Review of Time Will Run Back

Our group decided to read Time Will Run Back by Henry Hazlitt at the behest of Daniel Krawisz and the blessing of Stephan Kinsella (see Against Intellectual Property). On its face, I found it to be essentially Economics in One Lesson in narrative prose reminiscent of 1984. So for those uncomfortable with abstraction, Hazlitt engages and directs the reader through young Peter Uldanov’s rise to power in the socialist State of Wonworld, a coup d’état, and a World War. While the drama peppers the story, it mostly serves as (very good) moral commentary that fills in the thought provoking economic and social problems posed to the protagonist, Peter Uldanov, which he has to solve without the help of “bourgeois learning” as all the “capitalist” texts have been destroyed. Predictably, the concepts forced through deductive reasoning seem foreign to the characters of Wonworld because of the state-sponsored language of Marxanto predictably abolishing any traces which could lead citizens to reconstructing concepts of a functioning free market economy, even within the texts of Marx.

I highly recommend the book for anyone with little to no familiarity with Austrian economics; it is a potent propellant towards better understanding for the novice. By the end of the book I feel that almost anyone can understand the axioms of human action, the basics of capital theory, and a concentrated critique of socialism. For those more well read in the material, lots of cute allusions to more complicated concepts find their way in the subtext, which keeps even the “more learned” Austrian sufficiently amused.

While not a terribly “literary” story, it delivers. Peter Uldanov finds love, has a Jungian tension with his father (the ailing dictator, Stalenin), fears for his life, faces moral dilemmas, etc. Despite this, the characters are pretty flat, but they provide great caricatures for illustrating the principles of freedom versus force. In terms of personal takeaways, I learned that if I smoke as many cigarettes as Peter Uldanov and snort as much snuff as “No. 3,” I’m in the running for being one hell of a benevolent dictator and a great economist.

Here’s an example of one of the gems one will find while reading:

Isn’t it an example of the pathetic fallacy, isn’t it very unphilosophic anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism, chief, even to use a term as “purpose” in connection with nature or the universe as a whole? Isn’t it presumptuous, and perhaps meaningless, to say either that the universe has a Purpose or that it has no Purpose? “Purpose” describes a purely human attitude–the use of present limited means to attain future ends.

Be sure to join us in person or at home via Google+ for the Mises Circle’s discussion on Time Will Run Back at our first meeting of the semester tomorrow!