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Monday, February 6, 2012

The Naughty Mr. Hazlitt

In digging through the archives at the Foundation for Economic Education, one comes across a variety of correspondences, from the friendly to the boring and from the hostile to the downright amusing. Today’s document is a correspondence between Henry Hazlitt and a Major L.L.B. Angas. Hazlitt and Angas disagreed about the merit and viability of the gold standard, and in a letter dated August 9, 1962, Major Angas apparently gives up on converting Hazlitt on how wrong the gold standard is. He even said of Hazlitt, “You are very naughty.”

Hazlitt’s response on August 17, 1962, was polite and humorous, as he calls hearing from Major Angas pleasant, “especially when … accompanied by such kind personal words.” This was a common strategy by those associated with FEE. They always took the high ground and were nice to even the most hostile (and even to those who were completely wrong). This was part of the strategy to spread liberty. As Herbert Spencer once said, “It takes varied reiterations to force alien concepts upon reluctant minds.” And if we are going to get others to hear varied reiterations of our ideas, we must keep the dialogue open. That’s what Hazlitt was doing.

Download the Hazlitt-Angas August 1962 correspondence here.

  • Nicholas Snow is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Kenyon College in the Department of Economics, and previously a Senior Lecturer at The Ohio State University Economics Department. His research focuses on the political economy of prohibition.