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Economics in One Lesson: The Lesson

This is the final entry for Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.  This was a very good read, and I am glad it was on the book list. In Hazlitt’s own words, this book, and “the lesson”, was very simple:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

This is a very simple lesson.  The book was first written in 1946, and this lesson still applies today.  It is amazing how many of the policies we debate today would have a very different debate if we all remembered this lesson.

Hazlitt spent the rest of the book examining 24 applications of the lesson.  My only complaint with this book was that he didn’t include a case study showing how the lesson could be applied to defend a policy.  In an attempt to complete the discussion, I would like to submit the DC School voucher program.

This program provides tax dollars to low income families to send their children to better schools than they are zoned for.  Obviously the kids who go to the better schools benefit, but what about everyone else?  The argument could be made that the school that loses these students lose.  I have found no evidence that the government pulls the money it uses for the voucher program from these schools (though I might support that) so I don’t believe they lose.  If anything, they have the same number of teachers with a smaller number of students, so perhaps they win.

Let’s pretend that these schools did loose a corresponding amount of funds.  In an extreme case, this might cause a school to go out of business.  But would this be very different from a company going out of business due to competition?  It sucks if you are a worker at the company, but if you have an employable skill set, another company will pick you up.  In this case, other schools will pick up these kids.  If the voucher program is really working, a new better school may emerge.

I love to develop this into a final chapter for Economics in One Lesson, but I am afraid that is outside the scope of a post here.  Perhaps one day..

The next book on the list is Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny.  I humbly suggest the first three chapters.  It’s a little shorter than other assignments, but this is a very action packed book.  Enjoy!

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