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The Road to Serfdom Paperback – Special Edition, 1 Sep 1994


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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 50th Anniversary edition edition (1 Sep 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226320618
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226320618
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,145,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense.' - Milton Friedman

'This book should be read by everybody. It is no use saying that there are a great many people who are not interested in politics; the political issue discussed by Dr Hayek concerns every single member of the community.' - The Listener --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

'This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense.' - Milton Friedman

'The Road to Serfdom' remains one of the all-time classics of twentieth-century intellectual thought. For over half a century, it has inspired politicians and thinkers around the world, and has had a crucial impact on our political and cultural history. With trademark brilliance, Hayek argues convincingly that, while socialist ideals may be tempting, they cannot be accomplished except by means that few would approve of. Addressing economics, fascism, history, socialism and the Holocaust, Hayek unwraps the trappings of socialist ideology. He reveals to the world that little can result from such ideas except oppression and tyranny. Today, more than fifty years on, Hayek's warnings are just as valid as when 'The Road to Serfdom' was first published.

Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992). An eminent Austrian economist and political philosopher, he won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 143 people found the following review helpful By PJ Nasser on 14 Jun 2006
Format: Paperback
The thesis of this book is quite a simple one. No one person or group of people can possibly have enough knowledge to effectively run an economy. No-one is able to collect and make use of sufficient information even about the past, let alone the present. Any attempt, therefore, to plan the future is bound to fail. Hayek goes on to postulate that this failure must result in the rule of a dictator as a last desperate fallback to take command of the spiralling chaos. The experience he had in mind, of course, was Nazi Germany whose fate he saw as ineluctable from the birth of the German welfare state in the late 19th Century. The command economy signifies the submission of the individual to the dictates of the planners in whose hands is concentrated the power that was once dispersed among many industrialists. The individual is thus reduced to the condition of the serf who ends up without even the power to sell his labour to a higher bidder.

This is a defence of private property, and the responsibility of the individual for his own fate whatever it may be. It is not libertarian; it does not wish to whittle down the power of the state to a bare minimum. However, aside from the legislation of basic standards, it argues for the exclusion of centralised power from the quick of economic life and the enabling of choice even to the poorest. It is a fundamental text of what was once called liberalism, and is as relevant today as it ever was.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Brendon Casey on 18 July 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Friedrich von Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom in 1944 when the UK was at a turning point. The nationalistion of industry towards the war effort left the British state in an unusual position. Current tendencies and popular thought had meant that British society had, like their German contemporaries, been transitioning from an individualist to a collectivist one. The Second World War led to a jump in this process and to the nationalistion of huge tracts of the British economy. This meant that the government was in a prime position to transition the country into a fully socialist state. This book was written in response to this process in an effort to halt the movement. In many ways it was successful as the election of Thatcher and even Reagan led to a reliberalisation of these societies which was in no small way influenced by Hayek.

The book itself states that at the time most people saw the inequality a liberal society had produced as the largest social problem facing them at the time. The impatience for greater equality was leading to the state being called upon to take command over sectors of the economy in order to provide an equitable distribution of income and more security. Hayek argues that what is initially done to promote security eventually leads to a society where people are no longer free to choose how they wish to live. Instead the government chooses where they work and how much they are paid in the interests of securing "equality". A democracy functions as, in areas where the majority agrees, laws can be created to govern people. Where there is not common agreement (e.g. how children should be raised) individuals are allowed to make their own moral choices.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful By B. Jacobs on 4 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
Written in 1944, in clear, modern English, this book must be one of the all time classics. In a forensic but highly readable analysis, Hayek explains that social justice is the goal of all systems, Socialism, Liberalism etc, and that they are just different approaches as to how to achieve it. He then shows how Socialism despite its very good intentions inevitably leads to the opposite of its goal. Liberalism is seen as the only genuine method to achieve true social justice. It is one of the most rigorous deconstructions of political thought I have ever read and is worthy of a law court, yet remains hugely readable.
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Format: Paperback
Lots of superior ideas have ultimately lost out, and society today looks the way it does mainly because of competition. For anyone to plan, or even attempt to plan this complex economy in an anywhere near optimal way, this task is substantially beyond the capacity of any individual on the planet. The best we can do is to construct a system in which we can predict future state behaviour on basis of our own = a legal framework. Within this framework, we are free to invest the fruits of our labour in any way we want, as long as it doesn't cause societal harm. This is our current system.

A state planned economy, however, will have to plan those decisions for us. They will have to decide how many cars/telephones/tonnes of wheat we produce next year, and consequent thereof, in order to efficiently run this system, dictate where we live, what we do for a living, and control our access to unbiased information that could ultimately lead to harm of the planned economy. Therefore, promises of "freedom" in a socialist state will become the exact opposite of what it promises.

After reading this book, it is obvious Orwell drew a significant part of his inspiration for '1984' from this work.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By demola on 21 April 2013
Format: Paperback
I picked this from my stack with both excitement and trepidation. Excitement because this is one of the most famous books of the last century on political economy and trepidation because it is also a favourite of right-wing laissez-faire pundits. It didn't take me long to start marking off objections which just confirmed my suspicions. And then at some point into the book I realised the author was not against government per se or for laissez-faire economics. Hayek was against the concentration of power, full stop; for having been through the rise of National Socialism (Nazism) he was taken aback by sympathetic views in Britain, his new country, on State organization of all affairs as was common in the Germany leading to the rise of Hitler. Of course, Hitler exploited this to devastating effect. In economics, Hayek was in favour of competition as the best way for directing economic affairs and guaranteeing individual liberties. He was firmly opposed to monopolies or oligopolies. In government as in business Hayek thought concentrated power will verily be abused per Lord Acton's famous saying: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

So what do I think of this book. It is immense and essential reading. It really is and I kept marking stuff all over the place. For all those capitalists on the left, as I am, who may be afraid of reading this book please toss that fear into the abyss. It's a good thing to have a lot of perspective and this book will challenge your beliefs in a healthy way. I found myself re-examining my wholehearted support for the European Union in the form that it is in today and that was a good thing. One should keep growing in thought and ideas. I am not sure I agree as one reviewer suggests that this book is the most important book against totalitarianism since I can think of works by Hannah Arendt but this may well be the more readable.
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