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on 7 June 2006
This writing in this book is straightforward yet beautifully elegant. The author examines over twenty commonly held economic assumptions. In doing so, he exposes what he considers to be faulty thinking and widely assumed fallacies.

This book is written from a classical liberal standpoint. Each `fallacy' is considered in a discrete chapter. Each chapter is in itself a separate little essay. Each little essay builds upon the previous one in explaining a little more of the theories that underpin economic thoughts.

More than anything else, this book attempts to demonstrate that the art of economics is considering not just what is seen in any transaction, but also what is unseen. Often, it explains that a policy designed to achieve a desirable X will have the unintended consequence of creating an undesirable Y which is worse than the original problem that was to be solved.

For instance, if a shop window is broken it must be replaced. It will create employment for the glazier. Many will think this makes the economy richer. However, the shopkeeper may have been planning a different purchase, such as a car or a computer. The shopkeeper will have to purchase a new window. He may no longer be able to afford the computer. So at the end, the shopkeeper is poorer than before - he has only one window whereas he would have had one window and one computer.

This analysis is then applied to the state as a whole. Hazlitt points out what are the immediately visible results of any action. He then attempts to demonstrate what are the invisible consequences. His conclusion is that too often, we do not see the invisible consequences of our or our government's actions.

This is a very accessible work. It is inviting in its style and flattering in its treatment of the reader. The book does not seek to instruct in complicated economic theories. Instead, it lays out the simple underpinnings of the liberal market analysis and attempts to highlight the immediate shortcomings of rival positions. It is a book that is a pleasure to read.
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on 15 November 2009
The authors who understand the subject really well are able to explain it in simple and easy to understand language. This is what I feel that this book is all about. The author explains the economy in one lesson: policies should take into consideration the long-term consequences as well as short-term, and they should consider the effects on all groups, not just few. Wow, so simple, but unfortunately this is not how our policy makers think.

I think that high school students should read this book before they enroll in economic courses that bore them to death with all the graphs and mathematical calculations. I really appreciate that this book is simple but to the point - even junior high school students would understand it. I highly recommend it.

- Mariusz Skonieczny, author of Why Are We So Clueless about the Stock Market? Learn how to invest your money, how to pick stocks, and how to make money in the stock market
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on 10 September 2011
If you wanted a crash course in Economic theory, you could do far worse than read Henry Hazlitt's `economics in one lesson'. The writing is an easy style that requires no previous training in economics, it is divided in to easily digested chapters covering a particular economic fallacy and correction, with each following chapter building upon its' predecessor.
This is very much from the Austrian economics branch, with a certain theme of more liberty and less Government being a key concept, but unlike say Paul Krugman, Hazlitt does not come down heavy on the politics, preferring empiricism over political ideologies. Hazlitt is able to succinctly tell us why things are the way they are, rather than the tired `if the world were a fair place' brand of left thinking economists.
A key ingredient in this book is in training the layman to think the way a good economist would think about things. For example while most people will applaud Governments that create jobs for people to get them off the dole queue, Hazlitt asks us to look beyond the obvious to the domino effect that Governments creating unnecessary jobs are doing. In this case if the Government creates a job that could or is being provided by the private sector, for each job created and paid for by taxpayers' money, someone in the private sector is no longer filling that job role. If they are no longer employed they are on the dole queue and not contributing to the false job recently created by central Government and over the long term this is entirely infeasible, costly and unproductive waste of tax payers cash. There are many more examples littered throughout the book that make you think differently to the norm, it makes you think like an economist, or at least a good economist.
No mathematical equations or graphs make this book easy on the eye as you are not stumbling at each chapter's new interpretation of how maths can help in economics. Hazlitt instead uses hidden mathematics, in the form of logical arguments, designed to highlight the truth stripped bare of advanced maths and technical jargon. This was a large part of the books appeal for myself as even though I read many popular economics books in my spare time, the study of academic economics escapes me via my lack of a mathematical degree, though that doesn't stop many people, this makes the perfect book for the economic hobbyist, writer or commentator, as it covers the groundwork with great precision and gives enough to get by in any debate between friends over dinner.
Even though this was originally written in 1946, over sixty years ago, the advice Hazlitt imparts seems timeless. If we could make every politician read and absorb this book, we would get more interesting debates and chances are a more positive outlook for Britain. Unfortunately because it is not biased by political agendas, chances are it would be ignored by all parties, which is a shame.
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on 3 November 2013
First published in 1946, Hazlitt's slim volume is an all-out attack on Keynesian macroeconomic theory in general and President Franklin D Roosevelt's 'New Deal' interventionist policies in particular. In essence his 'one lesson' has two strands:

* Politicians and economists should consider the long term effects of an act or proposal rather than just the immediate effects.

* Politicians and economists should consider the effects of an act or proposal on all sectors of society rather than just on the particular group(s) that the act or proposal is designed to assist.

Hazlitt's thesis is that state intervention in any particular sector of the economy - to protect its viability, to protect it from foreign competition, to reduce unemployment etc. - is almost always wrong-headed and damaging to the economy as a whole. He accepts that a certain amount of government spending (and therefore taxation) is necessary to perform essential government functions (the legislature and the judiciary; defence, police, fire, coast guard and other emergency services; and a certain amount of public works, including some communication infrastructure); but he is adamantly opposed to a bloated, free-spending public sector.

It is self-evident that the private sector is the one that creates wealth (which Hazlitt measures in terms of goods and services created and not in terms of money) and that the public sector merely consumes wealth; ergo, the larger the public sector and public spending, the poorer the country as a whole.

Hazlitt discusses a range of `economic fallacies' to attack a variety of economic policies that are applied from time to time, or persistently, almost universally. So, he argues, the wealth created by government spending will never compensate for the wealth destroyed by the taxes imposed to pay for that spending; government credit (grants, subsidies or low-cost loans) to aid specific industries diverts production and distorts markets; new technologies (often decried as causing mass unemployment) should be welcomed as creating extra profits - extra wealth - that will ultimately create new employment; spread-the-work schemes, tariffs and quotas, 'price stabilisation' and `price fixing' policies, rent controls, minimum wage laws, restrictive practices by trade unions, artificially low interest rates, over-generous welfare programmes; public housing schemes - all are systematically deconstructed to show the evils they cause in terms of wealth destruction and price inflation.

Hazlitt's book is clearly written in laymen's terms. It is objective and impartial, though complex economic problems are sometimes over-simplified. It is a highly readable, interesting book with, perhaps, a fatal flaw: it lacks any sort of compassion for the human miseries that are caused by economic recession or depression which, of course, FDR's New Deal programmes sought to alleviate. Many - most? - people nowadays demand a level of interventionist social spending by government. Hazlitt's work simply spells out the irrefutable consequences of such policies, simple truths that are simply ignored by politicians who just want to get re-elected.
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on 30 July 2012
This is a very readable book, written without jargon. Mr Hazlitt argues against some popular beliefs about the benefit of government interventions (e.g. public spending, price-fixing, credit guarantees, export-subsidies, import-tariffs) as means of job-creation or job-protection. He considers the unseen people who pay for the interventions. The unseen people pay directly e.g. via taxes or higher prices, and indirectly by not getting what the money would otherwise have been spent on, and by having fewer choices. The interventions appear to work because their targeted, immediate beneficiaries do benefit in the short term. But the community as a whole is worse off in the long term. The long term cannot be flippantly dismissed because we are all now living in what was once someone else's long term.

Mr Hazlitt accepts that economics is "hounded by fallacies" because of the "special pleading of selfish interests". Despite the abuse flung around by their spokespeople, these selfish interests cannot be isolated as pariah groups, because "each one of us has a multiple economic personality". We are both producer and consumer and tax payer. But even if your personalities have already settled on a view, then this book will help you. If you like big government it will give you a clear target to aim at. If you like small government, it will help you state your case.

The book was first published in 1946 at the start of an exponential rise in population and consumption. It does not address current issues like pollution, which, ironically, is something else that affects those who aren't immediate beneficiaries of a transaction. The 1946 edition is online at [...]

If you like this book, you may also like "Attacking faulty reasoning" and "The Richest Man in Babylon".
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on 24 March 2009
For most of my life I have paid little attention to theoretical economics and I suspect this is true for most people. However the current disastrous financial dilemmas awoke my interest. I quickly came across the Austrian school of economists and Hazlitt can be classed with them. The writing here is succinct and non technical and full of common sense, a quality missing from almost all economists and politicians.

The economic theory advanced here is illustrative of a persuasive broader philosophy which argues against the interference of the state in our daily lives. I suggest that if this book is to your taste you explore his other works which (in the absence of availability on Amazon) can be obtained at the Ludwig Von Mises Institute in America with the other Austrian school writers.
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on 26 December 2014
In the field of economics writing, it is surely difficult to write a paragraph – let alone an entire book - that can’t be reasonably subject to lengthy argument and criticism. Hazlitt – intentionally or not – presents his writing as somewhat beyond this, by framing himself as a no-nonsense, straight-talking debunker of existing paradigms. I feel this style probably catches a great number of people off-guard to the extent that they might miss flaws in Hazlitt’s own arguments and – crucially – swallow whole the implicit suggestion that this book is apolitical in nature. It is not – the book is heavily weighted towards the ideologies of what we now call neoliberalism.

As other reviewers have pointed out, the title is very misleading – especially for a reader naïve to economics. I posit a more appropriate title would read something like:

“Neoliberalist Ideology & Austrian Economics in One Lesson”

A change of title like that would go some way (but not far enough) towards altering the framing and context, and thus diffusing some of my criticism of the contents.

Within the actual pages of the book, there are a couple of things going. One: the writing is good - Hazlitt is clear, easy and even fun to read in some respects. Two: there is a noticeable theme of very craftily honed but ultimately dishonest argument and prose, designed to direct the reader towards the political corner in which Hazlitt sits. I should point out here that I am not criticising Hazlitt for his political beliefs – after all this is a book review. I’m criticising the book for its hidden politics, and its misrepresentation of political argument in favour of certain economic policies, under the guise of presenting the ‘correct’ (read ‘most efficient’) way to structure an economy.

Most of the political flavour is inserted through subtle writing techniques, from the run-of-the-mill (using unqualified adjectives to exaggerate and minimise certain quantities) to the more elaborate (delaying discussion of obvious and valid counterpoint arguments until the very end of a chapter, then dismissing them as exceptional or irrelevant). However, once or twice, Hazlitt trips up to the extent of making a flat-out contradictory or logically flawed argument. For example, in Chapter II, Hazlitt bemoans the continued and widespread use of the ‘broken window fallacy’. However, on page 62, he then himself uses the broken window fallacy in one of his arguments! Here is the evidence:

Chapter II:
(after explaining the broken window fallacy - Google it for an explanation)

“No new ‘employment’ has been added. The people in the crowd were thinking only of two parties to the transaction, the baker and the glazier. They had forgotten the potential third party, the tailor.”

On page 62:
(in the middle of arguing, essentially, that certain worker’s rights are nothing more than economic inefficiencies)

“The householder who is forced to employ two men to do the work of one has, it is true, given employment to one extra man. Bur he has just that much less money left over to spend on something that would employ somebody else. Because his bathroom leak has been repaired at double what it should have cost, he decides not to buy the new sweater he wanted. “Labour” is no better off, because a day’s employment on an unneeded tile-setter has meant a day’s dis-employment of a sweater knitter or machine handler. The householder, however, is worse off. Instead of a having a repaired shower and a sweater, he has the shower and no sweater. And if we count the sweater as part of the national wealth, the country is short one sweater.”

Do you see the fallacy? The country is NOT short one sweater – by Hazlitt’s own logic in Chapter II (and elsewhere in the book) the sweater money has simply been given to the 2nd labourer, with which it can easily purchase that same sweater.

It is through the crack of this small misstep in Hazlitt’s arguments and writing that you can see the whole chasm of his ideology beyond. It is possible that Hazlitt did not realise how politicised his intellect and writing was – I give him the benefit of the doubt here. I should also say that he does present a great deal of useful material; many of the fallacies and logical errors he highlights are in fact very true and well presented. The problem is that as he sweeps these things away under the guise of what he sees as education, he guides the reader into his political realm, and in doing so likely instills within them a whole other set of fallacies – ones that conveniently aren’t dealt with in this book.
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on 1 November 2009
This book is a great introduction to economics. Hazlitt's writing is concise and devoid of academic jargon. Although much of this book was written sixty years ago - though he did add some new stuff in the late seventies - his lesson is still very relevant. Sadly, governments seem incapable of heeding this advice.

Opportunity cost is perhaps the central theme of this book, or the fact that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Every benefit governments choose to dole out on our behalf has a cost and needs to be paid for out of the proceeds of production. If more people took account of these hidden costs and long-term consequences we'd live in a better world.
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on 19 October 2011
what a fantastic introduction to the world of economics! the book is written in a style that is easy to follow and easy to remember that the reader will learn a hell of a lot from this masterpiece.

the book itself takes held "assumptions" and dissects them into the world of capitalism - eg governements putting a levy/fixed price on a commodity - the book makes the reader look at the bigger picture so that you can gain an understanding of how the short term benefits will effect the wider community/end users/businesses etc. at the end of this book, hopefully you will learn a hell of a lot about economics and why the subject is so fascinating.

sadly, you will probably come away from reading this book and feel that governments and unions have no idea about economics and the problems they create with the decisions they implement into society. a must read for anyone looking at getting into finance, business, starting a business etc.
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on 10 November 2011
A fairly straightforward book explaining in simple terms some very basic economic principles. However, I felt that the information imparted could have been done in a much shorter book as it tends to go on in much the same way about each subject, often veering dangerously close to being a rant. Mr Hazlitt writes in the style of a grumpy, opinionated Daily Mail reader, something I found a little irritating, and his general response to anyone who has an outlook different to him is to label them fools, idiots or just plain stupid rather than clearly refuting their arguments.

The economics is solid, unbending free market economics presented without any figures or real-life examples (with some minor exceptions), there is certainly no social dimension to the subject, and there is no consideration that economies may be distorted by anything other than supply, demand and/or government interference. Personally I was a little uncomfortable with the lack of what I would regard as a key element to the subject and certainly strikes me as needing consideration as this factor is why the practice differs so radically from the theory presented here.

Personally I was expecting something a little more substantial from what the book promised. Condensed into maybe 40-50 pages with some clear examples and further chapters translating the theory into practice combined with a friendlier tone would have made this the essential primer this book masquerades as.
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