April Freeman Banner 2014

ANYTHING PEACEFUL

Find the Fallacy on Hazlitt's Birthday

NOVEMBER 28, 2012 by MAX BORDERS

Henry Hazlitt would have turned 118 today. In honor of his life, we'd like to present what may be the most important thing to remember about economic policy -- in one blogpost. 

The fallacy Hazlitt describes is so deep and so widespread -- is obscured by so many academics, spindoctors and epicyclists -- that it can be hard to identify sometimes. But once we pull away the veneer, it's actually rather simple:

This [fallacy] is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only to that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

Economists and laypeople alike must discipline themselves to sniff out that fallacy wherever it lives, for it can spawn a thousand other fallacies, as Hazlitt warns. We must look for perverse secondary effects. We must not hide the truth of unintended consequences behind sophisticated maths or models. And we must be patient and persistent in calling out those who would employ the fallacy with gusto in the pages of The New York Times.

 

Happy Birthday, Henry Hazlitt!

Note: If you can find any examples of mainstream media overlooking secondary effects, please post in the comments.  

Max Borders Author Thumb

ABOUT

MAX BORDERS

Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required
Sign me up for...

CURRENT ISSUE

April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION