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Author Topic: Worst book ever: "Economics in One Lesson"?  (Read 14938 times)
niemivh
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July 12, 2011, 06:46:24 AM
 #1

I just finished reading "Economics in One Lesson".  Oh boy.  The fact that anyone can gobble that swill down without as much as a burp of mental indigestion is frankly stunning.  I read it due to someone's rave revues on this forum to which they basically revered this book as a bible of sorts.

There are only a few chapters with any worthwhile arguments to salvage, some of those chapters (and there weren't many) I truly liked the principle message of, but even those he had to pack as much polemical mouth-frothing vitriol in as he could, much of which felt manic, like he couldn't even finish a thought without bursting out in Strangelovian fashion. The chapters were also stacked with the most obvious straw man arguments you could possibly dream up.  It's as if his sole source for counter-arguments was someone who read a bad translation of Keynes into a non-native language, had a lobotomy, and were given opiates and hallucinogens prior to their interview with Mr. Hazlitt.

The naked class warfare of this book was so blatant it's amazing that people can read this thinking that it's some disinterested objective view by a scholarly hermit completely removed from the system he seeks to influence, which due to the reverence in which it was previously addressed lead me to believe that some believe this not far off from the truth.  No sooner than you might give him the new chance of being objective and fair in the next chapter he bursts into another polemic.  The lack of objectivity and disingenuous nature actually put this book the borderline of being a manifesto rather than any actual work of academia.  The words "liberty", "freedom" and other slogans are smattered about the pages to keep the average libertarian plodding along thinking that the system he promotes would somehow be in any of their best interests to which they are woefully mislead.

But to be fair, it is nowhere as bad as "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.


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The Script
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July 12, 2011, 06:50:56 AM
 #2

Any specific passages, ideas or arguments you wish to critique?
niemivh
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July 13, 2011, 07:06:48 AM
 #3

Any specific passages, ideas or arguments you wish to critique?

My brain had so many responses at once to this that I think I just had an aneurysm.

I'll post some 'gems' from this book tomorrow if I can make the time.

 Smiley

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July 13, 2011, 09:22:11 AM
 #4

With all due respect, I think you are very misguided on economics if you can't see the quality of Hazlitt's book. He manages to demonstrate in simple form, the most common economic fallacies that people believe in.

The book demonstrates how the problem of theories promoting economic interventionism is always one of not seeing beyond what is seen to what is unseen.

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The naked class warfare of this book was so blatant

There is absolutely no promotion of class warfare in the book. It's a refutation of the class warfare that Marxism preaches.
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July 13, 2011, 02:24:47 PM
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But to be fair, it is nowhere as bad as "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.

 Cheesy Cheesy


This information doesn't surprise me at all.  It just goes to show how willing people are to gobble up anything, no matter how far-fetched, illogical, ridiculous, or just flat out wrong, if it confirms their worldview.  Fox News has made a fortune operating on this principle.

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July 13, 2011, 02:59:49 PM
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But to be fair, it is nowhere as bad as "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.

 Cheesy Cheesy


This information doesn't surprise me at all.  It just goes to show how willing people are to gobble up anything, no matter how far-fetched, illogical, ridiculous, or just flat out wrong, if it confirms their worldview.  Fox News has made a fortune operating on this principle.

I'm very interested in hearing criticism of Milton's book, if either of you wish to post a link, or simply point out any bad arguments or evidence. He strikes me as so logical that an illogical leap pointed out would change my opinion of him quite dramatically (assuming he refused to correct it).
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July 13, 2011, 04:04:32 PM
 #7

The book can be found as free pdf at http://www.hacer.org/pdf/Hazlitt00.pdf

I'm looking forward to reading it as it is often used as reference for arguments I find unfounded. So either I'm going learn new stuff on economics or new straw mans on economics, in both cases it should be worthwhile reading.
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July 13, 2011, 04:40:17 PM
 #8

he had to pack as much polemical mouth-frothing vitriol

Funny, I get that from reading your post.

The book is brilliant and even though it was written over half a century ago, you wouldn't know it because people are still using the same fallacies today.
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July 14, 2011, 12:28:39 AM
 #9

I read it, it was "okay", but not worth the wasted time at all.

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July 14, 2011, 12:51:01 AM
 #10

The book can be found as free pdf at http://www.hacer.org/pdf/Hazlitt00.pdf

I'm looking forward to reading it as it is often used as reference for arguments I find unfounded. So either I'm going learn new stuff on economics or new straw mans on economics, in both cases it should be worthwhile reading.

I don't think this is the same book OP read. It can't be. Granted, I'm only about a third of the way through (finally decided to read it, so I could participate in this thread), But so far I haven't seen any "naked class warfare" or "polemical mouth-frothing vitriol". Maybe he accidentally picked up a copy of "Property is Theft"?

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July 14, 2011, 03:14:25 AM
 #11

But to be fair, it is nowhere as bad as "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.

This information doesn't surprise me... (and other self-acknowledged ignorant drivel)

I'm very interested in hearing criticism of Milton's book, if either of you wish to post a link, or simply point out any bad arguments or evidence. He strikes me as so logical that an illogical leap pointed out would change my opinion of him quite dramatically (assuming he refused to correct it).

I've read a bit of Keynes, Greenspan, Freedman and Hazlitt, and while each would like to portray themselves as bearers of seemly-obvious previously obscured enlightenment, clearing our eyes of mud and showing us their truth, they all conveniently or from understandable ignorance neglected certain facts and come to dubious conclusion (of which I've only learned from equally brilliant minds or their own retraction). None the less, I've learned a great deal from them all and judge each by the others.

But I too would like to hear from the greater geniuses of this forum, specific critiques of Freedman and Hazlitt.

(Rand's writing style, proving 'fact' through fiction, was more than I could tolerate)

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July 14, 2011, 04:56:20 AM
 #12

Again, for those who wish to criticize Hazlitt's book, I want to read specific critiques of specific points, not baseless accusations and general whining.  Thanks.  Smiley
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July 14, 2011, 07:47:58 AM
 #13

If anything, I'm getting sick of his furious backpedaling at the end of every chapter. "Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say we don't need ANY tax/tarrifs/etc"

 Roll Eyes

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July 14, 2011, 12:24:46 PM
 #14

Again, for those who wish to criticize Hazlitt's book, I want to read specific critiques of specific points, not baseless accusations and general whining.  Thanks.  Smiley


I think the most significant and telling criticsm of the book is its followers.  I didn't even waste the time to read the book yet, but based on those around here who campion it as a masterful lesson in economics (and obviously know nothing about economics), clearly it's anything but.

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July 14, 2011, 03:52:35 PM
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Again, for those who wish to criticize Hazlitt's book, I want to read specific critiques of specific points, not baseless accusations and general whining.  Thanks.  Smiley

I think the most significant and telling criticsm of the book is its followers.  I didn't even waste the time to read the book yet, but based on those around here who campion it as a masterful lesson in economics (and obviously know nothing about economics), clearly it's anything but.

AyeYo, we're still on the first page of this discussion and already twice you've presented strong negative opinions about a book and its readership which you admit not having read yourself. Please tell us what books you have read so we can all consider not reading them based on their ignorant prejudice illogical readership.

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July 14, 2011, 04:54:20 PM
 #16

Again, for those who wish to criticize Hazlitt's book, I want to read specific critiques of specific points, not baseless accusations and general whining.  Thanks.  Smiley

I think the most significant and telling criticsm of the book is its followers.  I didn't even waste the time to read the book yet, but based on those around here who campion it as a masterful lesson in economics (and obviously know nothing about economics), clearly it's anything but.

AyeYo, we're still on the first page of this discussion and already twice you've presented strong negative opinions about a book and its readership which you admit not having read yourself. Please tell us what books you have read so we can all consider not reading them based on their ignorant prejudice illogical readership.

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July 14, 2011, 05:03:22 PM
 #17

If anything, I'm getting sick of his furious backpedaling at the end of every chapter. "Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say we don't need ANY tax/tarrifs/etc"

 Roll Eyes
I think that's a good rhetorical style.

Someone presents an invalid argument why X is greater than Y. You show how that same argument also shows X is less than Y. Now, obviously, you don't believe either argument is valid because X cannot be both greater than and less than Y. So after you make your argument, you have to backpedal because your argument was a response to a premise with which you do not agree.

Someone presents an argument that X is the greatest thing in the world. You begin listing all the bad consequences of X. But, of course, sometimes there are cases where X is needed, despite its bad consequences, to avoid even worse consequences. So after you make our argument, you have to backpedal because your argument was a response to an argument with which you do not agree.

It's not furious backpedaling. It's switching from rebutting an opposing argument to advancing one's own position.

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July 14, 2011, 05:06:59 PM
 #18

I just finished reading "Economics in One Lesson".  Oh boy.  The fact that anyone can gobble that swill down without as much as a burp of mental indigestion is frankly stunning.  I read it due to someone's rave revues on this forum to which they basically revered this book as a bible of sorts.

There are only a few chapters with any worthwhile arguments to salvage, some of those chapters (and there weren't many) I truly liked the principle message of, but even those he had to pack as much polemical mouth-frothing vitriol in as he could, much of which felt manic, like he couldn't even finish a thought without bursting out in Strangelovian fashion. The chapters were also stacked with the most obvious straw man arguments you could possibly dream up.  It's as if his sole source for counter-arguments was someone who read a bad translation of Keynes into a non-native language, had a lobotomy, and were given opiates and hallucinogens prior to their interview with Mr. Hazlitt.

The naked class warfare of this book was so blatant it's amazing that people can read this thinking that it's some disinterested objective view by a scholarly hermit completely removed from the system he seeks to influence, which due to the reverence in which it was previously addressed lead me to believe that some believe this not far off from the truth.  No sooner than you might give him the new chance of being objective and fair in the next chapter he bursts into another polemic.  The lack of objectivity and disingenuous nature actually put this book the borderline of being a manifesto rather than any actual work of academia.  The words "liberty", "freedom" and other slogans are smattered about the pages to keep the average libertarian plodding along thinking that the system he promotes would somehow be in any of their best interests to which they are woefully mislead.

But to be fair, it is nowhere as bad as "Capitalism and Freedom" by Milton Friedman.



This could probably be edited in such a way to be self-descriptive.
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July 14, 2011, 05:59:44 PM
 #19

It's not furious backpedaling. It's switching from rebutting an opposing argument to advancing one's own position.

If it's not backpedaling, it's an amazing level of double-think. Or maybe it's just failing to think it all the way through.

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July 14, 2011, 09:18:06 PM
 #20

If you show a single quote where they misrepresent someone, or ignore obvious evidence, or commit a logical fallacy, then that's enough for me not to trust the rest of the Author's conclusions, a reason I dismissed both Rothbard and Rand for example. So you can make a very strong argument against the book by just focusing on a particular part which annoyed you.
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