Long before Charles Murray took on the topic, Henry Hazlitt wrote an outstanding book on poverty that not only provided an empirical examination of the problem but also presented a rigorous theory for understanding the relationship between poverty and income growth.
He examines poverty in the ancient world, the poor laws of England, the advance of the middle class in the United States, the failure of welfare programs, the fallacies associated with income redistribution, and the relationship between population and poverty.
Its 20 chapters are outstanding essays that make for a well-integrated text on the topic, one which holds up as prophetic in every way, having foreshadowing welfare reform but also pointing the way toward even more radical reforms. The way out of poverty, he explains, is freedom and freedom alone.
“ANY STUDY OF POVERTY SHOULD LOGICALLY BEGIN WITH A DEFINITION of the problem we are trying to solve. Precisely what is poverty? Of the thousands of books and articles on the subject that have appeared over the last two centuries, it is astonishing how few have troubled to ask this question. Their writers have taken it for granted that both they and their readers know precisely what is being discussed. Yet popularly the term is very vague. It is nearly always employed in a relative rather than an absolute sense. In Victorian England it became the fashion for some politicians to say that "the Rich and the Poor form Two Nations." But as every family's income, if arranged on a scale according to its dollar amount, would probably form a dot on a continuous smooth curve, the dividing line between the poor and the not-poor would be an arbitrary one. Is the poorer half of the population anywhere to be called the Poor, and the richer half the Rich?”
Henry Stuart Hazlitt (November 28, 1894 – July 9, 1993) was a libertarian philosopher, an economist, and a journalist for various publications including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and Newsweek. He was the founding vice-president of the Foundation for Economic Education and an early editor of The Freeman magazine, an important libertarian publication. In 1946 Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson, his seminal text on free market economics, which Ayn Rand referred to as doing a "...magnificent job of theoretical exposition." Hazlitt is credited with bringing his ideas and those of the so-called Austrian School to the American economics scene and his work has influenced the likes of economist Ludwig von Mises, novelist and essayist Ayn Rand, and 2008 Libertarian Party Presidential nominee and congressman, Ron Paul.
Hazlitt was a prolific writer, authoring 25 works in his lifetime.
Ludwig von Mises said at a dinner honoring Hazlitt: "In this age of the great struggle in favor of freedom and the social system in which men can live as free men, you are our leader. You have indefatigably fought against the step-by-step advance of the powers anxious to destroy everything that human civilization has created over a long period of centuries... You are the economic conscience of our country and of our nation."