Monday, April 11, 2005

Economics in one lesson

Via Brad DeLong:

Tyler Cowen tells us that Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson is now online.

Brad goes on to offer a critique of Henry Hazlitt's work; his critique starts with "It's an excellent book to read if one already knows a significant amount of economics"; he then recounts all the conditions that must be satisfied for classical economics to work that are ignored by this book, and offers a tentative conclusion: "his book [is] very dangerous indeed to a beginner in economics". So, beware!

This seems to be Brad's season for recommending online books; in two earlier posts, he recommended Doug Henwood's Wall Street, and Milton Friedman's Roofs or Ceilings? The Current Housing Problem.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Tyler Cowen's coblogger Alex Tabarrok had a longish retort to Brad DeLong on their blog Marginal Revolution

    I've read Hazlitt (have a personal copy), studied economics at St. Xaviers and Bombay University and will have to respectfully disagree with Prof. DeLong.

  2. Abi said...


    Brad's main point is about Hazlitt's book being about "classical" economics, which ignores several conditions (Brad calls them "if's") that all economists agree are present in the real world. That is why he says it is not a good book for a beginner.

    The post by Tabarrok only debunks a rhetorical broadside by Brad (who accused Hazlitt of misrepresenting others' -- in particular, Keynes' -- views), and not his main point.

    I really liked this perspective offered by Colin Danby in comments on Brad's post:
    " There's a further irony that one of the people resonsible for defining "classical economics" as a doctrine was Keynes, and *he* did it in a somewhat strawman-ish, composite-making way, as numerous people at the time recognized. So we have Hazlitt busily putting Keynes' straw man back together in order to bash a straw version of Keynes."

    If true, this would explain why Hazlitt ignored all those "if's".

    See also Jeffrey Tucker's posts here and here.

  3. Bhagirath Baria said...

    Henry Hazlitt's book is only a bedtime book. To take it seriously means to get caught in the Libertarian fallacies. These books(written by Libertarians) seem very convincing at first sight, but subsequently its fallacies start appearing, very clearly.

    The Broken glass fallacy is itself a fallacy! It attempts to create an image as if Governments destroy only to re-create it! This viewpoint only reflects orthodox ideas in mind. Its a sort of rebuttal to the post WWII's effects.

    Time has advanced a lot. Our Economic ideas too should. That's what DeLong attempts to assert. Regards.