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Book Review: The Road to Serfdom

May 23, 2009

The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek.  Billed as a “classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics,” it was first published in 1944.  It is about the relationship between individual liberty and government authority.

2009 is deja vu all over again.  In the 1940s, leftist intellectuals in Britain wanted to continue the wartime governmental controls on the economy.  Hayek, appalled, wrote a short letter which he subsequently expanded into this book.  In it, he traces the intellectual roots of 20th century socialism from Hegel and Marx to Bismarck and Hitler.  That’s right: national socialists and communist socialists share the same beliefs in collectivism.

Economic socialism as the British left wanted in the 1940s and the American left are implementing today inevitably lead to tyranny.  In chapter after chapter he dissects each of the false promises of socialists and explains why they must fail.

Born and educated in Austria, Hayek was quite knowledgeable about the German socialist tradition.  He moved to the London School of Economics and then to Chicago following the war.  This work–and especially it’s Readers’ Digest version–was quite popular in the U.S. in the 1950s.

Hayek and Ayn Rand had insights in the 1940s that we seem to have forgotten.  We’re going to have to learn them all over again or forfeit our freedom.

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