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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading regardless of your own viewpoint.
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...
Published 21 months ago by Brendon Casey

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A writing style that is painful to read.
I am trying to get through this, I really am. Hayek may be a great economist but he is certainly no writer. His sentence structure is all over the place! As a copywriter I find it almost unreadable. In fact, this is the sentence that made me throw down the book and give up:

"But which ends do so conflict, which will have to be sacrificed if we want to...
Published 5 months ago by Miss Anne Thrope


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading Even For Lefties, 21 April 2013
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Routledge Classics) (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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant, 4 April 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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Writing in the middle of WWII, F.A. Hayek was concerned with what he was seeing: far from learning lessons from the destructive forces of fascism and communism, many politicians and intellectuals in the west were getting ready to wholeheartedly embrace some of the policies and practices that led to the rise of some of the most vile and destructive regimes in history. The title of the book evokes the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Hayek readily acknowledges that most proponents of state control of economy would be vehemently opposed to the methods that are necessary to implement those policies. Unlike many in his time and unfortunately many more today, Hayek did not see fascism and communism as polar opposites of each other, but rather two aspects of the same socialist ideology. Sometimes those that are most alike are most opposed to each other, and the communist portrayal of fascists and Nazis as right wing movement was a label that stuck to this day. Hayek perceived this to be very dangerous, not least because it would create an environment in which self-proclaimed leftist ideologues would face far less scrutiny than those on the self-proclaimed right. This is the reason why Hayek dedicated this book to "socialists of all parties."

The most remarkable thing about this book is that it has aged so well. The style of writing, the ideas presented, and the importance of what it had to say are as fresh and relevant today as they were when the book was first written. This, to me at least, is quite unsettling. It is rather sad that after all these years we still have to debate the same premises that were spelled out so clearly during one of history's worst moments.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good defence of liberal democracy from the dark 1940s, 5 July 2007
By 
Gerard Noonan "noonangerard" (Limerick, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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 cartels) share the dock with communists such as Lenin. In a chapter entitled `The Socialist Roots of National Socialism', Hayek argues that collectivist achievements such as the welfare state and the war economy paved the way for the collectivism of the Nazis: `Few are ready to recognize that the rise of Fascism and Nazism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period, but a necessary outcome of those tendencies.' (p. 4). This is a mirror image of the classic Marxist argument that Fascism, far from being a reaction against the upheaval in the capitalist economy in the 1930s, was in fact the logical culmination of capitalism, the last redoubt of the bourgeoisie.
Intriguing an argument as it is, I think Hayek over emphasizes the socialist element of National Socialism: as far as I know Hitler was quite happy to allow German capitalists to make large profits as long as they agreed to economic planning. Also, the German Workers' Party adopted `National Socialist' and `Workers' in the title only to attract working class votes, and not out of any enthusiasm for Marxism. Hayek would probably object that planning is planning regardless of whether capitalists are allowed to make profits or not.
This, of course, is the central conceit of the book and its Achilles heel: that all planning is bad and precipitates the onset of totalitarianism: `There is no other possibility than either the order governed by the impersonal discipline of the market or that directed by the will of a few individuals...' (p. 205). This argument is disingenuous. While Hayek recognizes that there are degrees of classical liberalism - he eschews what he calls the `dogmatic laissez-faire attitude' (p. 37) - he fails to concede that there are likewise degrees of collectivism. As a work of prediction, 'Serfdom' proved very wide of the mark, for although various postwar European governments instituted what Hayek would refer to as `collectivism' and `planning', they operated within the framework of liberal democracy, private property, and individual political liberty.
In spite of such objections, given all I had read about it, I was expecting Serfdom to be worse than it was. Given the atmosphere it was written in, the book's thesis is actually quite progressive. Maybe that's why such progressives as John Maynard Keynes, Bertrand Russell and George Orwell either gave it favorable reviews or were sympathetic to its argument. As a defence of liberal democracy, Hayek's polemic is indispensable.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this is the response to comunnist manifesto, 17 Dec. 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Road to Serfdom is , no question about, the most impostant book against all forms of totaliarianism. Is the response to the "Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx.The book is dedicated to "socialist of all parties" and that's exactly the kind of people who should read it, no matter if they are socialists, communists, fascists, social democrats or wathever. Hayek puts them on the same league: the enemies of open society, as his friend Sir Karl Popper said.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book which truly enlightens us about socialism., 5 April 2001
This book written by the world renown Hayek was a revelation at its time of print (1944). Hayek challenged the notion that planning was the true way forward in the post-war world. He pointed to the examples of the Nazis and the Russians in the way in which planning can easily go wrong. This book is written in such a way to be accessible to those who have little previous economic knowledge. In all an excellent book.
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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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As competition and democracy address means, socialism and planned economies address ends., 2 May 2010
By 
Morten Pedersen (Guildford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Routledge Classics) (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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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
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'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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Cassandra for our time., 29 Jun. 2013
By 
R. J. Farrer (London) - See all my reviews
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If you are considering buying Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”, make sure to get this definitive edition. Bruce Caldwell’s excellent introduction and scholarly footnotes provide insight and context essential for understanding this important work.
So, it’s five stars for Caldwell’s editorship.
What of the book itself? Four stars, I think.

Hayek came to the LSE from Vienna in the early 1930’s. He was already making a reputation as an economist and he was soon offered a visiting professorship at LSE. The ideas that gave rise to this work, first published in England in book form in March 1944, began as a memo to Lord Beveridge (his LSE director) ten years earlier. Hayek was convinced that Beveridge and many British intellectuals were hopelessly naïve about the true nature of National Socialism in Germany and were equally unable to comprehend the extreme authoritarianism of Stalin’s form of communism. Hayek, whose political philosophy might be characterised as ‘Whig’ in English terms, was fearful that the liberal cultures and widely cherished assumptions of post-enlightenment Europe were rapidly giving way to brutalising and authoritarian regimes. These often masqueraded as “efficient planned economies” in pursuit of an unobtainable goal of notional ‘equality’.

Hayek was deeply sceptical about the capacity of planned (or ‘command’) economies to deliver ‘equality’ without imposing draconian controls on labour and rights of free movement. He regarded any such tampering with the natural process of free-trade and interpersonal negotiations as a meddlesome and dangerous attempt to subvert social Darwinist ideals. He never mentions Darwin but there is little doubt that he believes in a ‘natural evolving order’, not of inherited privilege but ability, discovery and enterprise. To Hayek this natural order, however chaotic, is far more sympathetic to personal liberty than a rationalised and efficient impersonal order, however well planned. So, for Hayek, some degree of inequality reflects the natural differences in chance, ability and determination.

Why is he so resistant to the concept of social and economic planning? Because it reminds him of the excesses of Hitler and Stalin, it seems. Hayek probably knew far better than his English colleagues the nature of these regimes. This was a period when Stalin spoke contemptuously of his “necessary idiots”, by which he meant western intellectuals who sang the praises of Soviet Russia without having any knowledge of the Gulag or the terror trials.
His central thesis is that we surrender our powers to the planners at our peril and that ‘planning’ (as opposed to natural economic metamorphosis) involves first the reduction and then eventually the annihilation of liberty and individuality.

While the book is elegantly written, provocative and interesting it is not in any sense perfect. Some obvious criticisms spring to mind:
1) Is socialism really the twin of Nazism as he claims? To Hayek they seem congruent (see chapter 12, p181).

2) Didn’t real serfdom as opposed to his metaphorical “serfdom” precede both capitalism and socialism? Real serfdom has its origins in feudal traditions of gross inequality in which inherited privilege and vast tracts of property are concentrated in an aristocracy. In pre-revolution Russia a count, such as Tolstoy, actually owned not merely his estate but also his farm workers. Hayek is in danger of subscribing to the “myth of the golden past”.

3)Could soviet Russia have defeated Hitler in the crucial battles of 1942/3without central planning of the war economy? Hardly. Was that victory worth the terrible cost? Probably.

4) Was Clement Attlee, the ‘modest’ socialist planner of all planners, the victor of the 1945 general election, a despot? That accusation would be laughable. Thus Attlee is for Hayek that impossible chimera, a planner with a human face.

Caldwell acknowledges that while Hayek was respected at LSE for his fine intellect he was regarded by most academics there as on the “wrong side”. Hayek became far more popular in post-war America and we know that Margaret Thatcher was said to have found him “inspirational”. That is odd and reveals a misunderstanding of his political roots. Hayek was not a Tory. He hated inherited privilege and influence and went on to argue that: “A conservative movement, by its very nature, is bound to be a defender of established privilege and to lean on the power of government for the protection of privilege” (See his foreword to the 1956 American paperback edition, p46). He would have been a free-market ‘Whig’ had he lived a hundred years earlier. He was an old-fashioned Darwinian Liberal; a clear thinker whose warnings are still pertinent. Since most western (and some far eastern) economies are now planned with a precision he would have loathed, he would probably say that his nightmare has come to pass.

Yet many economies have achieved the trick of combining a Hayekian free-market with a socialist welfare state. These ‘mixed’ economies have achieved gains for many. The mass are better off, live longer and are more secure, while the gifted still have freedom to shine in a way that Hayek would have doubted possible in a planned economy.
But welfare provision has had to evolve just as Hayek would have predicted. In Darwinian terms it is simply too easy to ‘exploit’.

The road to serfdom is non-technical and easy to read, by the standard of most books on economics. But the argument emerges rather slowly and Hayek cannot resist the temptation to make the same point several times, even in adjacent chapters. His original editor should have insisted on the removal of this reiteration.
His early reviewers were quite caustic. Berlin called it “awful”, Tead described it as “long-winded and over written”. But the American public liked it and it sold well. It chimed with ‘Cold War’ rhetoric and the Readers’ Digest even serialised sections. That is most unusual for an academic book.

In case every reader tries to make it fit with their own ideology, it is worth noting that it was written for a British audience during wartime and that the dedication to the first edition was:
“To socialists of all parties”.
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The Road to Serfdom (Routledge Classics)
The Road to Serfdom (Routledge Classics) by F.A. Hayek (Paperback - 17 May 2001)
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