The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom

Infobox Book
name = The Road to Serfdom
orig title =
translator =

author = Friedrich Hayek
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
subject = Politics
genre =
publisher = Routledge Press (UK), University of Chicago Press (US)
release_date = March 1944
media_type =
pages = 266
size_weight =
isbn = ISBN 0-226-32061-8
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Road to Serfdom" is a book written by Friedrich Hayek (recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974) which has significantly shaped the political ideologies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and the concepts of 'Reagonomics' and 'Thatcherism'. It also led to the revival of Neoclassical economics in the West and lessening the Keynesian influence. "The Road to Serfdom" is among the most influential and popular expositions of classical liberalism and libertarianism.

The book was originally published by Routledge Press in March 1944 in the UK and then by the University of Chicago in September 1944. In April, 1945, Reader's Digest published 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-book version was published in Look Magazine, later made into a pamphlet and 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 [1976] ). 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 collectivism lead logically and inevitably to tyranny, and he used the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany as 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 Union and Nazi Germany had 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."

Positive reaction

John Maynard Keynes read "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". [ [ 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]

Sir Winston Churchill was, 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 Attlee responded 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=|title=Hayek, life and times||accessdate=2007-05-14] The Conservative Central Office sacrificed 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 Willetts and 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 [ 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 [ 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". []

Barbara Wootton wrote "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 Sweezy joked 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 Beer in 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 Simon and Albert Ando on 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. []

The libertarian economist Walter Block has 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). [ 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
# Conclusion



* "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

ee also

*Criticisms of communism
*Economic calculation problem
*Omnipotent Government
*New class

External links

* [ Reader's Digest version from the IEA]
* [ The Road to Serfdom in cartoons] - The cartoon-booklet version.
* [ The Road to Serfdom in Five Minutes] - The above booklet, as a 5-minute movie.
* [ Review of The Road to Serfdom]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy —   …   Wikipedia

  • The Cherry Orchard — (Вишнëвый сад or Vishniovy sad in Russian) is Russian playwright Anton Chekhov s last play. It premiered at the Moscow Art Theatre 17 January 1904 in a production directed by Constantin Stanislavski. Chekhov intended this play as a comedy and it… …   Wikipedia

  • Serfdom in Tibet controversy — (This article is about a political debate. Social classes of Tibet is focused on socio economic conditions in Tibet.) The serfdom in Tibet controversy rests on both a political and an academic debate. In the political debate, Chinese sources… …   Wikipedia

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — infobox Book | name = The Wonderful Wizard of Oz image caption = Original title page. author = L. Frank Baum illustrator = W. W. Denslow country = United States language = English series = The Oz Books genre = Fantasy, Children s novel publisher …   Wikipedia

  • Conservatism in the United States — For related and other uses, see Conservatism (disambiguation). Part of a series on Conservatism …   Wikipedia

  • Causes of the Polish–Soviet War — The prehistory The territory, where this conflict broke out, was a part of the medieval Kievan Rus, and after the disintegration of this united Russian state (in the middle of 12th. century) belonged to the Russian princedoms of Galich, Volhynia …   Wikipedia

  • Military history of the Russian Empire — Armies of Russia Kievan Rus Druzhina (862–1400s) Voyi …   Wikipedia

  • Suleiman the Magnificent — For other people named Suleyman, see Suleyman.    Suleiman the Magnificent سلطان سليمان اول His Imperial Majesty Grand Sultan, Commander of the Faithful and Successor of the Prophet of the Lord of the Universe …   Wikipedia

  • Causes of the United States housing bubble — Mania for home ownershipAmericans love of their homes is widely known and acknowledged;cite news title=Home $weet Home |work=Time date=2005 06 13 url=,9263,7601050613,00.html] however, many believe that… …   Wikipedia

  • History of the world — The history of the world [Williams, H. S. (1904). The historians history of the world; a comprehensive narrative of the rise and development of nations as recorded by over two thousand of the great writers of all ages. New York: The Outlook… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.