Freeman

ANYTHING PEACEFUL

Find the Fallacy on Hazlitt's Birthday

NOVEMBER 28, 2012 by MAX BORDERS

Henry Hazlitt would have turned 118 today. In honor of his life, we'd like to present what may be the most important thing to remember about economic policy -- in one blogpost. 

The fallacy Hazlitt describes is so deep and so widespread -- is obscured by so many academics, spindoctors and epicyclists -- that it can be hard to identify sometimes. But once we pull away the veneer, it's actually rather simple:

This [fallacy] is the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only to that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

Economists and laypeople alike must discipline themselves to sniff out that fallacy wherever it lives, for it can spawn a thousand other fallacies, as Hazlitt warns. We must look for perverse secondary effects. We must not hide the truth of unintended consequences behind sophisticated maths or models. And we must be patient and persistent in calling out those who would employ the fallacy with gusto in the pages of The New York Times.

 

Happy Birthday, Henry Hazlitt!

Note: If you can find any examples of mainstream media overlooking secondary effects, please post in the comments.  

ABOUT

MAX BORDERS

Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

comments powered by Disqus

EMAIL UPDATES

* indicates required

CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Heavily-armed police and their supporters will tell you they need all those armored trucks and heavy guns. It's a dangerous job, not least because Americans have so many guns. But the numbers just don't support these claims: Policing is safer than ever--and it's safer than a lot of common jobs by comparison. Daniel Bier has the analysis. Plus, Iain Murray and Wendy McElroy look at how the Feds are recruiting more and more Americans to do their policework for them.
Download Free PDF

PAST ISSUES

SUBSCRIBE

RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION