Ben Prentice is a producer of What Bitcoin Did and co-creator of WTFhappenedin1971.com. In this interview, we discuss ‘Economics in One Lesson’, the seminal work by Henry Hazlitt. It’s as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1946. We also talk through the disruptive force of AI, and, of course, we cover Bitcoin.
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Henry Hazlitt was an American journalist who reported on economics and business between 1913 and 1969 for publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and the New York Times. He is credited with introducing the ideas of Austrian economics to the English speaking world. But his legacy was burnished through his 1946 book ‘Economics in One Lesson’.
Hazlitt’s ideas have been acknowledged as being foundational in the development of neocolonialism in the United States. ‘Economics in One Lesson’ has been praised since its publication by numerous prominent economists opposing Keynesian economics. But it was it’s impact on decision makers such as Ronald Reagan that set it apart from other works. And it is still having an impact today.
Hazlitt’s book has resonated with different audiences for over 75 years because it developed arguments that have remained timeless. Two central ideas have as much relevance today as they did in 1946: firstly, policymakers underestimate the cause and long-term effect of policy decisions; secondly, many economic beliefs are based on logical fallacies. It is a work that strips away the complexity of economics to explain it in clear and recognizable terms.
The question should therefore be why we live in a world that seems to be making the same mistakes that formed the basis of Hazlitt’s original work. Part of this is because the underlying monetary system is inherently weak. But, it is also because decision-makers, either through ignorance or arrogance, believe that they can allocate capital better than the market. This is why Hazlitt’s work remains important: we must remember the past or be condemned to repeat it.