Liberty vs. Leviathan

Chronicling Liberty's battle against Leviathan

Hazlitt for Our Times

I was going to write something on Henry Hazlitt’s “Reflections at 70” from his birthday celebration in 1964 and featured at the Mises Institute earlier this week. I’m going in circles though, and have run out of time, so I give you some quotes. What can I add to Hazlitt anyway?

Perhaps the darkest pages in the history of our era will be in
politics. We find either degenerate democracy and demagogy or dictatorship.
We find a constant spread of lawlessness, a constant resort to
mob action, a cancerous growth in the power of the state, a turning
toward more and more socialism and regimentation, and constant
threats to and restrictions of liberty.

And later…

But this brings us to our problem. Those of us who place a high
value on human liberty, and who are professionally engaged in the
social sciences—in economics, in politics, in jurisprudence—find ourselves
in a minority (and it sometimes seems a hopeless minority) in
ideology.

Followed by…

Why, if, as we like to think, reason is on
our side? Why are we drifting deeper and deeper into socialism and the
dark night of totalitarianism? Why have those of us who believe in
human liberty been so ineffective?

And then…

A minority is in a very awkward position. The individuals in it
can’t afford to be just as good as the individuals in the majority. If they
hope to convert the majority they have to be much better; and the
smaller the minority, the better they have to be. They have to think
better. They have to know more. They have to write better. They have
to have better controversial manners. Above all, they have to have far
more courage. And they have to be infinitely patient.

Reading his reflections at Mises led me to The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt, a collection of his essays. Here’s a piece from his gem “Keynesianism in a Nutshell”:

…In other words, the Keynesian solution to
every slow-down in business or rise in unemployment was still another
dose of inflation.

I may point out (if that is still deemed necessary in this inflationary
era) that no inflation of which we have historical knowledge resulted
in sound and continued business expansion but only in currency depreciation,
a wanton redistribution of profits and losses, disorganized
output, and economic demoralization. This has been true whether we
begin with the coinage debasement of ancient Rome or the paper
money scheme of John Law in 1716.

The lessons of inflation are soon forgotten. They apparently must
be relearned in every generation.

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One Response

  1. jmchugh4u says:

    My first thought about what Hazlett wrote in 1964 was that he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. However, in 1964 the Evil Empire was perhaps at the peak of its power, communism was on the march all over the world, and it required an exceptional – faith? will? rigor? – to believe that Mises (and Ayn Rand) were correct about socialism inevitably collapsing from its own contradictions. That perhaps puts our current travails into perspective.

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