Failure of the 'New Economics'
Henry Hazlitt did the seemingly impossible, something that was and is a magnificent service to all people everywhere. He wrote a line-by-line commentary and refutation of one of the most destructive, fallacious, and convoluted books of the century. The target here is John Maynard Keynes's General Theory, the book that appeared in 1936 and swept all before it.
In economic science, Keynes changed everything. He supposedly demonstrated that prices don't work, that private investment is unstable, that sound money is intolerable, and that government was needed to shore up the system and save it. It was simply astonishing how economists the world over put up with this, but it happened. He converted a whole generation in the late period of the Great Depression. By the 1950s, almost everyone was Keynesian.
But Hazlitt, the nation's economics teacher, would have none of it. And he did the hard work of actually going through the book to evaluate its logic according to Austrian-style logical reasoning. The result: a 500-page masterpiece of exposition.
Murray Rothbard was blown away.
Keynes' General Theory is here riddled chapter by chapter, line by line, with due account taken of the latest theoretical developments. The complete refutation of a vast network of fallacy can only be accomplished by someone thoroughly grounded in a sound positive theory. Henry Hazlitt has that groundwork.
An "Austrian" follower of Ludwig von Mises, he is uniquely qualified for this task, and performs it surpassingly well. It is no exaggeration to say that this is by far the best book on economics published since Mises' great Human Action in 1949. Mises' work set forth the completed structure of the modern "Austrian" theory. Hazlitt's fine critique of Keynes, based on these principles, is a worthy complement to Human Action.
Henry Hazlitt, a renowned economic journalist, is a better economist than a whole host of sterile academicians, and, in contrast to many of them, he is distinguished by courage: the courage to remain an "Austrian" in the teeth of the Keynesian holocaust, alongside Mises and F. A. Hayek. On its merits, this book should conquer the economics profession as rapidly as did Keynes.
But whether the currently fashionable economists read and digest this book or not is, in the long run, immaterial; it will be read, and it will destroy the Keynesian System. At the very least, there is now a new generation under thirty-five, to bring this message to fruition.
Far from being a dull read, this book has all the brightness and clarity we've come to expect from Hazlitt. He is a dazzling writer, and one can't but thrill to see him in the ring with the giant Keynes. By the time he delivers the knockout punch--taking on Keynes's suggestion that we nationalize investment--there is nothing left of his opponent.
By now, Keynesian theory is so woven into both theory and policy that hardly anyone notices it anymore. But this Hazlitt book helps us stand up and take notice of the extent to which we've allowed sheer fallacy to dominate our thinking.
This new edition by the Mises Institute is a pleasure to release, after so many years of being out of print. Hazlitt lives again to give Keynes the treatment he deserves and yet no one else dared give him.
Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1959 (and Auburn: Mises Institute 2007)