Henry Hazlitt confronted the rise of Keynesianism in his day and put together an intellectual arsenal: the most brilliant economists of the time showing what is wrong with the system, in great detail with great rigor. With excerpts from books and articles published between the 30s and 50s, it remains the most powerful anti-Keynesian collection ever assembled.
“For four decades, from the mid-1930s to the 1970s, Keynesian economics almost monopolized economic policy in the United States and around the world. The “new economics,” as it was called, was going to assure mankind economic stability, full employment, and material prosperity—all through wise government management of monetary and fiscal policy. So dominant was this view that only in 1959 did the first book-length refutation of the ideas of John Maynard Keynes appear: Henry Hazlitt’s The Failure of the “New Economics”: An Analysis of the Keynesian Fallacies.
…If The General Theory had so many fundamental flaws, how did it become, in the words of one of his most enthusiastic followers, “the Keynesian bible”? Hazlitt offered some possible reasons in his introduction to his edited volume, The Critics of Keynesian Economics, which appeared a year after his own book. He suggested that Keynes’s theories rationalized the politics of special-interest groups that desired to reap the benefits of an inflation. Also, while much of The General Theory is written in difficult language, Keynes could dazzle the reader with literary imagery and wit that hid his central logical flaws. Keynes used the “technique of obscure arguments followed by clear and triumphant conclusions,” Hazlitt said. And finally, Hazlitt conjectured that the success of the book may have had a lot to do with its appearing to overthrow the existing orthodoxy in favor of radical and fashionable ideas about social engineering. “But whatever the full explanation of the Keynesian cult,” Hazlitt concluded, “its existence is one of the great intellectual scandals of our age.”
The monolithic domination that Keynesian economics once had over all macroeconomic policy has been broken for more than two decades. While too many of Keynes’s misconceptions still underlie how economists think about inflation, recession, and unemployment, the original and primitive Keynesian thinking has been more or less overthrown. To a great extent this is because of the thorough and brilliant demolition that Henry Hazlitt performed more than 40 years ago.”
– Richard M. Ebeling, The Freeman
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."