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The Intellectual Journey of Henry Hazlitt

Years ago, I was looking through a box of artifacts from the life of Henry Hazlitt (1894–1993) and came across some of his old Big Chief tablets, the sort that people once used in elementary school. The handwriting was youthful, perhaps that of a fifth grader, and the pencil marks thick, as if from a child’s writing tool.

So I was astonished to find, in young Henry’s hand, extensive notes on Baruch Spinoza’s treatise on ethics. And that was only the beginning. There were piles of these tablets, with notes on William Shakespeare, Adam Smith, David Hume, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other great thinkers.

Henry was intellectually fearless, even from a young age.

To call Hazlitt precocious would be an understatement. A better description is that he was intellectually fearless, even from a young age. He had put together a rigorous reading program, apart from anything his teachers were asking of him. His desire for learning and education was insatiable. These early years laid the foundation for a lifetime of intellectual output that would cover economics, ethics, politics, history, religion, and psychology.

Fans of his most famous book, Economics in One Lesson, may not know that Hazlitt also wrote another 20 books and tens of thousands of articles, published in every important venue of the 20th century. His literary legacy is awe inspiring and a reflection of his own courageous spirit. There was no idea that Hazlitt was unwilling to explore in defense of human freedom, so it makes sense that he made the Foundation for Economic Education his home.

A Look Back

When he was 91 years old, Hazlitt sat down to write his memoirs. He never completed them, but the manuscript he left, <a href=…

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