Reason | Sep 23, 2020 | 0
Reaching the Next Generation
100 years ago, Ludwig von Mises literally wrote the book on socialism. But 25 years later, in 1946, Henry Hazlitt wrote the primer.
Economics in One Lesson remains a classic. It may be the most important book about economics ever written for laymen. It’s a perennial best seller in our bookstore. And it’s the first economics book we recommend to anyone, young or old.
That’s why we need your help getting it into the hands of a new generation.
Depending on what polls you believe, a shocking number of Millennials and members of Generation Z — young people from 18–40 — like or even endorse “socialism.” Of course many have no idea what the word really means, because our schools failed them so badly. And they often know zero economics, leaving them shockingly receptive to political lies and false promises about health care, college, and equality. Liberty-minded organizations across the country are scratching their heads, wondering how to counter this disturbing trend.
Maybe another animated YouTube video or light-hearted podcast will nudge young people toward liberty, away from Bernie and AOC?
We don’t think so. Economics in One Lesson remains the most potent antidote to socialist nonsense. And it’s an accessible, easy book to read: beautiful, concise, and just waiting to be picked up by a new generation. It’s the single best introduction to our ideas anyone could hope for. It’s life-changing for many readers.
Will you help us distribute the book far and wide to students across the US? From home schools and high schools to universities and graduate programs, our network of professors, teachers, student groups, business owners, supporters, and activists stands ready to blanket the country. We will put this book in the hands of thousands of young people.
The book is a masterpiece, and easy enough for teenagers but perfect for adults too. It starts with Frédéric Bastiat’s great insight of the Seen and Unseen, and in a single famous paragraph Hazlitt exhorts us to consider the long-run effects of an economic policy on everyone. Just reading this four-page lesson puts readers well ahead of most people!
Each subsequent chapter is a short, devastating, stand alone lesson: debunking the broken window fallacy, demolishing public works and taxes, demystifying tariffs and “trade deficits,” destroying arguments for minimum wage and protectionism, and decrying state intervention at every turn. It’s a remarkable tour de force of less than 200 short pages.
Remember — we need a vanguard of young people, not a majority. It’s the best and brightest kids we want, those who know something is wrong but need a spark. They’ve never seen a book like this!
Hazlitt was a hero in so many ways. Born into poverty and raised in late-nineteenth-century Brooklyn, he grew up fatherless in a boy’s home. A short stint in college followed, but he dropped out to support his mother. World War I interrupted things, and he left the Army Air Service with no job and no marketable skills — just like so many young people today.
Thankfully for us, Hazlitt decided to learn shorthand and typing when he found out secretaries made $15 per week. These skills led him to a job taking dictation at the Wall Street Journal, and there he began to teach himself how to write and how to understand finance. In the 1930s he met the great H.L. Mencken, and the die was cast for him to become the next editor of The American Mercury.
He’s most famous, of course, for his decades at The New York Times and Newsweek, back when those organs were not completely lost. His columns in both publications cemented his legacy among the greatest financial and economics journalists, but also showed his indomitable spirit and courage. He boldly reviewed, and praised, the work of Hayek and Mises against the socialist tides of his day. He never endorsed the official explanation of the Great Depression, opposed the New Deal and Great Society, and attacked the Bretton Woods agreement as harmful and inflationary.
Some readers and editors complained, but Hazlitt never backed down. Importantly, he was a great personal benefactor to Ludwig von Mises. Mises counted him among his first and most loyal friends upon arrival in the United States, and Hazlitt’s deep respect for the great economist was evident in his reviews of Socialism and Human Action.
Two things about Henry Hazlitt you may not know: first, he developed an elegant and almost aristocratic manner, rising above his humble station at birth. His bearing and speech were impeccable. This was truly a self-made man.
Second, he was an original board member of the Mises Institute and generously supported this organization in his estate. His bequest was critical to our first building project in the 1990s.
We can’t let the legacy of this great man fade, and we can’t let another generation stumble through life without his wisdom. His book is vital and sorely needed. As much as we love new platforms and new technology, Economics in One Lesson is the kind of book one should own in physical form, to read and reread over a lifetime. My old paperback copy, bought used for a college assignment years ago, is dog-eared and heavily marked with notes. I treasure it, and hope my children manage to hold onto it.
But our bookstore is sold out, and we need more! You may remember, and own, the beautiful hardcover version published by the Mises Institute in 2007. We have a fantastic volume deal with a printer to publish a brand new edition for less than $1.50 per book! And it will be a gorgeous hardback, with new cover art and an introduction by yours truly.
Will you join our campaign to distribute Hazlitt’s great book to thousands of young people from every corner of the country? Again, we know hundreds of professors who would love nothing better than to assign Economics in One Lesson to their undergraduate students. We know thousands of home schoolers eager for free-market materials. And we know business professionals from all walks of life who would give the book to employees.
But we need your help to do it. Donors who pledge $500 or more will have their names included in each volume as Patrons. And every donor of at least $50 will get a copy of the new hardcover!
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