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3 of 3 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

versus
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Fatally flawed, but a useful guide to free market fallacies, Oct. 21 2003
By 
DWillis "DWillis" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics (Paperback)
OK - no "ad hominems" here. One bitter reviewer mentions that many of the "one star" reviewers don't discuss content. But several do. And many of the "five star" reviewers don't discuss content either. So let's stick to the issue - is this a "good" book?
Two major positives for Hazlitt: First, he writes well. His prose is usually easy to understand, and he takes pains to create simple models and analogies for the reader. Second, he elucidates most of the arguments put forth by "free market" apologists, so if you want to know how these people think, this is a great place to get started.
The negatives...ah, where to begin?
1.) The simplicity of his models and analogies is of course the greatest flaw. The real world is never as simple as Hazlitt suggests it is. Even the classic (and flawed) broken window analogy is a dramatic oversimplification. And even the most extreme positions that he takes are flawed. FOr example, at one point, Hazlitt mentions that if it were productive for a society to have its factories destroyed by war, then all factory owners would destroy their factories. But this is not so. In the real world, there are costs to tear down plants - and these are generally borne by the factory owners. If those same plants were destroyed by external forces, those costs are borne by others. We'll use a simple analogy to stay on Hazlitt's level. Suppose a man owns a factory that produces net present value profits of $1000. Suppose that he could build a new factory that would earn NPV profits of $1200 on the same land. But the costs for tearing down the old factory would be $300. He won't do it. But if the factory were destroyed by external forces, then he no longer has to pay the $300. Now, he will build the new factory. Those costs to destroy the factory may in fact be borne by others, but that is irrelevant to the point. Hazlitt ignores the costs associated with tearing down the plant altogether, and therefore reaches an erroneous conclusion. And so it goes.

2.) As another reviewer notes, Hazlitt also conveniently ignores all of the following: externalities, public goods, frictions in labor markets, game theory (especially relevant in discussing tariff policy), monopolies and oligopolies, etc. In short, his reasoning is completely circular: if you assume away all of the real world complications that gave rise to various regulations and welfare policies, then OF COURSE you are going to conclude that those regulations and policies are unnecessary and destructive. Rather than being used for economics 101, Hazlitt's book should taught as a primer in logic 101 - he makes all of the classic mistakes.
3.) Hazlitt does not deal at all with the horribly destructive economic beast that is the modern corporation. Kudos to the one pro-Hazlitt reviewer that pointed this out (and see his review for more detail). But the point for readers to understand is that Hazlitt, by wanting to end all government intervention,implicitly gives even more power to the corporations. This is not Adam Smith's small-farmer, local-shop-owner economics. Multi-national corporate economics is a far different game, requiring a far different set of rules.
There are other problems as well. Read Hazlitt for a thorough grounding in the fallacies of the libertarians, think through his arguments for yourself and you'll soon find yourself refuting almost every conclusion that he reaches. Then you'll be well poised to do battle with your closest misguided Republican friends, not to mention the truly bizarre followers of Ayn Rand.
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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
By 
DWillis "DWillis" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
Ce commentaire est de: 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 Read this if You're Stupid and wish to be Fanatically Stupid, May 13 2001
By A Customer
Ce commentaire est de: 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 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Right-libertarian views presented as fact, July 13 2000
Ce commentaire est de: 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 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
Ce commentaire est de: 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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