By Henry Hazlitt
History of Economics 360-001
March 8, 2005
Economics in One Lesson
By Henry Hazlitt
Henry Hazlitt's book, Economics in one lesson, brings to perspective numerous topics that are mainstream issues in the economy today. His book breaks down in detail specific concepts that have their effects on the economy. Hazlitt explains topics such as war and the expenses, the tariff system, and productivity and the minimum wage laws.
One concept Hazlitt emphasized on was how economics was viewed for temporary needs, versus more permanently viewed.
"In addition to theses endless pleading of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences" (Hazlitt p15-16).
This simple fact that Hazlitt brought up is the dominating factor that separates good and bad economics. A good economist will look at the effects a certain policy will have on all groups, while a bad economist will only see the effects that a policy will have on a particular group. This ties in with the long-run effects because if a group is only looking at how a policy will affect itself then in the future another group that was affected could lose their business because of the way the first group viewed a policy. For example if a clothing company decides to increase revenues by selling more products at a lower price, it will cause the company that has to supply the materials for the shirt to have to increase the amount of materials they need to use in order to keep up with the sales the clothing company makes. If the shirt company acted in the best interest of all the groups they would make sure the company that is supplying the materials is able to increase production instead of making the decision on their own. The bad economist believes that tomorrow is not as important as what is at hand today. "Nine-tenths of the economic fallacies that are working such dreadful harm in the world today are the result of ignoring this lesson. Those fallacies are stem from one of two central fallacies or both: that of looking only at the immediate consequences of an actor o proposal, and that of looking at the consequences only for a particular group to the neglect of other groups" (Hazlitt p17). It is also important to realize that some of the consequences may be evident in a few months or it could be evident in a couple years. The shirt companies' raising revenues might not affect the supplier immediately, but it does not change the fact that it is not affected at all.
When Hazlitt wrote about how war affects economics, he wrote about this subject brilliantly. The best example Hazlitt used had to do with the broken window. He said that if a window breaks for a certain business, it is better for the economy. If a window is broken for a certain business and takes a few thousand dollars to fix, it would be a small price to pay to increase the economy. The economy would give jobs and pay wages to the repair the window. Hazlitt's point is that sometimes there is a blessing that comes out of destruction. For example, the Civil War had a positive affect on economics. During and after the war, there was tremendous growth in industry, railroads, and others. But this came at the price of destroying land and life as well. "The war, in short, changed the postwar direction of effort; it changed the balance of industries; it changed the structure of industry" (Hazlitt p27). The reason for this growth is because it takes a lot of energy and a lot of stimulation to get the economy back where it was before the war, because the money that the government used...