Here is Hazlitt's major philosophical work, in which he grounds a policy of private property and free markets in an ethic of classical utilitarianism, understood in the way Mises understood that term. In writing this book, Hazlitt is reviving an 18th and 19th century tradition in which economists wrote not only about strictly economic issues but also on the relationship between economics and the good of society in general. Adam Smith wrote a moral treatise because he knew that many objections to markets are rooted in these concerns. Hazlitt takes up the cause too, and with spectacular results.
Hazlitt favors an ethic that seeks the long run general happiness and flourishing of all. Action, institutions, rules, principles, customs, ideals, and all the rest stand or fall according to the test of whether they permit people to live together peaceably to their mutual advantage. Critical here is an understanding of the core classical liberal claim that the interests of the individual and that of society in general are not antagonistic but wholly compatible and co-determinous.
… Hazlitt personally regarded it as his most important lifetime contribution.
"Each of us has grown up in a world in which moral judgments already exist. These judgments are passed every day by everyone on the conduct of everyone else. Each of us not only finds himself approving or disapproving how other people act, but approving or disapproving certain actions, and even certain rules or principles of action, wholly apart from his feelings about those who perform or follow them. So deep does this go that most of us even apply these judgments to our own conduct, and approve or disapprove of our own conduct in so far as we judge it to have conformed to the principles or standards by which we judge others. When we have failed, in our own judgment, to live up to the moral code which we habitually apply to others, we feel "guilty"; our "conscience" bothers us."
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."