Friedrich August Hayek (1899-1992), recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth century. He taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg. His influence on the economic policies in capitalist countries has been profound, especially during the Reagan administration in the U.S. and the Thatcher government in the U.K.
This new edition of the RTS is worth buying even if you already own an earlier edition. The editor has included important material on how this book was developed and interpreted.
As for the book itself, the Road to Serfdom explains the rise of totalitarianism in twentieth century Europe. Yet it also made a more general argument concerning the incompatibility of democracy and comprehensive central planning. Hayek argues that the pursuit of socialist ideals leads to totalitarianism. While socialist ideals seem noble to many, those who persist in realizing these ideals will find it necessary to adopt coercive methods that are incompatible with freedom. Thus socialists must choose between their egalitarian goals and the preservation of individual liberty.
Hayek describes how Europeans came to expect progress, and became impatient for faster progress. The liberal reforms of the 19th century delivered unprecedented economic progress. Much of this was directly due to scientific discovery. The role of free competition in promoting scientific discovery was less obvious. Europeans increasingly came to believe that scientific planning of society itself could accelerate greater progress.
Europeans also changed how they thought about equality and freedom. Insistence upon freedom from want displaced the yearning for freedom from coercion. Democracy came to be seen as a means of realizing an increasing number of social goals, rather than as a means of preserving freedom. To Hayek, these were dangerous errors. Democracy could only work effectively in areas where agreement upon ultimate ends could be attained with little difficulty. A democratic government could enforce general rules of conduct that applied to all equally (i.e. free speech and free association).Read more ›
I was introduced to Friedrich von Hayek through reading Thomas Sowell. And I decided to read this book because it was a highly recommended read in the Freedom's Nest Website Reading List. As soon as I started reading this book, I developed a warm feeling toward the author. In his original introduction, Hayek started with: "When a professional student of social affairs writes a political book, his first duty is plainly to say so. This is a political book...." His candor and his confidence were so befitting with his great intellect. Noting that Hayek was an Austrian, I was impressed by his mastery of the English language and I enjoyed his writing style. With mild language and in simple terms, Hayek made very sweeping predictions and patiently explained his reasoning with convincing arguments based on economic and human behavioral theories. Hayek's thesis was that central economic planning will inevitably lead to governmental control of every facet of its citizen's life, and hence toward a totalitarian state. Hayek's other insightful observations: Nazism, Fascism and communism all have the same roots. In a totalitarian state, it is always the ruthless and the unsophisticated who ascend to the top. Extensive governmental control harms the society not just in delivering dismal economic results, but, more seriously, it produces a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people. One must not forget that when Hayek wrote this book, his was very much a voice in the wilderness; he was ridiculed and denounced by his contemporaries. But his ideas stood the test of time! And blessedly, he lived to see that - to see first the building and eventually the fall of the Berlin Wall.Read more ›
Friedrich Hayek, the Nobel prize winning economist, wrote this brilliant classic as a critique of government intervention and manipulation in markets. I am neither an economist nor a political scientist, but I was led to this book after watching with horror the recent outrages that are consciously being inflicted on us by our elected officials, most recently the bailout and socialization of the two giant mortgage lenders, Freddie and Fannie. I couldn't remember that I ever received any share of the loot when those companies were making huge profits and their CEOs were earning tens of millions per year, but now I find that our elected officials have written a blank check in my name, the taxpayer, to bail out these companies' losses and stupidity, and then handed the check to a group of unelected officials (and, surprise, surprise, those two companies spend hundreds of millions on congressional lobbying). Privatize the gains, socialize the losses: sounds like a win-win situation for somebody.
This kind of disastrous socialism is exactly what Hayek critiques in devastating form in this book, specifically government control of the economy. Apparently, they say, this book has been very influential, but a layman could certainly never tell by looking around. Hayek was writing from the perspective of a central European who had recently witnessed first-hand the unfolding development of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany, and he is warning that the exact same attitudes and policies that had been followed in Germany were uncritically being followed by the Allies, merely at a few years distance.
He begins by recollecting the ideals of old, classic liberalism, "the forgotten road".Read more ›