The BookShelf: Economics in One Lesson

I finished reading Economics in One Lesson weeks ago, but haven’t got around to reviewing it yet. So, here goes.

First, the title is misleading, this book will not teach you basic economics, it is more concerned about correcting basic statist and keynesian errors in economic thinking. Also, it’s 25 small lessons, not one, although, at only about 200 pages you could finish it in an evening if you put your mind to it.

That being said the book is a good one. It is written well and is moderately simple read. It’s a little dry, but not overly so given the subject matter. The arguments are solid and concise and the book is neatly organized.

If you desire to learn about the many economic errors of statism and good, simple counter-arguments to statist arguments, this book will provide. If you have a statist friend, this book would be a good recommendation. On the other hand, you will not learn basic economics, only basic economic errors.

One problem with the book is that it is 50+ years old now, so many of the arguments are now standard within the conservative/libertarian narrative. If you’ve read much about economics or been involved in political debates online, you might find many parts of the book to be somewhat obvious, as you’ve already heard them repeated endlessly. Even so, having the arguments systematized and summarized is useful.

Also, if you’ve read What is Seen and What is Unseen, most of that book’s argument are also addressed here. If you read EON, it would be unnecessary to read WSWU, expect for enjoyment purposes.


You should read Economics in One Lesson if you’re interested in economics, interested in politics, or want some counters to common statist economic arguments. If you already very knowledgeable about free market economics, this book will likely be unnecessary, although you may still like an organized version of common free market arguments.

What’s next:

A few weeks ago, I started reading John C. Wright’s Universal Apology. It, along with a dissatisfaction with evangelicalism that has been growing within for the last couple of years, has got me to seriously question my protestantism. So, the reading lists are going to go more slowly while I read a bit about the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, canon formation, and the like. I will likely post interesting topics I come across here; I may or may not do book reviews. If anyone is interested I’m currently going through The Biblical Canon; I also plan to read the Spirit of Catholicism, the Orthodox Church, and Christianity: the First 3000 Years.

Expect the occasional thread on Catholicism or my readings on here. I may occasionally ask my Catholic/Orthodox readers some questions.

While the reading lists are going to be slow, they are not stopping altogether. I’m still sporadically reading Boston’s Gun Bible and have started sporadically reading Sowell’s Basic Economics. When these are done (whenever that may be) I will review them here. I also am going to start reading the Brothers Karamazov for a book group I’m in, I may or may not review it here and I’ll share any profound thoughts I may have about it.


  1. The trouble with libertarian economics isn’t that they aren’t true, as far as it goes, but that they are just another argument for giving a hostile elite power. What benefits rich businessmen does *not* by definition benefit the population as a whole, as we have found out over the last 30 years or so.

  2. Keep up the interesting insights and reviews!

    If you’re interested in the failures of pure libertarian political economy (which is not to say that libertarianism doesn’t have a heck of a lot going for it – nothing man-made is perfect!) and interested in Catholic social doctrine you might check out some of the articles from the past few months on Storck for example has an article up from July that discusses the difference between the fact that a capitalist system _can_ be “just” (and not the godless commie idea of social justice) but that this doesn’t mean, as libertarians tend to assume, that capitalism always _is_. And of course read Chesterton and Belloc, with reference to Chesteron’s saying, “The problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few.”

    The counterargument of many libertarian economists is that, well, what we are told is “capitalism” isn’t really capitalism, it’s crony capitalism or state capitalism or something like that. This is half true. The truth is that any of these is, in fact, by definition (and not just because it’s in the name) Capitalism – they are just not the “just” capitalism dreamed of by libertarian utopianists (of which I was once one of their number). Some human systems are doomed never to provide a stable and just society, but others – capitalism, democracy – have the capacity to do so; that doesn’t mean that simply introducing capitalism or democracy automatically makes everything better. Their success is based on other conditions. This is something Adam Smith well understood, in writing Theory of Moral Sentiment prior to Wealth of Nations. It’s also something that Marx (who was wrong about almost all the specifics) understood, in his philosophical critique pointing out that Smith, while understanding what was necessary for a prosperous _and_ just economy, failed to prescribe what was necessary to achieve both at the same time.

  3. Read some of the Church Fathers if you are not already convinced that you must become either Catholic or Orthodox. Read them anyway, even if you are already convinced. Start with Justin Martyr (free online), and then Cyril of Jerusalem’s “Lectures on the Sacraments”.

    Learn about how the Catholics and Orthodox view the sacraments (mysteries). Learn especially about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Read the Church Fathers on this also.

    A great book to describe the basic difference between Catholics/Orthodox and Protestants is “The Primacy of Peter” by Charles Journet, especially chapter 2. It is not a long book, but it is dense. It was recently re-published, and is now available again.

    Read “Crossing the Tiber” by Stephen K. Ray.

    Read anything by Scott Hahn.

    Go to some liturgies!! Experience many of them, from many different rites.

    Read some philosophy. Go straight to the best stuff. Read “Aquinas” by Ed Feser.

    Go to some liturgies!! Experience many of them, from many different rites. Seriously! Go to the Divine Liturgy. Visit both Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. Go the “extraordinary form” (Tridentine Latin Mass) in the Roman Rite.

  4. @FN

    Not to add to your burgeoning reading list, but as per ChevalierdeJohnstone, you gotta read Chesterton – specifically check out ‘Heretics’, ‘Orthodoxy’, and ‘The Everlasting Man’.

    Amazing, life-altering stuff.

  5. I too was following along the path of evangeliscm, and found it lacking much as described in Frank Schaeffer’s Sham Pearls for Real Swine – evangelisicm (at least as seen in america) is a mile wide and an inch deep – it is a shallow, anti-intellectual, anti-cultural, very effeminate, and in the end falling far short of the Christian life to which we are called. It is far more a product of the industrial revolution and american neo-victorian kitsch, with it’s hyperfeminized, shallow culture of mass production even at the level of individual converts (massive emphasis on cheesy, shallow evangelism at the expense of real discipleship) and it’s cheap populism than anything that has to do with the Bible or Christ.

    It has no lasting roots, no source of authority other than individual whim, easily subverted by political pressure and the human tendency to rationalize rather than reason. We see that in the modern ‘Churchians’ of today.

    I believe strongly that Modern Churchianity (aka evangeliscm) enshrines the foolishness of modern man and the industrial revolution. Another great example of this is the so-called protestant work ethic. No one can say that Catholics are lazy, but we do realize that the protestant work ethic != glorifying God by doing and good job, but rather PWE = factory owners pressured preachers into twist the Word into making the masses into little mindless, soulless, materialistic, consumerist drones needed to create massive profit for the owners by focusing all their efforts on ‘gaining the world’ (i.e. middle class consumer lifestyle) at the expense of losing their souls.

    Moderns are effeminate, foolish, weak, and focused on what doesn’t matter rather than that which does. Fitting that our modern religion should be so accommodating of that, or perhaps it is the other way around…

  6. @ thrasymachus: Over the last few decades the government has grown to control almost half the economy. Any form of libertarian economics has not been practiced in the US since the 1920s (if then).

    @ ChevalierdeJohnstone: I’ve read a bit on Catholic social doctrine and discussed it more; my best friend is a distributist, so we talk about it a fair amount. I actually support the theoretical aspects of it, but I find that, in practice, too many people holding to Catholic social doctrine or distributionalism ignore the subsidiarity and generally free market softened by local community principles of it, and simply advocate for big government socialism under a different name. Chesterton is definitely someone I want to read more of.

    @ AC: I’ve attended a couple masses; I went to a Tridentine mass a couple months ago and plan to go again when they get their new permanent priest. I also plan to attend an Orthodox vespers and an Old Order Catholic church in the near future. As for the book list, I’ll keep those in mind.

    @ lolz: Chesterton is rapidly moving up my reading list. I’ve been finding it rather shallow. I’ve been attending an Anglican liturgical service semi-regularly for the last couple years and while I can never be a member (they are far too liberal), there is something meaningful there that evangelicalism is missing.

  7. I just saw that you responded to my prior comment. Interestingly the exact same problem with Catholic social doctrine was commented on at length by the priest at my church last Sunday mass. It’s a known problem, of course, and the Church is large and imperfect and there are a lot of Catholics in the world and they’re none of them perfect. There is of course a vast difference between Catholic social teaching and Catholic social practice. I prefer to think of it as having a compass heading. Too much of liberal Western moral philosophy reflects a typically dichotomous Calvinist (no disrespect to individual god-fearing Calvinists BTW) attitude: either a system works – is “just and holy” or it doesn’t; just as you is either saved or you ain’t. If the system doesn’t work throw it out (this is the essense of the American Declaration of Independence, for example.) I think the gist of Catholic social teaching is that there is no systemic cure for social ills: Catholic social teaching is a compass heading that says, “Look, doesn’t this look good? Of course you can’t actually achieve it, but surely it’s a worthwhile endeavor to point yourself in that general direction and see how far you can get.”

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