George Mason University economist Peter Boettke has a new working paper out that not only tells Economics in One Lesson author Henry Hazlitt’s life story, but goes into great detail about the ongoing tension between pure academics and public intellectuals. Here’s how Boettke describes Hazlitt’s view on why so many people favor bad economic policies. In a prescient anticipation of public choice theory, sometimes it’s on purpose:
[P]ersistent error haunts economic reasoning not only due to the intellectual shortcomings of men. The problem of the special pleading of interest groups in economic affairs means that the inherent intellectual limitations of man are multiplied a thousand times over in the discipline of economics as opposed to physics, mathematics or medicine. Interest groups rely on fallacies to agitate for policies that benefit them at the expense of others.
Peter Boettke, “The Public Intellectual as Economist: The Case of Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993),” p.22.