Henry Hazlitt Quotes on Economics, History, and More

“The art of economics consists of 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.”

Henry Hazlitt was an American journalist whose columns appeared regularly in Newsweek, The Nation, The Sun, and The New York Times. Although he wrote prodigiously – enough to fill 150 volumes, by his own estimation – Hazlitt will forever remain best known for his book Economics in One Lesson. The vast majority of Henry Hazlitt quotes invariably come from it.

Hazlitt grew up poor in Brooklyn. He briefly attended City College before dropping out to help support his mother. In spite of this setback the precocious teenager became a managing editor for The Wall Street Journal – until the Great War demanded his full involvement.

Hazlitt resumed his journalism career shortly after the ink had dried on the Treaty of Versailles. Over the course of his very long career he grew increasingly opposed to government intervention in the American economy, especially as embodied by Roosevelt’s New Deal. Hazlitt’s views frequently met staunch opposition from his publishers, which on more than one occasion led to his resignation.

Hazlitt published Economics in One Lesson in 1946. It was an indictment of snowballing statism, an outline of the negative toll which greater government control would take on the economy, and, perhaps most importantly, extremely accessible to the average American reader. The “One Lesson” itself is summarized in the quote that prefaces this short biography. The chapters which follow demonstrate the inherent fallacies behind the various economic beliefs which conflicted with those of the author.

Economics in One Lesson still resonates through modern libertarian arguments in favor of free trade, as well as those against price control, rent control, monetary inflation, and government stimuli. The book has received much praise from other prominent libertarians including Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Ron Paul. In 1981 Ronald Reagan named Hazlitt one of the country’s intellectual leaders.

Economics in One Lesson should not overshadow Hazlitt’s other works. The Failure of the “New Economics” is a masterfully written rejection of Keynesian economics. In a similar vein, The Way to Will-Power refutes the Freudian philosophy of determinism. What You Should Know About Inflation details the horrendous impact which central banking has on the economy. And The Great Idea, a novel, depicts a dystopia that could only be remedied through the resurgence of private ownership and the competitive market.

Hazlitt also advanced libertarian thought in the United States in his capacity as a critic alone. His review of Ludwig von MisesSocialism compelled millions to pick up the book. Likewise, demand for F.A. Hayek skyrocketed once Hazlitt covered Road to Serfdom. Reader’s Digest even published a condensed version of Serfdom in their April 1945 issue. It is impossible to imagine a popular magazine doing anything like that today.

Hazlitt passed away in 1993 at the age of 98. His legacy doesn’t solely live on in his writing. As one of the founding members of the Mises Institute, he has ensured that what the Southern Poverty Law Center once dubbed “a radical libertarian view of government and economics” will carry on into the future.

Henry Hazlitt Quotes

“The future of human liberty…means the future of civilization.”
Mises Institute

“Only if the modern state can be held within a strictly limited agenda…can it be prevented from regimenting, conquering, and ultimately devouring the society which gave it birth.”
Mises Institute

“The envious are more likely to be mollified by seeing others deprived of some advantage than by gaining it for themselves. It is not what they lack that chiefly troubles them, but what others have. The envious are not satisfied with equality; they secretly yearn for superiority and revenge.”
The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt (pg 265-266)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "The government has nothing to give anybody..."
“The government has nothing to give to anybody that it doesn’t first take from someone else.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 70)

“In a thousand fields the welfarists, statists, socialists, and interventionists are daily driving for more restrictions on individual liberty; and the libertarians must combat them. But few of us individually have the time, energy, and special knowledge in more than a handful of subjects to be able to do this.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 200)

“The essential function of the State is to maintain peace, justice, law, and order, and to protect the individual citizen against aggression, violence, theft, and fraud.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 183)

“No matter whether it is their intention or not, almost anything that the rich can legally do tends to help the poor. The spending of the rich gives employment to the poor. But the saving of the rich, and their investment of these savings in the means of production, gives just as much employment, and in addition makes that employment constantly more productive and more highly paid, while it also constantly increases and cheapens the production of necessities and amenities for the masses.”
The Wisdom of Henry Hazlitt (pg 206)

“The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects – his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity.”
Marxism in One Minute, The Freeman 1966 (pg 79)

“A man who is good from docility, and not from stern self-control, has no character.”
The Way to Will-Power (pg 23)

“Forming a new habit is like forging for yourself a new path in the woods, through stubborn underbrush and prickly thorns, while all the while it is possible for you to take the well-worn, hard-trodden, pleasant path that already exists. But you can reflect that every time you travel through the new path you are going to tramp down more shrubbery and clear more entanglements from the way. Every time you take the path it is going to become easier.”
The Way to Will-Power (pg 55)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "When Alexander the Great visited the philosopher Diogenes..."
“When Alexander the Great visited the philosopher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for him, Diogenes is said to have replied: ‘Yes, stand a little less between me and the sun.’ It is what every citizen is entitled to ask of his government.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 228)

“Contrary to age-old prejudices, the wealth of the rich is not the cause of the poverty of the poor, but helps to alleviate that poverty.”
The Conquest of Poverty (pg 227)

Economics in One Lesson Quotes

“Inflation itself is a form of taxation. It is perhaps the worst possible form, which usually bears hardest on those least able to pay.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 161)

“The thing so great that “private capital could not have built it” has in fact been built by private capital – the capital that was expropriated in taxes (or, if the money was borrowed, that eventually must be expropriated in taxes).”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 23)

“Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man. This is no accident. The inherent difficulties of the subject would be great enough in any case, but they are multiplied a thousandfold by a factor that is insignificant in, say, physics, mathematics or medicine – the special pleading of selfish interests.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 3)

“When your money is taken by a thief you get nothing in return. When your money is taken through taxes to support needless bureaucrats, precisely the same situation exists. We are lucky, indeed, if the needless bureaucrats are mere easy-going loafers. They are more likely today to be energetic reformers busily discouraging and disrupting production.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 58)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "We cannot distribute more wealth than is created..."
“We cannot distribute more wealth than is created. We cannot in the long run pay labor as a whole more than it produces.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 122)

“The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of a proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad economist sees only what the effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good economist inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups.” 
Economics in One Lesson (pg 4)

“The larger the percentage of the national income taken by taxes the greater the deterrent to private production and employment.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 26)

Henry Hazlitt quotes - "the belief that public works necessarily create..."
“The belief that public works necessarily create new jobs is false. If the money was raised by taxation, we saw, then for every dollar that the government spent on public works one less dollar was spent by the taxpayers to meet their own wants, and for every public job created one private job was destroyed.” 
Economics in One Lesson (pg 160)

“Everything we get, outside of the free gifts of nature, must in some way be paid for. The world is full of so-called economists who in turn are full of schemes for getting something for nothing. They tell us that the government can spend and spend without taxing at all; that it can continue to pile up debt without ever paying it off, because ‘we owe it to ourselves.’”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 18)

“Now all loans, in the eyes of honest borrowers, must eventually be repaid. All credit is debt. Proposals for an increased volume of credit, therefore, are merely another name for proposals for an increased burden of debt. They would seem considerably less inviting if they were habitually referred to by the second name instead of by the first.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 28)

“There is a strange idea abroad, held by all monetary cranks, that credit is something a banker gives to a man. Credit, on the contrary, is something a man already has. He has it, perhaps, because he already has marketable assets of a greater cash value than the loan for which he is asking. Or he has it because his character and past record have earned it. He brings it into the bank with him. That is why the banker makes him the loan. The banker is not giving something for nothing.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 31)

“It is significant that while there is a word ‘profiteer’ to stigmatize those who make allegedly excessive profits, there is no such word as ‘wageer’ – or ‘losseer.’”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 144)

“You cannot make a man worth a given amount by making it illegal for anyone to offer him anything less. You merely deprive him of the right to earn the amount that his abilities and situation would permit him to earn, while you deprive the community even of the moderate services that he is capable of rendering. In brief, for a low wage you substitute unemployment. You do harm all around, with no comparable compensation.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 119)

“Necessary policemen, firemen, street cleaners, health officers, judges, legislators and executives perform productive services as important as those of anyone in private industry. They make it possible for private industry to function in an atmosphere of law, order, freedom and peace. But their justification consists in the utility of their services. It does not consist in the ‘purchasing power’ they possess by virtue of being on the public payroll.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 58)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "Today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist..."
“Today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist yesterday urged us to ignore.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 5)

“There is a similar effect when personal incomes are taxed 50, 60 or 70 percent. People begin to ask themselves why they should work six, eight or nine months of the entire year for the government, and only six, four or three months for themselves and their families. If they lose the whole dollar when they lose, but can keep only a fraction of it when they win, they decide that it is foolish to take risks with their capital.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 26)

“[…] heavy unemployment means that fewer goods are produced, that the nation is poorer, and that there is less for everybody.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 129)

“Everywhere the means is erected into the end, and the end itself is forgotten.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 60)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes on History

“The ideas which now pass for brilliant innovations and advances are in fact mere revivals of ancient errors, and a further proof of the dictum that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg vii-viii)

“The first (lesson) which we meet again and again in history, is that once the dole or similar relief programs are introduced, they seem almost inevitably – unless surrounded by the most rigid restrictions – to get out of hand. The second lesson is that once this happens the poor become more numerous and worse off than they were before, not only because they have lost self-reliance, but because the sources of wealth and production on which they depend for either doles or jobs are diminished or destroyed.”
Poor Relief in Ancient Rome

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "The long-run historical tendency of capitalism..."
“The long-run historical tendency of capitalism has not only been to increase real incomes more or less proportionately nearly all along the line, but to benefit the masses even more than the rich.”
The Conquest of Poverty (pg 54)

“There may have been somewhere, as a few eighteenth-century philosophers dreamed, a group of peaceful men who got together one evening after work and drew up a Social Contract to form the state. But nobody has been able to find an actual record of it. Practically all the governments whose origins are historically established were the result of conquest – of one tribe by another, one city by another, one people by another. Of course there have been constitutional conventions, but they merely changed the working rules of governments already in being.”
Is Politics Insoluble? (pg 33)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes Subsidies

“The only real cure for poverty is production.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 95)

“When the government makes loans or subsidies to business, what it does is to tax successful private business in order to support unsuccessful private business.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 35)

“Today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist yesterday urged us to ignore.”
Economics in One Lesson (pg 35)

Henry Hazlitt Quotes - "The surest way for a poor nation to stay poor..."
“The surest way for a poor nation to stay poor is to harass, hobble, and straitjacket private enterprise or to discourage or destroy it by subsidized government competition, oppressive taxation, or outright expropriation.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 170)

“The army of relief and other subsidy recipients will continue to grow, and the solvency of the government will become increasingly untenable, as long as part of the population can vote to force the other part to support it.”
Man vs. The Welfare State (pg 219)

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our collection of Henry Hazlitt quotes. You ought to have taken at least one lesson from them.