Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Life Lessons

I first read Hazlitt's masterpiece the summer before my junior year of high school. That was the summer where my friends all got jobs and I didn't, save for a few of the odd variety. I think it was also the summer where I discovered the enormous quantity of free books made easily accessible by internet. Regardless, by then I knew and started taking advantage of that fact. I stumbled upon Hazlitt early-on, by chance. I sought to gain a general understanding of a variety of topics, and economics was one of many. It was the title that drew me to Hazlitt's work. Economics in One Lesson was exactly what I was looking for in a book. What I got out of it was so much more than that.

If economics truly is the dismal science; that is: one that's harmful to its practitioner's. Then Hazlitt's work is more dangerous than any gateway drug out there. It had me hooked. The clarity which he brings to even the murkiest of economic concepts is unrivaled. As someone whose economic knowledge was shaped by the popular superstitions held both by the general public and those in power, Economics in One Lesson was a book of revelations.

Hazlitt had a gift for explaining and analogizing economic theories in a seemingly effortless manner.  Of course, he applied this treatment to only the theories he liked, and I've since come to learn that many economic concepts ought be treated with greater nuance he grants them. But, considering the size of the book and its targeted audience, Hazlitt's oversimplification is understandable and easily forgivable. If it inspired many misinformed laymen (and women) take an interest in economics, as it did for me, then perhaps his oversimplification is even commendable. Economists, who've gained a reputation for their esoteric, should take a lesson from Hazlitt. Make that two.

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