AAAAAAAHHHHHH why, book, why?! It’s not your fault and you’re well written and researched and argued but OUCH. This is like reading an impassioned defense of fiddling at Nero’s coronation.
I got about twenty pages in before I had to get context for when it was written to understand more about where the author was coming from, as it takes a fairly right-ish stance, but whatever. I’m left wing but I can see some conservative – NOT ALT-RIGHT – points of view. I think – to paraphrase that old saw about democracy – that capitalism is the worst system we have except for all the alternatives. I think that economics is (are?) inherently interesting, and I love NPR, freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell, The Economist, and Expecting Better. I agree that some interventions, financial or governmental, are counterproductive. But man, does he ever underestimate the worst case scenario in what money hoarding could look like in this book, and I get why, now that I know this was written just after the new deal.
I get that Hazlitt has a point in a lot of what he’s saying here; economic power is like energy in physics, you neither create nor destroy, only change form. And this isn’t super conservative as we think of it today, as Hazlitt talks about the futility of bailing out any industry and uses coal as an example; he doesn’t exempt any sacred cow of the Republican Party.
But ow, y’all. Reading this book was like the time-machine question every armchair hypothesis asks – what do you do if you go back in time and meet baby Hitler? This was like meeting hitler’s reasonable, charming, logical grandpa. He has some points, and he’s not hateful himself, but you know his ideas taken to their extreme result in evil works. What do you do?
You read this very short book over a long period of time, wish that we weren’t in the darkest timeline, give an unstarred review, and read something fun next.