Economics in One Lesson

Economics in One Lesson is an introduction to economics written by Henry Hazlitt and first published in 1946. It is based on Frédéric Bastiat's essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas (English: "What is Seen and What is Not Seen").[1]

Economics in One Lesson
First edition
AuthorHenry Hazlitt
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarper & Brothers
Publication date

The "One Lesson" is stated in Part One of the book: "The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."[2] Part Two consists of twenty-four chapters, each demonstrating the lesson by tracing the effects of one common economic belief, and exposing common economic belief as a series of fallacies.

Among its policy recommendations are the advocacy of free trade, an opposition to price controls, an opposition to monetary inflation, and an opposition to fiscal policy, such as stimulative governmental expenditures, arguing: "There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: 'In the long run we are all dead.' And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.

Publication historyEdit

In a paperback edition in 1961, a new chapter was added on rent control, which had not been specifically considered in the first edition apart from government price-fixing in general. A few statistics and illustrative references were brought up to date.

In 1978, a new edition was released. In addition to bringing all illustrations and statistics up to date, an entirely new chapter on rent control replaced the previous one of 1961, and a final new chapter, "The Lesson After Thirty Years," was added.

In 1996, Laissez Faire Books issued a 50th anniversary edition with an introduction by publisher and presidential candidate Steve Forbes.[3][4]

The book has been translated into many other languages, such as Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Korean and Greek.[5] In particular, the Madrid-based Spanish publishing house Unión Editorial, which traditionally publishes books in Spanish language in defense of market economy and liberalism, released La Economía en una lección in 1981, 1996 and 2005. A German edition, titled Economics. Über Wirtschaft und Misswirtschaft, was first released in 1983 by Poller in Stuttgart. In May 2009, it was reprinted by Olzog.


Economics in One Lesson made the New York Times best-seller list, but quickly fell off since only 3,000 copies were printed. It has since sold over a million copies[6] and is considered a classic by several American conservative, free-market, and libertarian circles.[7][8][9] When Ronald Reagan was giving speeches to General Electric plants in the 1950s and 60s, he read Economics in One Lesson[10] which helped influence his economic philosophy.[11][12] Economics in One Lesson was an important work for the development of neoliberalism in America.[13]

Friedrich Hayek praised the work, referring to it as "a brilliant performance...I know of no other modern book from which the intelligent layman can learn so much about the basic truths of economics in so short a time."[14]

German-American economist Ferdinand A. Hermens wrote: "presidents and cabinet members...could learn a great deal if they would read Hazlitt's book and ponder its implications."[15] French economist Charles Rist referred to the book as a "masterpiece."[16] The Peabody Journal of Education called Economics in One Lesson "[o]ne of the best books published on practical everyday economic."[17]

Nobel Prize laureate Milton Friedman stated: "Hazlitt's explanation of how a price system works is a true classic: timeless, correct, painlessly instructive."[18] Bob McTeer, an economist and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, described Economics in One Lesson as a "wonderful book...If you don't have time to read Bastiat's collected works, try Hazlitt's book."[19] Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edwin A. Roberts Jr. wrote: "Fifty years have passed since the book was first published...and it continues to stand as the clearest introduction to what to me is the most engagingly complicated of all academic disciplines. The beauty and strength of Henry Hazlitt's "Economics in One Lesson," of course, is that he uncomplicates the essentials of his subject, and he could do that because he knew vastly more than he put into his book, and he was so facile in his use of language that the writing as well as the content gives pleasure."[20]

Author Tom Butler-Bowdon included Economics in One Lesson in his 50 Classics book series for economics.[21] Philosopher Joseph Heath wrote that Economics in One Lesson is "a book that is as valuable today as when it was first published in 1946...Hazlitt's book should be essential reading for anyone interested in knowing which way is up and which way is down in the world of economics," though Heath criticized Hazlitt for being overly ideological about free-markets.[22] Law professor and economics writer James Kwak wrote that "Hazlitt's portrayal of economics as both easy and powerful was highly seductive."[23]

In a review in the American Economic Review, the book was described as "a vigorous, skillful, and provocative challenge to sophisticated formulations of theory and policy," however "the lesson as a whole is too easy, and the "common-sense" answers are really answers only because the basic problems have been oversimplified so much as to divorce them from the complex reality that confronts us today."[24] A review in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science agreed with Hazlitt's arguments on the need for greater productive efficiency and the effects of deficit spending but believed monopolies were overlooked in the book.[25] Whereas a review in the Financial Analysts Journal stated: "[o]ne by one the bulwarks of the New Deal are assailed and found wanting. Though the book is small and the lesson short, the afterthought will be long and prolific."[26]

Economist J. Bradford DeLong said Hazlitt's book well states the classical view of economics but does not properly address arguments made by Keynesians.[27][better source needed] However, in 1959, Hazlitt published The Failure of the New Economics, a detailed, chapter-by-chapter critique of John Maynard Keynes' arguments.[28][29]

Ralph S. Brown, a law professor, also stated that Hazlitt effectively articulates the principles of classical economics on matters such as tariffs, one-way foreign trade, parity prices, and purchasing-power theory. However, Brown criticized Hazlitt on his concept of equilibrium, price systems, and depressions.[30] Post-Keynesian economist Abba Lerner calls it "one of the finest attacks on topsy-turvy economics", but says Hazlitt should more seriously "consider the possibility of an economy suffering from unemployment".[31]



  1. ^ Called Hazlitt's "most enduring contribution," the book has sold nearly one million copies and is available in at least ten languages. See: "Economics in One Lesson, The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics". Random Retrieved February 16, 2011.; "Economics in One Lesson, 50th Anniversary Edition". Voice For Liberty in Wichita. October 16, 1933. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  2. ^ Foster, Gigi (2018). "Ethics in Economics". Agenda: A Journal of Policy Analysis and Reform. ANU Press. 25 (1): 62–63. doi:10.22459/AG.25.01.2018.04. ISSN 1322-1833. JSTOR 90022778 – via JSTOR.
  3. ^ Rogers, Michael (August 1996). "Economics in One Lesson". Library Journal. 121 (13): 121. ISSN 0363-0277. ProQuest 196772662.
  4. ^ Hazlitt, Henry (1996). Economics in One Lesson. Laissez Faire Books. ISBN 9780930073206. Retrieved July 8, 2019.
  5. ^ "Greek translation of 'Economics in One Lesson' sells out every copy in two months". Atlas Network.
  6. ^ Formaini, Robert L. (2001). "Henry Hazlitt: Journalist Advocate of Free Enterprise" (PDF). Economic Insights. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. 6 (1).
  7. ^ "Biography of Henry Hazlitt". Ludwig von Mises Institute. Retrieved February 16, 2011.
  8. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (January 8, 2016). "The Conservative Conversion of Ronald Reagan, GE Pitchman". Slate Magazine. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  9. ^ Sullivan, Adam (June 9, 2015). "Housing bubble was predictable and preventable, Iowa City filmmaker explains". The Gazette. Retrieved August 5, 2021.
  10. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (January 5, 2016). Ronald Reagan: The American Presidents Series: The 40th President, 1981-1989. Times Books. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8050-9728-3.
  11. ^ Evans, Thomas W. (December 5, 2006). The Education of Ronald Reagan: The General Electric Years and the Untold Story of His Conversion to Conservatism. Columbia University Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-231-51107-0.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  12. ^ Perlstein, Rick (August 17, 2021). Reaganland: America's Right Turn 1976-1980. Simon and Schuster. p. 629. ISBN 978-1-4767-9306-1.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  13. ^ Jones, Daniel Stedman (2012). Masters of the Universe : Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics. Princeton University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-4008-4473-9. OCLC 811400572.
  14. ^ Harvard Business Review. 25. Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University. 1947. pp. iv.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  15. ^ Hermens, Ferdinand A. (1947). "Economic Problems". The Review of Politics. Cambridge University Press. 9 (3): 393–395. doi:10.1017/S003467050003878X. ISSN 0034-6705. JSTOR 1404026 – via JSTOR.
  16. ^ Rist, Charles (1947). "Review of Economics in one lesson (L'économie politique en une leçon)". Revue d'économie politique (in French). Dalloz. 57 (1): 171–173. ISSN 0373-2630. JSTOR 24688522 – via JSTOR.
  17. ^ "Peabody Bimonthly Booknotes". Peabody Journal of Education. Taylor and Francis. 25 (1): 43–64. 1947. doi:10.1080/01619564709536075. ISSN 0161-956X. JSTOR 1489478 – via JSTOR.
  18. ^ Richman, Sheldon L. (2000). Ideas on Liberty. 50. Foundation for Economic Education.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  19. ^ McTeer, Bob (July 5, 2001). "In Praise of an Economic Revolutionary". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 9, 2021.
  20. ^ Roberts, Edwin A (January 12, 1997). "The Primary Primer on a Key Subject". Tampa Tribune. ProQuest 270945550.
  21. ^ Bowdon, Tom Butler (May 4, 2017). 50 Economics Classics: Your shortcut to the most important ideas on capitalism, finance, and the global economy. John Murray Press. ISBN 978-1-4736-5541-6.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  22. ^ Heath, Joseph (2010). Economics Without Illusions : Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism (1 ed.). New York: Broadway Books. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-307-59057-2. OCLC 521733503.
  23. ^ Kwak, James (2017). Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality. New York: Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-101-87119-5. OCLC 954203498.CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  24. ^ McIsaac, Archibald M. (1947). "Review of Economics in One Lesson". The American Economic Review. American Economic Association. 37 (3): 424–428. ISSN 0002-8282. JSTOR 1802683 – via JSTOR.
  25. ^ Sikes, Earl R. (1947). "Review of Economics in One Lesson". The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Sage Publications. 249: 198. ISSN 0002-7162. JSTOR 1025467 – via JSTOR.
  26. ^ Slade, Helen (1946). "Review of Economics in One Lesson". The Analysts Journal. Taylor & Francis. 2 (4): 58–58. ISSN 1940-882X – via JSTOR.
  27. ^ DeLong, Brad (April 10, 2005). "Economics in One Lesson". Brad DeLong – Grasping Reality with Both Invisible Hands: Fair, Balanced, and Reality-Based: A Semi-Daily Journal. Brad DeLong.
  28. ^ Murray Rothbard (1959). Foreword. The Failure of the New Economics. By Hazlitt, Henry. Van Nostrand. p. xvi. ISBN 1610164504. Keynes' General Theory is here riddled chapter by chapter, line by line, with due account taken of the latest theoretical developments. The complete refutation of a vast network of fallacy can only be accomplished by someone thoroughly grounded in a sound positive theory. Henry Hazlitt has that groundwork.
  29. ^ Chamberlain, John (May 1, 1959). "A Reviewer's Notebook". Foundation for Economic Education. Retrieved August 3, 2021. To review in small space Mr. Hazlitt’s demolition of the whole Keynesian structure is a physical impossibility. Mr. Hazlitt takes up the General Theory line by line and paragraph by paragraph, discovering scores of errors on almost every page. Not only does he kill Keynes; he cuts the corpse up into little pieces and stamps each little piece into the earth. The performance is awe-inspiring, masterly, irrefutable—and a little grisly.
  30. ^ Brown, Ralph S. (1946). "Review of Economics in One Lesson; Financing American Prosperity: A Symposium of Economists; Concept of the Corporation". The Yale Law Journal. 56 (1): 180–188. doi:10.2307/793260. ISSN 0044-0094 – via JSTOR.
  31. ^ Lerner, Abba P. (May 1960). "Review of The Failure of the "New Economics"". The Review of Economics and Statistics. MIT Press. 42 (2): 234–235. doi:10.2307/1926551. ISSN 0034-6535 – via JSTOR. One of the finest attacks on topsy-turvy economics is to be found in Henry hazlitt's book *Economics in One Lesson*. Mr. Hazlitt is able to tear to little pieces a large number of propositions of the kind put forth in this chapter [on the upside-down economy] because all his argument is based on the assumption, mostly unconscious, of a state of full employment in which topsy-turvy economics is completely out of place. Perhaps he will one day consider the possibility of an economy suffering from unemployment and write the second lesson.

External linksEdit