BY HENRY HAZLIT
Economics In One Lesson, Part Three, Chapter 25: A Note On Books
Those who desire to read further in economics should turn next to some work of intermediate length. Good volumes in this class, which will bring the reader abreast of recent refinements in economic thought, are Frederic Benham’s Economics (525 pages) and Raymond T. Bye’s Principles of Economics (632 pages). Both of these are widely used as college textbooks.
More readable and entertaining, though the reader may have to search for them in second-hand channels, are some of the older books, like Edwin Canaan’s little manual on Wealth (274 pages). The same writer’s book on Money has recently been reprinted. John Bates Clark’s Essentials of Economic Theory will still be found remarkably clear and cogent.
After reading one or two of these volumes the student who aims at thoroughness will go on to some two-volume work. When Ludwig von Mises’ new treatise on economics, now in preparation, appears, it will extend beyond any previous work the logical unity and precision of modern economic analysis. Taussig’s Principles of Economics, though on older lines, will still be found clear, simple and sensible. Not to be missed is Philip Wicksteed’s The Common Sense of Political Economy, as remarkable for the ease and lucidity of its style as for the penetration and power of its reasoning.
Those who are interested in working through the economic classics might find it more profitable to do this in the reverse of their historical order. Presented in this order, the chief works to be consulted, with the dates of their first editions, are: John Bates Clark, The Distribution of Wealth, 1899; Alfred Marshall, Principles of Economics, 1890; Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, The Positive Theory of Capital, 1888; W. Stanley Jevons, The Theory of Political Economy, 1871; John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848; David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, 1817; and Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776.
Among recent works which discuss current ideologies and developments from a point of view similar to that in the present volume are: Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom; Lionel Robbins, Economic Planning and International Order; Wilhelm Röpke, International Economic Disintegration; John Jewkes, Ordeal by Planning; and Ludwig von Mises, Planned Chaos. Mises’ Socialism is the most thorough and devastating critique of collectivist doctrines ever written. The reader should not overlook, finally, Frédéric Bastiat’s classic Economic Sophisms, and particularly his essay on What Is Seen and What Is Not-Seen.
Economics broadens out in a hundred directions. Whole libraries have been written on specialized fields alone, such as money and banking, foreign trade and foreign exchange, taxation and public finance, government control, capitalism and socialism, wages and labor relations, interest and capital, agricultural economics, rent, prices, profits, markets, competition and monopoly, value and utility, statistics, business cycles, wealth and poverty, social insurance, housing, public utilities, mathematical economics, studies of special industries and of economic history. But no one will ever properly understand any of these specialized fields unless he has first of all acquired a firm grasp of basic economic principles and the complex interrelationship of all economic factors and forces. When he has done this by his reading in general economics, he can be trusted to find the right books in his special field of interest.
Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993) was the great economic journalist of the 20th century. He is the author of Economics in One Lesson among 20 other books. He was chief editorial writer for the New York Times, and wrote weekly for Newsweek. He served in an editorial capacity at The Freeman and was a board member of the Foundation for Economic Education.
Used with the permission of the Foundation for Economic Education.