Economics á la Hazlitt

Cindy is hosting a book group for folks who are interested in learning more about economics.  We’re reading through Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt, a short book available to read online.  Dana found this t-shirt with the key quote of the book. 

What a delicious time to read this little book! Presidential elections, tax season – it’s the perfect context! 

I’m going to do a little Economics for Dummies version.  Here’s my distillation of this week’s reading. 

~ Think beyond today, beyond next month, beyond next year.

~ Consider the invisible blanks (my word, not his): what doesn’t or can’t happen because of a particular economic decision.

~ need ≠ demand

~ Demand = need + purchasing power

~ Everything must be paid for.  My mom used to say, “Nothing is free in this world, except salvation.”

~ Inflation = a vicious form of taxation

~ All credit (as in credit card, store credit, credit line) = debt 

We ought to change the way we speak, giving names which are more accurate: debt card, debt line, etc. 

The Broken Window chapter was especially interesting to me: a gust of wind blew out a 10′ x 6′ window at the pharmacy where I work.  I read the chapter with my own broken window in mind.

I learned something:

~ dipsomaniac: insatiable craving for alcoholic beverages

~ Claude Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850)  an French economist whose major contribution was the admonition to take into account “the full picture”.    Oh, what a find!  My journal is filling up with quotes from this man! 

Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.

His Candlemaker’s Petition is a hoot!  In this satire the candlemaker’s petition for trade protection from the unfair competition of the sun.  You can listen to it here.

~ Norris Dam  referenced by Hazlitt as an example of a government project

This interview with Henry Hazlitt was helpful. He was an autodidact!

“Anyway, I picked up my economics, not by taking any course in it, but by reading economics books.”  

Interviewer:   But wasn’t Keynes a very brilliant man?

Hazlitt:   A very brilliant man, indeed, a very brilliant writer, a very witty writer. But being a brilliant writer was confused with being a brilliant economist.  He wasn’t. We should never confuse wit with profundity.

10 thoughts on “Economics á la Hazlitt

  1. How funny — I just copied the same sentence to comment on as Laura did! Maybe because as a teacher of high school students, I see how often they especially fall into this trap.

  2. Wow!! What a fantastic job you have done researching and pulling this all together in a readable post.  It takes time to find all those links.
    So VERY glad you’re chiming in 🙂

  3. I am finding this kind of book study to be more and more helpful. It is especially wonderful for retention as I read through each contribution. Great background information and I am on my way over to listen to The Candlemaker’s Petition.

  4. Ruthie, you never fail to make me laugh!  I don’t have cabin fever.  Today is the first day I can stay home ALL day since Christmas, which is a huge delight, especially with a semi-blizzard blowing outside. I’m delighting in good music, reading the Declaration of Independence aloud with my son, basking in the glow of the woodstove, thinking about finishing my Christmas cards (ahem), even contemplating setting up the ironing board, I’m feeling that good!However, I don’t have a great mind either. The topics are strange bed-fellows, but that’s just what has come down the pike this week in my life. I have no idea what tomorrow has in store!Blessings, my friend,Carol

  5. Aha!  You just proved you have a great mind by being open to new/varied experiences enough to learn from them!
    Aha, aha!  You just proved that you are a great homemaker as well, by reading aloud to your offspring and enjoying being home and moving toward ironing- feminists, beware!

  6. All this an a wonderful bread maker as well. Carol you amaze me! I still want to call you Dr. Carol. 
    I like the need doesn’t equal demand bit. I was meditating on the simplicity of what daily bread looks like this morning. love you!

Comments are cinnamon on my oatmeal!

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