it, next time I go.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005 1:23:00 PM  

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