- The Road to Serfdom
name = The Road to Serfdom
orig title =
language = English
Routledge Press(UK), University of Chicago Press(US)
pages = 266
isbn = ISBN 0-226-32061-8
"The Road to Serfdom" is a book written by
Friedrich Hayek(recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciencesin 1974) which has significantly shaped the political ideologies of Margaret Thatcherand Ronald Reaganand the concepts of ' Reagonomics' and ' Thatcherism'. It also led to the revival of Neoclassical economicsin the West and lessening the Keynesianinfluence. "The Road to Serfdom" is among the most influential and popular expositions of classical liberalismand libertarianism.
The book was originally published by
Routledge Pressin March 1944 in the UK and then by the University of Chicagoin September 1944. In April, 1945, Reader's Digestpublished a slightly shortened version of the book (still in print from the Institute of Economic Affairs), which eventually reached more than 600,000 readers. Around 1950 a picture-bookversion was published in Look Magazine, later made into a pamphletand distributed by General Motors. The book has been translated into approximately 20 languages and is dedicated to "The socialists of all parties". The introduction to the 50th anniversary edition is written by Milton Friedman(another recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics ). In 2007, the University of Chicago Press put out a "Definitive Edition".
Main thesis and arguments
Hayek’s central thesis is that all forms of
collectivismlead logically and inevitably to tyranny, and he used the Soviet Unionand Nazi Germanyas examples of countries which had gone down “the road to serfdom” and reached tyranny. Hayek argued that within a centrally planned economic system, the distribution and allocation of all resources and goods would devolve onto a small group, which would be incapable of processing all the information pertinent to the appropriate distribution of the resources and goods at the central planners’ disposal. Disagreement about the practical implementation of any economic plan combined with the inadequacy of the central planners’ resource management would invariably necessitate coercion in order for anything to be achieved. Hayek further argued that the failure of central planning would be perceived by the public as an absence of sufficient power by the state to implement an otherwise good idea. Such a perception would lead the public to vote more power to the state, and would assist the rise to power of a “strong man” perceived to be capable of “getting the job done”. After these developments Hayek argued that a country would be ineluctably driven into outright totalitarianism. For Hayek “the road to serfdom” inadvertently set upon by central planning, with its dismantling of the free market system, ends in the destruction of all individual economic and personal freedom.
Hayek argued that countries such as the
Soviet Unionand Nazi Germanyhad already gone down the "road to serfdom", and that various democratic nations are being led down the same road. In "The Road to Serfdom" he wrote: "The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule."
John Maynard Keynesread "The Road to Serfdom" and said of it: "In my opinion it is a grand book...Morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it: and not only in agreement with it, but in deeply moved agreement". [ [http://reason.com/hayekint.shtml Reason Magazine - The Road from Serfdom ] ] Having said that, Keynes did not think Hayek's philosophy was of "practical" use; this was explained later in the same letter, through the following comment and prophecy: "What we need therefore, in my opinion, is not a change in our economic programmes, which would only lead in practice to disillusion with the results of your philosophy; but perhaps even the contrary, namely, an enlargement of them. Your greatest danger is the probable practical failure of the application of your philosophy in the United States." [Hoover, Kenneth R. "Economics as Ideology". Rowman and Littlefield Publishers(2008) p. 152 ISBN 0742531139]
Winston Churchillwas, according to Harold Macmillan, "fortified in his apprehensions [of a Labour government] by reading Professor Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" [Harold Macmillan, "Tides of Fortune, 1945-1955" (Harper & Row, 1969), p. 32.] when he warned in an election broadcast in 1945 that a socialist system would "have to fall back on some form of Gestapo". The Labour leader Clement Attleeresponded in his election broadcast by claiming that what Churchill had said was the "second-hand version of the academic views of an Austrian professor, Friedrich August von Hayek". [cite web|url=http://www.libertystory.net/LSTHINKHAYEKLIFE.htm|title=Hayek, life and times|publisher=libertystory.net|accessdate=2007-05-14] The Conservative Central Officesacrificed 1.5 tons of their precious paper ration allocated for the 1945 election so that more copies of "The Road to Serfdom" could be printed. [ David Willettsand Richard Forsdyke, "After the Landslide: Learning the Lessons of 1906 and 1945" (Centre for Policy Studies, 1999), p. 59.] George Orwell, a democratic socialist, responded to the book with cautious praise. " [A] return to 'free' competition," he argued, "means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the state." He added, however, that "in the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often--at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough--that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of".
"The Road to Serfdom" was placed fourth on the [http://www.nationalreview.com/100best/100_books.html list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the twentieth century] compiled by "
National Review" magazine.
"The Road to Serfdom" appears on
Martin Seymour-Smith's list of the " 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written", whilst it made "#1" on [http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=18137/ Human Events: Top Ten Books Every Republican Congressman Should Read] in 2006.
"The Road To Serfdom" has been criticized by some scholars, including
Karl Polanyi, who considered Hayek's libertarian ideals to be unrealistically utopian. [Karl Polanyi, "The Great Transformation"]
Herman Finer, a Fabian socialist, published a rebuttal in his "The Road to Reaction" in 1946. Hayek called Finer's book "a specimen of abuse and invective which is probably unique in contemporary academic discussion". [http://www.isi.org/lectures/text/pdf/hayek4-3-04.pdf] Barbara Woottonwrote "Freedom under Planning" after reading an early copy of "The Road to Serfdom" and claimed "Much of what I have written is devoted to criticism of the views put forward by Professor Hayek in this and other books." [Barbara Wootton, "Freedom under Planning", p. 5.] Frank Knight, founder of the Chicago School of Economics, wrote in a scholarly review of the Wootton book: "Let me repeat that the Wootton book is in no logical sense an answer to "The Road to Serfdom", whatever may be thought of the cogency of Hayek's argument, or the soundness of his position." [cite journal
author = Knight, Frank
year = 1946
title = Freedom Under Planning
journal = Journal of Political Economy
volume = 54
issue = 5
pages = 451–454
doi = 10.1086/256402]
Hayek argues in "The Road to Serfdom" that central planning must of necessity be (or become) tightly coupled, but others dispute this premise. In his review (collected in "The Present as History", 1953) economist
Paul Sweezyjoked that Hayek would have you believe that if there was an over-production of baby carriages, the central planners would then order the population to have more babies instead of simply warehousing the temporary excess of carriages and decreasing production for next year. The cybernetic arguments of Stafford Beerin his 1974 CBC Massey Lectures, "Designing Freedom" -- that intelligent adaptive planning can increase freedom -- are of interest in this regard, as is the technical work of Herbert Simonand Albert Andoon the dynamics of hierarchical nearly decomposable systems in economics -- namely, that everything in such a system is not tightly coupled to everything else. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a fellow Austrian economist, also criticized the book, arguing that central planning fails not primarily because the central planners lack the sufficient amount of knowledge needed regarding the needs and wants of the people (as argued by Hayek), but because there is no private ownership of the means of production. This, according to Hoppe, makes it impossible for the central planners to conduct any proper economic calculations, even if they were to possess full and constant knowledge of each individual's economic demands and preferences. [http://www.mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/RAE9_1_13.pdf]
libertarianeconomist Walter Blockhas observed critically that while the "The Road to Serfdom" makes a strong case against centrally-planned economies, it appears only lukewarm in its support of pure "laissez-faire" capitalism, with Hayek even going so far as to say that "probably nothing has done so much harm to the liberal cause as the wooden insistence of some liberals on certain rules of thumb, above of the principle of laissez-faire capitalism". In the book, Hayek writes that the government has a role to play in the economy through the monetary system, work-hours regulation, social welfare, and institutions for the flow of proper information. [Block W. (1996). [http://mises.org/journals/jls/12_2/12_2_6.pdf Hayek's Road to Serfdom] . "Journal of Libertarian Studies".]
List of chapters
# The Abandoned Road
# The Great Utopia
# Individualism and Collectivism
# The "Inevitability" of Planning
# Planning and Democracy
# Planning and the Rule of Law
# Economic Control and Totalitarianism
# Who, Whom?
# Security and Freedom
# Why the Worst Get on Top
# The End of Truth
# The Socialist Roots of Nazism
# The Totalitarians in Our Midst
# Material Conditions and Ideal Ends
# The Prospects of International Order
* "The Road to Serfdom", 50th anniversary edition, University of Chicago Press, 1994 ISBN 0-226-32061-8
* "The Road to Serfdom", 2001 edition in Routledge Classics, ISBN 0-415-25389-6
* "The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents— The Definitive Edition", University of Chicago Press, 2007, ISBN 0-226-32054-5, ISBN 0-226-32055-3
Criticisms of communism
Economic calculation problem
* [http://www.iea.org.uk/files/upld-publication43pdf?.pdf Reader's Digest version from the IEA]
* [http://www.mises.org/TRTS.htm Mises.org The Road to Serfdom in cartoons] - The cartoon-booklet version.
* [http://one.revver.com/watch/10904/flv The Road to Serfdom in Five Minutes] - The above booklet, as a 5-minute movie.
* [http://culturalshifts.com/archives/224 Review of The Road to Serfdom]
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