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128 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberalism Redux
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...
Published on 14 Jun 2006 by PJ Nasser

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good defence of liberal democracy from the dark 1940s
First published in 1944, Hayek's polemical work is a defence of classical liberalism in the face of totalitarianisms of both right- and left-wing hues. The author deplores all sorts of `collectivism', that is departures from such aspects of liberalism as the free market, individualism and the minimal state. Thus, conservatives such as Bismarck (responsible for business...
Published on 5 July 2007 by Gerard Noonan


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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old and Abstract But Amazingly Relevant, 24 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
While Hayek wrote this during a different era and under seemingly unique circumstances, his critique, analysis, and appraisal of collectivism is still very much relevant and compelling. Admittedly, the book is quite difficult to read, given the fact that terminology has evolved and the context has long faded. However, a reader genuinely interested in a critique of collectivism during its peak influence in the early part of the 20th century, could do no better than to engross himself in Hayek's work. Two passages in particular that struck me as incredibly insightful were: (page 235) "There is one aspect of the change in moral values brought about by the advance of collectivism which at the present time provides special food for thought. It is that the virtues which are held less and less in esteem and which consequently become rarer are precisely those on which Anglo-Saxons justly prided themselves and in which they were generally recognized to excel. The virtues these people possessed -- ... were independence and self-reliance, individual initiative and local responsibility, the successful reliance on voluntary activity, noninterference with one's neighbor and tolerance of the different and queer, respect for custom and tradition, and a healthy suspicion of power and authority. Almost all the traditions and institutions in which democratic moral genius has found its most characteristic expression, and which in turn have molded the national character and the whole moral climate of England and America, are those which the progress of collectivism and its inherently centralistic tendencies are progressively destroying."; (page 257) "Least of all shall we preserve democracy or foster its growth if all the power and most of the important decisions rest with an organization far too big for the common man to survey or comprehend."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Take the weight off your shoulders, 23 Oct 2013
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This book takes the weight of your secret disappointment with the Socialist idea right off of your shoulders and helps you understand that it wasn't anything you did, it was always going to go to s***.

A brilliant intelligent accurate and indispensable work for anyone interested in any ism, particularly Social-ism.

Be warned it'll have you raising issues of fact with clarity and reason at your 'progressive' dinner parties and horrifying the hosts so much you'll have to find a whole new circle of friends!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 18 Aug 2013
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A fisrt rate review of Left Wing enconomics. We know that they don't work but Hayek explained why. It should be compulsory reading for all economists and polititians.

John Reve;;
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading regardless of your own viewpoint., 18 July 2013
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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. In this system the state does not deliberately advantage particular people, instead it provides a standard set of rules which govern all equally. But when the government decides to take control of the factors of production (in collectivism) it must necessarily make choices that disadvantage some over others. For example if the state reduces the pay of industrial workers it has given an advantage to other people. The main distinction is that here the government has made a personal choice and in doing so has forced its citizens to accept its own "moral" standards. In this sense Hayek sees totalitarian states as being unjust as they force all individuals to adhere to the morals of the minority of people who run government. Collectivist states require absolute agreement (you can't create half a plan) and therefore anyone who disagrees with the economic plan will be unable to live according to his/her own morals.

The book is written well and is essential reading to understand liberalism regardless of whether you are left or right wing. Its polarising effect can still be seen by reading some of the different reviews of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece in the defense of individual liberty, 3 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Hayek's classic demonstrates the profound dangers of the collectivist vision of a controlled society, whether it be communist, fascist, socialist, regulatory, redistributionist, or another interventionist variation. He persuasively argues that the role of government should be sharply limited to ensuring basic rules of law that maximize individual liberty and opportunity. Free persons not subject to government interference and control will self-organize market economies and social arrangements most consistent with economic advancement, human progress and freedom. A brilliant, inspiring, and extremely important contribution to understanding the essential elements of a free society.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As relevent as ever........, 4 Oct 2011
By 
os - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
'The Road to Serfdom ' seeks to teach us a lesson from history. It's a simple but profound lesson: namely that excessive state power, however well intentioned or ideologically flavored , leads ultimately to the failure of society both economically and politically. Written just as the Second World War was ending, Hayek's treatise sparked enormous interest with the reading public both Europe and America. Its ideas were designed to provide a rationale for returning national economies to a 'free market' orientation after years of creeping state intervention or what Hayek calls 'State Socialism'. From Roosevelt's 'New Deal' to the job creating Autobahn construction schemes of the Nazi's and the 'collectivization' and 'centralism' of the Soviet system, Hayek saw the heavy, inefficient and ultimately wasteful hand of the state attempting to do what only 'free markets' can do properly: namely satisfy a myriad of individual wants and needs in a way that is timely and low in cost.

The focus is on 'freedom'.-freedom of the individual and businesses to act in their own best interests. Harking back to Adam Smith, Hayek argues that only the individual can understand their own best interests or express their preferences in a way that will maximize their own particular welfare. This is means that economies need markets to be free to work properly. This is an agenda for opening up markets to trade, low taxes, minimum regulation and state provision. Think: 'Reganomics' and the privatization program of the Margaret Thatcher years. Freedom implies competition- the role of the state according to Hayek is

'..planning for competition, not by planning against competition'

The role of the state is also to protect private property, the gains from enterprise, saving and copyright. Some social provision may be necessary as will legislation to control the activities of organized labour and monopolies, who both have tendencies to distort markets to their own advantage. Outside of that, markets should be left to function as they will. The price mechanism will get rid of over or under supply and demand for goods and services as well as acting as an incentive for actors in the market place to adjust their activities and expectations according to market conditions. According to Hayek then -small government and liberated markets.

Perhaps, Hayek has never been more relevant. Consider the huge budget deficits and enterprise deadening tax rate rates that are a feature of many Western economies, the perceived 'failure' of Keynesian style economics and the benefits that 'globalization' has brought to many producers and consumers world-wide would suggest that the message of economic and political liberalism has more benefits then costs-at least in the long term.

This book is more of a political tract then a work on free market economics, its beauty lies in its brevity and clarity. It will also provide plenty of thought provoking ideas to ponder and perhaps argue against. For a start Hayek equates state intervention as an inevitable precursor to fascism- is this a claim pushed too far? He fails to mention that free markets tend to create wasteful duplication of some products and services and under produce other services such as education and healthcare. Also, he avoids mentioning that free markets tend to create problems (global warming , anyone?) that government and the tax payer is meant to clear up! Could the rapid recovery of Europe post -war been achieved without huge American aid in the form of the 'Marshall Plan' ?- more of that pesky Keynesian style state demand management!!

Key topics: The role of free enterprise in economic growth, the proposed limits of state power and the need to let markets 'get on with it'! The state has a tendency to waste and make poor decisions based upon limited or out dated information. Allow people to 'price ' themselves into work and let businesses take the pain if they fail to respond to what the market is telling them.

Type of Read: Hayek has a prose style that is lucid and deceptively simple. Imagine a drink of fresh lemonade: that's Hayek: uncomplicated but sharp in analysis, focusing all the time on allowing people to make their own decisions. Individual freedom means more of what you and me want to do, and less of what 'Big Brother' government would have us do. A challenge for us all! Suitable for economics students, an essential text for anyone interested in politics and the evolution of post -war economic thinking. Are you ready for Hayek?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling., 8 Sep 2011
I expected dogmatic ultraliberalism of the least realistic kind: an end to all tax, privatization of the military, abolition of antitrust and so on. What I got was a well thought-out, polite and -- in many respects -- moderate explanation of the virtues of a liberal society and the menace of top-down economic planning. Beware, it is those who target this book as extreme who are the real extremists!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most underrated book of the 20th Century, 5 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Few people are aware of The Road to Serfdom. As a result, the same errors have been repeated over and over again. Each socialist party claims that it has finally got it right. Read Hayek and you will realize that socialists can never get it right. Hayek saw beyond the empty rhetoric that is thrown in our faces again and again by politicians who have no idea of how to implement their utopian fantasies. The Road to Serfdom is a book in defense of freedom, and to this day has not only never been refuted, but no attempt has been made to refute Hayek's carefully laid out argument. Read it with an open mind and you will see his logic is dead on.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most important liberal since J.S. Mill., 13 Nov 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the workings of civilization. He takes the view, which I believe is correct, that our belief that we can plan a society is the best evidence of our lack of understanding of human nature. If there is an important book in political economics that is accessible to the layman this is it. Hayek was subject to much unfounded criticism in his day, and in this day too. His argument is for the rights of people to choose for themselves, and against the idea that others can make the right choices for the individual. In these days of corporate hatred and tobbaco taxes Road to Serfdom should be read. It should be read so that we realize that laws against corporations and industries are simply laws against the people who work in them. The chapter on Planning and the Rule of Law is the single best work that I have read on any subject. Enjoy!
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lesson for everyone, 26 April 2004
By 
D. Boulton (Bristol) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Hayek sets out the case, in concise and clear language, for political andeconomic liberty (and their necessary interconnection) in a morecompelling way than you will find anywhere else. This is the greatestvindication of liberal democracy and market economics that has ever beenwritten, and is a text that should be read by anybody anxious to preventtotalitarian and illiberalism dominating this century in the way that itdid the last.
Most significantly, the inherently illiberal nature of socialism isexposed. Liberty and egalitarianism are NOT, Hayek explains, compatible:freedom and socialism are conflicting, not complementary, concepts. Thelogic that socialism and fascism are, essentially, parts of the sameideology - binding individuals to the state and suppressing enterprise andendeavour - is compelling.
Hayek's most significant theme, however, is that political and economicliberalism are not separate concepts that can be adopted in isolation fromeach other. Free societies and free economies, he suggests, necessarilyand naturally co-exist.
As a 1st year politics student, I just wish that more people had read thisseminal work in political philosophy before swallowing whole warpedMarxist notions that associate the words 'socialism' and 'democracy', and'freedom' and 'equality', in ways that simply ignore their utterincompatibility and explain why the world was at war when Hayek wrote thisbooks in 1944 and why we lived for 50 years under the threat of socialistswith nuclear weapons.
You do not need to be a political anorak to gain a lot from this book. Itraises crucial questions about the world in which we live and reacheslargely undeniable conclusions. Read with an open mind, and the logicreally is utterly compelling and does provide a vital lesson for everyone.
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