Who Was Henry Hazlitt?
Did you know of the Hazlitt/Samuelson connection?
Earlier this week, Kimberly Fiorello, a state representative in the Connecticut legislature, had me spend an hour on Zoom with her and about 35 of her constituents to discuss Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. She’s a big fan of the book. She told me in advance that she would get things going after my short presentation by asking me who Hazlitt was. I was pretty sure I knew but I decided to research the question in advance.
I found some pretty neat information, all of it in a 2004 piece written that Bettina Bien Greaves wrote for The Freeman. The piece is titled “Remembering Henry Hazlitt.”
Two facts stood out that either I never knew or I had forgotten.
Hazlitt debated prominent people:
Hazlitt frequently debated prominent politicians on the radio: Vice President Henry Wallace, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and U.S. Senators Paul Douglas and Hubert H. Humphrey.
Hazlitt’s connection with economics great Paul Samuelson:
Hazlitt must have been amused but somewhat chagrined when Samuelson, ardent Keynesian and author of the then-most-widely used college textbook, wrote Hazlitt that “one of the reasons [he] decided to go into economics” was because he had been impressed by a Hazlitt column assigned him when a college undergraduate. Hazlitt graciously thanked Samuelson for his letter. But he was too honest to let Samuelson believe he approved of his economics: “As you know, I venture to differ with you on some propositions in economics, and in my book, The Failure of the ‘New Economics,’ I may have expressed my differences with less than complete politeness. Nevertheless, I am enormously flattered to learn that something I wrote long ago influenced you and particularly that my article was one of the reasons that you decided to go into economics.”
By the way, Kimberly’s constituents were civil, interested, and fun to talk to.
Here’s my 2004 review of Economics in One Lesson.