Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Discussion Resources for Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson

During the Summer II (July) term I am teaching "Economic Analysis for Business Decisions," Henderson's MBA course in economics.  It will be my first time teaching economics to MBA students since my year as a Fulbright Scholar in Armenia, where I taught a two-course MBA economics sequence at the American University of Armenia.

Economics for Managers (2nd Edition)We are using two books for the course. The first is Economics for Managers (2nd Edition) by Paul Farnham. Farnham's book is unique on the market inasmuch as it considers the joint roles of microeconomics and macroeconomics in aiding the savvy manager in making wise decisions. Though the macro section is written from a distinctly Keynesian slant, that particular emphasis does not undo what Farnham achieves overall with his integration of micro and macro in a textbook for capable students of business. I suggest that any economist teaching an MBA program's sole economics course give Farnham's text a look.

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic EconomicsOur other book is the classic Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.  For those unfamiliar with Hazlitt, he was one of America's finest communicators of economic ideas during his prolific career as a journalist that included writing a regular column for Newsweek, as well as serving as a frequent reviewer for the prestigious New York Times Review of Books. If you have never read Economics in One Lesson, you should.  I can think of no other book that communicates the single greatest lesson of economics so succinctly and that also applies that single lesson to such a broad variety of topics so deftly.

Because we will be using Economics in One Lesson to stimulate discussion on a broad variety of both macro- micro-economic topics, I am putting together a collection of discussion questions linked to each of the book's chapters.  It turns out that a few other minds have already been at work on this topic, and have made the fruits of their efforts available on the web.  This present blog post, then, will serve as a road map for any readers who may be working at a similar task--putting together some discussion questions for Economics in One Lesson.  In the remainder of the post I will point to the resources I have already found.  If any of you know of others I may have omitted, I hope you will post a link to them in the comments section of this post.

The first find is a list of discussion questions made available by Ari Armstrong, which serves as part of the Liberty In the Books program, a monthly discussion group. Armstrong's list is one of the the most detailed I have found, though it does contain an occasional typo.

A similarly impressive collection of discussion questions comes from Douglas M. Walker at the College of Charleston.  The College of Charleston is one of Henderson's sister institutions in the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges, whose member schools champion the cause of liberal arts education of superior quality in the public sector. COPLAC institutions strive to provide students of high ability and from all backgrounds access to an outstanding liberal arts education.

Steven Alan Samson has prepared a considerably shorter list of discussion questions for use with just six chapters from Hazlitt's text.  Samson provides nice overviews of the book's ideas, as well as some questions and a list of terms for chapters on a smattering of both macro and micro topics.

Economics in One LessonFinally, in honor of their 2008 publication of a beautiful edition of Hazlitt's work, the Ludwig von Mises Institute has prepared a series of high-quality videos that correspond to several of the book's key chapters.  Each video is available in multiple formats, including audio-only versions, and the series currently includes twelve different videos. Each video runs about 15 minutes, and includes an interview on each topic with a notable Austrian economist.

So there you have it: my list of discussion resources for Economics in One Lesson.  I hope you will find them useful.  I'd love to hear from you regarding your thoughts on any of them, and by all means let me know if you are aware of any notable resources I have neglected to mention.


  1. I might just have to check out these books! Specifically the second book sounds quite exciting and intriguing -- and i like all the related work done to it. Bet you never thought I'd say that about econ books!


  2. Thanks, Elise!

    You should definitely read it. A good approach is to read "the lesson," and then read about the broken window in the same sitting. After that, you can read along at any pace you like; even one chapter per day will work. You will probably marvel at how wonderfully Hazlitt traces through the consequences--intended and otherwise--of each "good idea" he addresses.

  3. Awesome post, added Economics in One Lesson to my to-read list. Look forward to learning from it and the additional resources you listed.