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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your Government Has No Idea How Bad A Mess It's Making
Henry Hazlitt has done the layman a huge favour in writing this book. Unfortunately, it is not only the layman who desperately needs this book. It is the world's politicians, the presidents of central banks, and those who control monetary policy who have severed their moorings with common sense and are now afloat on a raging sea of market fall-out and who don't...
Published on Feb. 16 2011 by D Glover

2.0 out of 5 stars Too simplistic
Although though we're (presumably) members of the same political choir, the author treats economics much too simplistically.
Calling this book a polemic on Keynesian economics would be accurate, calling it an economics treatise would be just plain wrong.
Time would be better spent reading Bastiat.
Published on March 30 2000

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reading and 80% Correct. But 20% Flawed., Oct. 10 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
This book is excellent reading and establishes most of the truths of economics - forces that are powerful and true. To that extent it covers 80% of economics.
Free markets are better. Resources are allocated better through markets. Government somtimes can be a corrupt force that disrupts the best allocation of resources. Most of the lessons in this book are true and especially relevant for the semi-socialist citizens of Europe. Free economics must be the basis of a strong economy.
But 20% of the important lessons of economics are left out. Pure free economics do not work 100% of the time, and this book gets a failing grade for omitting that fact.
Monopolists tend to take over in pure free market economies and destroy free economiic trade. Others operate in business ways that are harmful and unethical, like Enron. Free markets tend to quickly drift to disfunction unless there are rules of fail play enforced by the government. And the economy is not stable on its own.
Look at the Great Depression. Look at all the severe depression before that. Look at the history of world's economy, from the Potato Famine to the Panic and economic collapse following the Civil War. Say's law - that the economy would always correct itself - was proven incorrect. It needs help.
Just look at the liquidity trap that Japan is in.
Government is needed to slightly tame the economic cycle and provide services (that benefit the overall value of the economy) that the economy would never provide on its own, like transportation, access to education for all, safety regulation, urban planning, etc. Indeed, there has not been enough government in some areas. The free marker will not provide everything.
The fact of the matter is that the free market works 80% of the time, and the government should play the role of the referee to ensure that the economy handles the other 20% that otherwise would fail by pure free economics.
If you take this book to its logical conclusion, then the GI Bill after World War II, Social Security, Medicare, child labor laws, safety laws, Public Education, and Transportation spending would have destroyed this country.
Take a look at what America was like 100 years ago for most people and see if you like the living and working conditions for the average person. You will not. Now look at our world today, which was built through some basic government regulations.
America now has had a broad middle class and the best economy in world history, instead of the old super rich controlling everything, with the rest of us in unsafe cities working long hours for poor wages, or on farms barely making a living.
This book is excellent reading. Just be aware that it ignores 20% of economics where the economy will not work perfect all by itself.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Book for the Simple Man, Oct. 22 2003
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
I am not a giant fan of Hazlitt's works, however I will say that EIOL is very simply and succinctly written. However his criticism of the unnamed "brilliant economists"(p. 28)- read: Keynes-is certainly baseless and an attempt to debase another economist's (though I struggle to put Hazlitt in such a class) work for the reason that their works are difficult to read is quite contemptible. Are the works of Shakespeare less valuable, less brilliant because they are not easily interpreted by the average man? I think not, and it is from whence which we are lead to the largest, if not only, redeeming quality of EIOL: it is easy to read. A simple book by and for the simple man. True economics is fare more complicated that Hazlitt would have the reader believe, and despite what others might say, is fairly math intensive. However, I digress...
EIOL, as such, a fallacious title, begins with what is a brief comment on economic theory and policy. However, as he sums up his point by saying that "The art of economics consists of looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists of tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group, but for all groups."(p. 17) All right folks, that's it. There is your one lesson. Go forth and spread the word. Those who are not versed in the study of economics I'm sure may arrive at the conclusion that this is something new, somehow ground breaking. However to anybody who is well-read in economics, to those who are a student of this subject, this seems to be, and is, nothing more than a pointing out of the obvious. Thanks for letting us know though, Henry. I thought all that stuff about the long run, short run, micro and macro economics was all fiction. Glad he told us.
One could write an entire book refuting that which Hazlitt postulates, pointing out the errors, miscues, and theory which Hazlitt left out. I'm sure it was a mistake. Really. I am. I will note a few lines here, adding to that which has already been said by like-minded reviewers.
Hazlitt ultimately ignores aggregate demand in chapters 2 & 3. Did he not say that we were supposed to be examining this with the perspective of "all groups" in mind? Furthermore, he attempts to use chapter 2, an examination into microeconomics, and apply it to aggregates and macroeconomic situations. Economists have long learned that this is not feasible. In the broken window example Hazlitt has us assume, only for the
reason, we can suspect, to illustrate his point, that the Baker in question will spend the $250 on a suit. However, what fails to mention is that the possibility of savings exists. Had the Baker been planning to save the money, Hazlitt would struggle to make his point.
In chapter 3, Hazlitt again ignores aggregate demand, but also the consumption function, and goes on to assume full employment, which is again, a special case which cannot be applied to the whole. In a number of instances he contradicts himself, though this is not limited to chapter 3. It would be a waste of time here to list all of them, however, consider the following: if the destruction of a building is a harm to all of those in a community (p. 28), and no demand is created, and more importantly, lost, where then is the harm? If my $250 which I would have spent a spent on a suit now goes to repairing my house, how then does the demand of the community suffer? Again on 28, when examining the farmer, can his demand not be greater, or less, than the available quantity of wheat he is able to supply? Could the demand on wheat not be less or greater than that which the farmer is able to supply? But we are supposed to believe that supply is equal to demand? I think not. On the subject of contradictions, returning to Lesson 1 for a second, Hazlitt criticizes the "terms of abuse" (p. 19), but uses the term "new economics", as his favorite whipping boy, falling into the same trap with which he assumes he has ensnared Keynesian economists. He blindly rejects all of Keynesian, or "new economic" theory, not crediting its merits or following reasoning. For shame, Henry. For shame.
Students of economics do not read this book because it holds little value...except perhaps in showing how to present a poor argument. Hazlitt is guilty of employing reactionary "reasoning" to that of Keynesian theory, as noted by the multiple insults and jabs at Keynes and his followers, though he oft fails call them as such. This book makes some interesting, bordering on valid, points at times, however the degree to which it fails far outweighs the benefits. Readers of this book who are not economics students should not that this is certainly note the end-all and be-all of economic works or theory, and that every work on economics will be flawed to some degree. Economics students who reject Keynesian theory, read "The Failure of the New Economics: An Analysis of the Keynsian Fallacies" by Hazlitt. You need to read it with The General Theory though.
In closing, somebody suggested putting this book in your bathroom. I'd suggest that too, though I suspect our reasoning behind doing so might be different.
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars There you go again....., June 4 2004
DWillis "DWillis" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
Mr. Byers "refutation" of my earlier critique is as flawed as Hazlitt's original argument. Hazlitt was discussing "society" in this case as a single nation-state. To use a hypothetical example, let's say Country A has a privately owned factory. Country B attacks Country A with an act of war, and the factory is destroyed.
The owner of the factory rebuilds a newer one, which turns out to be more profitable than the old one. (Further assume that had he borne the costs of tearing down the original factory himself, those costs would have eroded the increase in profits, and he would not have built the new plant.)
Since the costs of destroying the plant were borne in this case by Country B, then both the factory owner AND country A are more productive as a result of the destruction. Yet the factory owner would have not have undertaken the destruction on his own. Hazlitt's claim is that this could not be true.
Hopefully this is just "sloppy thinking, not legerdemain" on Mr. Byers part. I will give the benefit of the doubt that Mr. Byers may believe that Hazlitt was referring to the entire world economy in using the term "society," but this is untenable. The rest of Hazlitt's book analyzes economic decisions in terms of the effects on one country - and argues that economic decisions should be left to private parties, not the government. It is unrealistic to believe that in this one case he instead turns his attention to the entire global economy in making his argument.
And yet it doesn't matter - let's assume that in this one case Hazlitt WAS talking about the entirety of the global economy. We can still refute him by introducing a negative externality - let's say pollution. Assume the same basic scenario as before. Profits for owner = 1000, but now let's assume costs associated with pollution of 1200, all borne by property owners in and around the factory, not by the owner himself. Society loses 200 on net.
A new, cleaner factory could be built that would deliver profits of 800, and with no pollution. Destroying the plant would be profitable for society as a whole (net gain of 1000), but not for the owner (net loss of 200).
And lest anyone think this is ivory tower economics, the above scenario describes very well the actual operating conditions of many energy plants in the United States today. Sorry Mr. Byers, the critique holds.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Right-libertarian views presented as fact, July 13 2000
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
The problem I have with Hazlitt's economics primer is that much of the information he presents as fact is nothing but right-libertarian ideology.
Hazlitt attempts to "explode liberal myths" by taking out of context the social advances America has made in the last 70 years. The author believes that unchecked corporate power will liberate the economy and, therefore, humanity.
Hazlitt is obviously a corporate apologists who refuses to scrutinize the "successes" of liberalized trade policies throughout the world. A look at any number of third world countries will reveal the true outcome of relinquishing government and social controls of the economy.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read this if You're Stupid and wish to be Fanatically Stupid, May 13 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
Very Stupid. Once you enslave your mind to a blind, fantasy-based, utopian distortion of capitalist society, which has nothing to do with the actual functioning of that system on any level, at anytime whatsoever (and the top beneficiaries wouldn't have it any other way - no matter what this economic-libertarian garbage espouse), this is what comes out of your pencil. Read this book, turn off the real world, and turn on to a reactionary and libertarian-utopian rehash of greed, plunder, pillage and plutocracy WORSHIP touted as "common sense."
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rush Limbaugh would love this one, Jan. 13 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
If you're a right-wing fanatic, you'll love this book. It's all about affirming selfishness and how the rights of big business are much more important than the rights of the individual. Additionally some of his arguments are VERY flawed. For example, he says that there can never really be a trade deficit because American dollars can only be exchanged for American exports. Well Henry, that's not quite true as we learned from the Japanese. American dollars also work quite nicely for buying American real estate and American businesses. It turns out you can do more with a dollar than buy exports.
The author also argues that you can not make money by giving away your products, but you can. All you have to do is force your competition out of business by giving away your product until you establish a monopoly. Then you can charge whatever you like. For all his rhetoric about not being short-sighted, he sure mucks it up himself.
Although the author has the occasional valid point, most of his arguments are extremely pro-corporation and anti-labor. But hey, it makes a great gift for your favorite reactionary.
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