“Economics … is a science of recognizing secondary consequences. It is also a science of seeing general consequences.”
In 1946, Henry Hazlitt wrote a book that will be used for decades upon decades – Economics in One Lesson. Simplifying economics into one lesson made a book that is easy to read, easy to understand and explains the way economics works in a society. The book was updated in 1996, after 50 years, but only to expound one chapter and add one chapter. Reading it in 2017, it doesn’t seem out dated at all.
A friend of mine who teaches at a college recommended this book to me. It took a while for it to become available from the library, but once I had the book, I found it was a quick read. I often stopped to read passages to my husband, marveling at how a book written 71 years ago could still apply so much to today’s situations.
“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.”
After the book establishes the definition of economics – the one lesson – it them goes on in a few chapters to apply that lesson to common situations. For example, if a window is broken in a bakery, people often think of the consequences of the baker having to replace it and that the window maker and installer will benefit from that action. However, if the baker was planning to spend the money on a new suit, the tailor is also affected, although he is not thought about. All affects of an action must be looked at in economics. He looks at technology affecting the workplace, unions, fixed rent and fixed prices, among other topics. He uses some of those topics to also point out that economics has to look at both the short-term and long-term consequences of an action. Replacing a certain worker with a robot will affect the workers in the short-terms, some of them more harshly than others if they are close to retirement and can’t learn a new skill; however, the “employment” of robots creates a new field where robots have to be designed, built and repaired, creating a new set of workers.
I found this book fascinating and think it should be required reading sometime in high school or college. It definitely gives a good explanation of economics in terms that anyone can grasp and can then explain to others.
Have you read Economics in One Lesson? Do you want to? Comment below!