The Road To Serfdom

Well I finally finished The Road To Serfdom by F.A. Hayek. This is a powerful book and I would recommend it to everyone. It should be part of every high school Social Studies curriculum.

On the downside, while not a particularly long book (304 pages), it was a chore to read. Full of run-on sentences with multiple thoughts separated by commas and semicolons, I could only read 10 – 12 pages at a time. It was like trying to eat an entire roast without the benefit of a knife and fork.

Born in Austria, Hayek joined the faculty of the London School of Economics in 1931. He refused to return after the Nazis took over Austria in 1938 and eventually became a British citizen. The Road to Serfdom was published in England in 1944 and became quite popular. After editing the book to appeal to a wider audience, it was published in America later in 1944 and it became an instant success.

One of the strongest points Hayek makes is that the economics of a collectivist, socialist state invariably leads to totalitarianism. He describes the similarities between Communism, Nazism, and Fascism and points to the disastrous results of all three. This description is particularly apt:

The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

As a scholar of the economic and social history of Germany, Hayek points out that the rise of the Nazis cannot be attributed to conditions found in the ’20s and ’30s as so many people seem to believe. He explains that this transformation took almost 100 years and Hitler simply told the German people what they wanted to hear. He further points out that this German socialist model, including the early years of the Nazi regime, was held in high regard by political and academic thinkers of the time. It was only when the transformation was complete and the brutality of the Nazis (and Communists and Fascists) was exposed, that these “thinkers” began to turn away.

The real problem, as Hayek warns, is that the desire for socialism lives on despite the example set by the Nazis. Those who desire socialism believe that Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini were simply the wrong leaders or more appropriately, leaders who had gone wrong. They are blind to the fact that if you fully carry out the process of socialism, it must lead to totalitarianism.

It was very interesting to compare Hayek’s narrative to what is happening today – not only in America, but Europe as well. Most of Europe, and particularly England, have ignored Hayek’s warnings and are on a glide path to socialism. After reading this book it is quite apparent that England, if it doesn’t become an Islamic state first, will eventually collapse into a socialist disaster.

What about America? The way I see it, especially with our current government, we’re on the same glide path – about 50 years behind England and Europe.

If you’re interested I suggest two other books:

The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression by Amity Shlaes. This is a look back at the Great Depression and how FDR prolonged it. The parallels to what is happening today are stunning.

Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning by Jonah Goldberg. This book points out that Communism, Fascism and Nazism, all socialist concepts, came from the Left. It illustrates how, despite this fact, the Left has successfully used these terms to demonize the Right – especially conservatives.

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2 Responses to “The Road To Serfdom”

  1. […] After finishing The Road To Serfdom, I took on a couple of other books that I had wanted to read for a […]

  2. […] Due in large part to government action, our free market economy has devolved into a system of Crony Capitalism. In this system the government, not the consumer, picks winners and losers. In almost all cases we (the taxpayer) are the losers. As I posted earlier, FA Hayek saw this as a way to creating monopolies on the Road To Serfdom. […]

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