Did Hazlitt Distort Keynes?
Congratulations to Brad DeLong, the king of economist bloggers, for drawing attention to Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, if only to criticize him. One wonders if perhaps Hazlitt's book is, next to Samuelson, the biggest selling econ book of all time. It came out in 1946, and has been a constant seller ever since.
Alex Tabarrok easily deals with DeLong's claim that Hazlitt distorted Keynes: Keynes was indeed criticizing classical economics and the need for savings when he said that "in the long run we are all dead." (It does appear that Hazlitt's systematic critique of Keynes, The Failure of the 'New Economics', is out of print.) DeLong says that he is amazed that Hazlitt didn't revise his opinion in favor of markets since Hazlitt himself lived through the Great Depression. "Yet the Great Depression years seem to have had no impact on Hazlitt whatsoever."
Actually, it was the Depression years that first turned Hazlitt's full attention to issues of macroeconomics. He decided that FDR's NRA was a disaster. It was his decisive embrace of old-style liberalism, and complete rejection of new liberalism, that prompted his departure as literary editor at The Nation. The last issue in which Hazlitt was employed there ran an article repudiating classical economics and Hazlitt's position—and embracing the NRA. It was a critical moment in the history of American liberalism, which decided it could dispense with economic liberty and still promote civil and personal liberty.