The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. – The One Lesson, from Economics in One Lesson.
Early Life and Career
Henry Stuart Hazlitt was born 119 years ago today, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Growing up in relative poverty, he gave up early ambitions of being an academic to support his widowed mother. As a teenager, he worked as secretary to the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, and it was during this time that he developed an interest in economics.
He edited and wrote for several influential newspapers and magazines, including the The Nation, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The Freeman. Chosen to succeed H.L. Mencken as editor of The American Mercury, the great man said of Hazlitt that he “is one of the few economists in human history who could really write”. His review of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom caused Reader’s Digest to publish the famous condensed version, thereby introducing it to a vast audience.
10 Million Words!
Hazlitt published his first book at the age of 21, Thinking as a Science, and over the course of his life wrote and edited several more over a range of subjects, some of the most famous being: The Failure of the New Economics, The Critics of Keynesian Economics, The Foundations of Morality, and most famously, Economics in One Lesson.
Hazlitt estimated at his 70th birthday, that he had been writing for 50 years, and had published 12 books by this time: ”practically every weekday news items, editorials, columns, articles…in total some 10,000 editorials, articles, and columns; some 10,000,000 words! And in print! The verbal equivalent of 150 average-length books.”
Economics in One Lesson
Henry Hazlitt’s explanation of how a price system works is a true classic: timeless, correct, painlessly instructive. – Milton Friedman
Based on Frédéric Bastiat’s essay – What is Seen and What is Not Seen, it deeply influenced important figures of the next generation of freedom fighters such as Thomas Sowell, Murray Rothbard, Ron Paul, and Milton Friedman.
My personal experience with Hazlitt came while reading his classic, and I was mesmerised. I had spent the first 22 years of my life avoiding economics, thanks to the dull and bulky textbooks at school and college. Reading him helped me understand that to be an economist, what I needed was not a degree in the subject, but an education. It inspired me to read more, to think critically, be articulate, and above all gave me the courage to not compromise on my principles.
Henry Hazlitt fought tirelessly for the principles of a free society till his death in 1993 – he was 98 at the time. He inspired and educated millions, and continues to do so. Reflecting on the state of the world on his 70th birthday, he was saddened by what he saw around him, but he was optimistic and looked forward to the fight ahead:
The times call for courage. The times call for hard work. But if the demands are high, it is because the stakes are even higher. They are nothing less than the future of liberty, which means the future of civilization.
Happy Birthday Henry Hazlitt!