April 28, 2017 Print

Economics in One Lesson, first published in 1946, explains the principles of economics in easily understandable layman’s terms. The Greek economy, which has been in crisis for years, needs author Henry Hazlitt’s work more than ever, so the Athens-based Atlas Network partner Liberty Forum of Greece (KEFiM) has created a Greek translation of Economics in One Lesson and published 1,500 copies with Papadopoulos Publishing. Within two months, they had sold out every copy.

Spearheaded by Nicos Rompapas, KEFiM executive director, the translation’s overwhelming success has made Economics in One Lesson a popular point of discussion among Greek scholars and politicians. Several recent events discussed the book, including an Athens bookstore presentation in Syntagma Square, which drew hundreds of attendees and included speakers such as Rompapas; renowned journalist Babis Papadimitriou; and Kostis Hatzidakis, vice president of the major opposition party Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy).

Nearly a decade ago, the 2008 recession plunged Greece into a staggering debt crisis, resulting in a sharp decline in GDP growth over subsequent years. It remains stagnant today, more than 25 percent below its level a decade ago. Unemployment, though much lower than its peak in 2013, still stands at 23.1 percent, compared to the European Union average of 9.8 percent. The Greek welfare state is also known for its prodigious pension payouts, a fiscal drain that continues to grow for the country’s aging population.

Greeks are losing faith in socialist government policies, so Economics in One Lesson has arrived at a time when many are seeking a model for market alternatives. For too long, Greeks have suffered through policies that suppress economic freedom and promise more handouts.

“Each and every chapter of this book feels as if Hazlitt had been living in Greece for the past 20 years,” explains Katerina Dimitrakopoulou of KEFiM. “It describes and breaks down one by one all the fallacies that people in Greece used to believe, and some still do. The most important fallacy of all refers to the overlooking of secondary consequences. This is what has been happening in Greece for a very long time: the constant focus of politicians and citizens on only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a specific group, which has resulted in neglecting the long-term outcomes of that policy on all groups. The retirement system and public investments are examples of that short term, opportunistic approach explained by Hazlitt and experienced by Greek people.”

This idea that it’s important to consider the long-term effects of economic policies can be traced back to the 19th century economist Frédéric Bastitat, writing a century before Hazlitt. In many ways, Hazlitt’s book was a more modern popularization of Bastiat’s timeless economic wisdom.

“I believe that this book has the ability to demolish many popular misconceptions about government interference in economic matters,” points out Alexander Skouras, Atlas Network’s external affairs director, who also serves on KEFiM’s board of directors. “And, since Greece has been a grand victim of such misconceptions, I encouraged Nicos to proceed with translating the book.”

Rompapas was able to proceed with the translation through the help of Richard Lorenc, COO of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Lorenc secured the rights to publish the first Greek edition of Hazlitt’s book, and the second edition is expected to be ready for publishing by June.

“Whomever digests Economics in One Lesson will never again feel the same about public policy,” explains Dimitrakopoulou. “The lesson for the liberty movement may be hidden in there too: the true benefits of economic freedom can be identified beyond what strikes the eye. It is the treasure you earn, not given.”