The Road to Serfdom Epub ✓ The Road eBook Ä

The Road to Serfdom Epub ✓ The Road eBook Ä


The Road to Serfdom [Epub] ❧ The Road to Serfdom ➛ Friedrich A. Hayek – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk A classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century A classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired The Road eBook Ä and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century originally published in England in the spring of —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 inevitably lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of nazi Germany and fascist ItalyFirst published by the University of Chicago Press on September The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate attention from the public, politicians, and scholars alike The first printing of , copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months than , were sold In April of , Reader's Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the BookoftheMonth Club distributed this condensation to than , readers A perennial bestseller, the book has sold over a quarter of a million copies in the United States, not including the British edition or the nearly twenty translations into such languages as German, French, Dutch, Swedish, and Japanese, and not to mention the many underground editions produced in Eastern Europe before the fall of the iron curtainAfter thirtytwo printings in the United States, The Road to Serfdom has established itself alongside the works of Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and George Orwell for its timeless meditation on the relation between individual liberty and government authority This fiftieth anniversary edition, with a new introduction by Milton Friedman, commemorates the enduring influence of The Road to Serfdom on the everchanging political and social climates of the twentieth century, from the rise of socialism after World War II to the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions in the s and the transitions in Eastern Europe from communism to capitalism in the sF A Hayek , recipient of the Medal of Freedom inand cowinner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in , was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth centuryOn the first American edition of The Road to Serfdom:One of the most important books of our generationIt restates for our time the issue between liberty and authority with the power and rigor of reasoning with which John Stuart Mill stated the issue for his own generation in his great essay On LibertyIt is an arresting call to all wellintentioned planners and socialists, to all those who are sincere democrats and liberals at heart to stop, look and listen—Henry Hazlitt, New York Times Book Review, September In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth It cannot be said too often—at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough—that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of—George Orwell, Collected Essays.

    The Road to Serfdom Epub ✓ The Road eBook Ä 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 inevitably lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of nazi Germany and fascist ItalyFirst published by the University of Chicago Press on September The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate attention from the public, politicians, and scholars alike The first printing of , copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months than , were sold In April of , Reader's Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the BookoftheMonth Club distributed this condensation to than , readers A perennial bestseller, the book has sold over a quarter of a million copies in the United States, not including the British edition or the nearly twenty translations into such languages as German, French, Dutch, Swedish, and Japanese, and not to mention the many underground editions produced in Eastern Europe before the fall of the iron curtainAfter thirtytwo printings in the United States, The Road to Serfdom has established itself alongside the works of Alexis de Tocqueville, John Stuart Mill, and George Orwell for its timeless meditation on the relation between individual liberty and government authority This fiftieth anniversary edition, with a new introduction by Milton Friedman, commemorates the enduring influence of The Road to Serfdom on the everchanging political and social climates of the twentieth century, from the rise of socialism after World War II to the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions in the s and the transitions in Eastern Europe from communism to capitalism in the sF A Hayek , recipient of the Medal of Freedom inand cowinner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in , was a pioneer in monetary theory and the principal proponent of libertarianism in the twentieth centuryOn the first American edition of The Road to Serfdom:One of the most important books of our generationIt restates for our time the issue between liberty and authority with the power and rigor of reasoning with which John Stuart Mill stated the issue for his own generation in his great essay On LibertyIt is an arresting call to all wellintentioned planners and socialists, to all those who are sincere democrats and liberals at heart to stop, look and listen—Henry Hazlitt, New York Times Book Review, September In the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth It cannot be said too often—at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough—that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of—George Orwell, Collected Essays."/>
  • Paperback
  • 274 pages
  • The Road to Serfdom
  • Friedrich A. Hayek
  • English
  • 06 June 2017
  • 9780226320618

About the Author: Friedrich A. Hayek

Friedrich August von Hayek CH was an Austrian and British economist and philosopher known for his defense of The Road eBook Ä classical liberalism and free market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought He is considered by some to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century Hayek's account of how changing prices communicate signals which enable indivi.



10 thoughts on “The Road to Serfdom

  1. Cami Cami says:

    This book captures the frustration of classical liberals (as opposed to modern liberals) when they see collectivist policies enacted despite the overwhelming evidence that socialism brings about disastrous results.

    Having grown up and lived in Austria during World War I and later moving to Great Britain, Hayek was particularly frustrated when he saw Britain and the United States making the same mistakes of the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hayek argues that collectivism eventually leads to tyranny. Central economic planning gives too much power to the government, which essentially puts that power in the hands of a small group rather than in each individual.

    My favorite quote: “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

    Hayek’s thesis is very pertinent today in that when the federal government does meddle too much with the free market it causes problems and then those problems ironically are seen as the failing of the free market and not the ineptitude of government.

  2. Trevor Trevor says:

    I could be wrong, but surely not even the greatest fans of Hayek could believe this is a particularly nuanced book. The central thesis is that everyone that disagrees with Hayek is either a totalitarian or someone who is inadvertently leading society down the road towards totalitarianism. This doesn’t only include Marxists and Fascists – who Hayek equates as identical – nor even members of the Labour party in Britain who might be considered ‘fellow travellers’, but even many of the younger members of the Conservative party too. You see what I mean about ‘nuance’ then perhaps? Not only is everyone else wrong, but any differences between them are as nothing when compared with what binds them in common. There literally can be no nuance.

    Decades later Maggie Thatcher would flung down a copy of Hayek’s ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ during a meeting with members of her party and yell, “This is what we believe”. It fits, of course. Both held that there was no alternative and that any deviation from the one true path inevitably leads to destruction and serfdom. ‘Freedom’ is somewhat oddly defined if there is, ultimately, only one available choice.

    The later preference for forced choices by radical free market types is perhaps one of the most potent current criticisms of this book. Worth reading in this context is William Davies’ ‘The Limits of Neoliberalism’, particularly in relation to Nudge theory. As the book Nudge makes clear, while it takes free market ideas very seriously, it also believes that people might make better decisions if they were nudged towards them. This ought to otherwise seem problematic if you really believed what Hayek says here. You see, central to his thesis is that such an understanding of what is best for others isn’t possible, in fact, it is fundamentally impossible. The thing that makes capitalism, and radical free market capitalism in particular, such a fantastic system is the fact that ‘experts’ are kept away from decision about what might make the lives of others better. It is hard to no think that Hayek would view these ‘nudges’ as little more than a further step down the road to serfdom.

    There are infinitely better criticisms of this book than I’m going to provide in this little review. Some of those include ‘Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste’ and ‘Capitalist Realism’. Why I find this book particularly terrifying is that it really has a distasteful understanding of what ‘freedom’ means. Freedom here is the elimination of every kind of safety net, it means dog eat dog, it means the war of all against each, it means an almost ludicrous extreme of competition, because only in this is the purity of individualism able to be assured. Any restrictions on individualism is understood as inevitably leading to fascism/communism/social democracy, all of which are seen as basically identical – he literally says as much here.

    Society is understood as a kind of information exchange where money is the chief form of data and therefore money needs to be protected from any distortion (say, imposed inflation) since money (or prices, rather) allow everyone in society to know which choices they should make that will best suit their needs. The reason why any form of planning is ineffective (and ultimately evil), is because the whole system is so insanely complex that any form of centralised planning inevitably introduces inefficiencies to the entire system. This makes the whole system worse for everyone – but since the planners benefit by keeping their own jobs regardless of the poor outcomes of their plans, those inefficiencies compound. People then are forced to accept products they do not want and this leads to further distortions in the proper price signals within the system which then further multiplies inefficiencies. And because there is no way of seeing what a more efficient system would look like outside the plan, the plan is still held to be the most efficient organisation of the system.

    Rather than planning, a system based on the anarchy of economic activity is the only system capable of meeting the needs of the whole of society and of producing freedom at the same time. Since there is no central planner, individuals are able to understand the messages contained in the highly situated contexts they live within and from within the prices of good they observe, and that means they are able to act in ways that meet their needs from within those circumstances. The system is self-regulating, because competition ultimately leads to a situation where the people who are most efficient and best at meeting the needs of those around them are the only people who will succeed. The system also can only exist on increased freedom – to the extent that freedom can be equated with economic anarchy – since any restriction on this freedom will necessarily be imposed upon it from outside (by the dreaded planners who we have already decided will lead us to fascist-communist-collectivism).

    Any individual may end up crushed under the driving wheel of progress, in fact, this is inevitable and necessary – for risk cannot be mitigated in the system without distorting the system as a whole. And since competition is the engine of progress, and competition means ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – then the economic equivalent of Darwinian natural selection is, however regrettable, inevitable.

    Thus Hayek presents his vision-splendid of unfettered free markets. His expectation, of course, is that although some people will inevitably be crushed under foot – overall, most people will be better off under this system than under any other system capable of operating. There are occasional nods to the benefits of democracy, but it isn’t at all clear how ‘democracy’ can be exempt from also being seen as yet another collectivist project that undermines his radical individualism. Thatcher’s ‘there is no society, only individuals’ rings in your ears while reading this. Certainly, Hayek imposes stringent limitations upon democracy – democracy clearly can’t place any limits on the radical free market he proposes.

    Part of me wants to say that after four decades of living in lock-step with Hayek’s ideal of laissez faire capitalism, and the gross inequality that has produced, and the ecological suicide we are gormlessly heading toward, that perhaps some of those who yelled the loudest that radical free market economics would lead to the promised land should be a little embarrassed now. That certainly has not proven to be the case. As Capitalist Realism makes all too clear – the GFC only proved to his followers that Hayek’s ideas were not implemented stringently enough. And that is the beauty here. Hayek’s ideas are so over-the-top, so utopian (or dystopian, rather) that it is impossible for them to ever be fully implemented – even in Chile under a dictator – and so there will always an escape clause. Even after the Thatcher nightmare there was an escape clause that said, ‘if only his ideas had been more consistently followed…’

    I doubt we will move on from these ideas any time soon – they form a solid plank of our current received wisdom, our axiomatic truths. Those who benefit from such ideas are rich beyond imagining and they hold so much power with their wealth that it isn’t in the least bit clear to me how an opposition to these views would be possible to be sustained. And so, we will continue to march proudly over the cliff, each in turn proclaiming our freedom even as we begin our descent under the iron clad laws of gravity. As someone or other much wiser than me once said, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. I guess therein lies Hayek’s greatest legacy.

  3. Stephen Stephen says:

    6.0 stars. On my list of All Time Favorite Books. One of the most important books ever written and most concise, brilliant, scathing and impressive argument against the planned economy that has been, or likely ever will be, written. Hayek, while always being respectful to the adherents of the idea that state control over resources and goals is the right approach, nevertheless absolutely destroys each and every argument and rationale alluded to by such people.

    His general thesis that socialism, communism, fascism will inevitably lead to totalitarianism and the loss of freedom for the individual is demonstrated without skipping logical steps or leaping to a conclusion not supported by the preceding argument. It is powerful, powerful stuff.

    His conclusion is that the only way to truly create and just and free society is to re-adopt the classic liberalism of the 19th century (more closely linked today with libertarianism). Government should be limited and exist only to (1) protect the people in time of war or national emergency and (2) provide the rule of law which means basic rules that apply equally to everyone (i.e.,no special treatment, no unfair treatment)and that do not change and allow competition and the market to decide the success or failure of individuals. This does not guaranty anyone success or failure, but rather guaranties everyone the opportunity for success or failure. While such a system is not without flaws that may at times lead to abuses that people of good conscience may find objectionable, Hayek makes a powerful case that it is the only system that provides the opportunity for success to everyone.

    Any change to the system that modifies this (i.e., grants special assistance or rules to benefit one group) necessarily hurts another group and this kind of intervention leads to the determination by a small group of people without all necessary factual evidence (as no group can ever be fully informed of all of the variables that go into how a society operates) based on its opinion of what the correct result should be. This imposing of the values and morals (which all opinion is derived from) of one person or a group people on society necessarily is done at the expense of the morals and values held by others. Hayek argues that such an action is fundamentally flawed.

    HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

  4. Trish Trish says:

    I tried to read this several times, beginning back when I almost convinced myself I might be able to understand (read: respect) what Republicans were thinking. I'm sorry to say that is over, at least for now. If we can lie, cheat, and steal our way to power, what difference does it make what is just?

    I made some notes before I gave up. Putting them here in case I ever get back to this in time to challenge Paul Ryan personally.

    This book has gone through so many editions, it is worth noting which one is referenced. Bruce Caldwell, Professor of Economics at Duke University, wrote the introduction to this 2007 edition, published, as ever, by the University of Chicago Press. It is said current Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan gives out copies of this book to his staff when they begin working for him The staff must discuss the book in small groups like bible study because—I guaran-f-ing-tee you—a young and busy staff in D.C. will not know what the heck Hayek is talking about, much less apply it to the U.S. economy in the context of the world.

    The ideas in this book began as a memo to the director of the London School of Economics in the 1930s, which then became a magazine article, and then, during WWII, became a monograph of its own. When it was published in the United States—was it 1944?—it became a surprise popular hit, though hated by the intelligensia.

    I skimmed the book only. Words like “freedom” are bandied about with great earnestness—freedom from coercion—and I can’t believe we are still talking about this in 2017. No, I am not going to go back and fight these arguments all over again. We spent much of the twentieth century watching one insufficiently great man after another tell us they’ve got our backs.

    In the end, after a lifetime of hard knocks, we find that, no, in fact, corporations took care of themselves and cared about us only insofar as we needed enough money to buy their product. We discovered that corporations really needed rules and regulations to do the right thing because they defined their responsibility more narrowly than we did. After all, they were responsible to shareholders, not customers, not citizens who give them space, water, energy, raw materials.

    I’m tired of replaying this argument over and over because over and over we discover that corporations don’t actually do the right thing.

    p. 20 “If you have any comprehension of my philosophy at all, you must know that one thing I stand for above all else is free trade throughout the world.”

    p. 28 “A final criticism has sometimes been called the “inevitability thesis” or the “slippery slope” argument: Hayek is claimed to have said that, once a society engages in a little planning, it is doomed to end up in a totalitarian state….Any departure from the practice of free enterprise, any joke that reason and science may be applied to the direction of economic activity, any attempt at economic planning, must lead us remorselessly to serfdom…”

  5. Marcus Marcus says:

    The Road to Serfdom is not an anti-government book, it's definitely not a libertarian or pro-laissez-faire capitalism or even a pro-democracy book. It's purely and simply an anti-socialism book. And, just to be clear, to Hayek, socialism primarily means central-planning. It's chapter after chapter of reasons why socialism, despite it's apparently noble goals, both will not work in the practical sense, and how it tends to lead to totalitarianism.

    Hayek's arguments are level-headed and logical. He is careful not to insult his opponent and goes out of his way to point out their good intentions.

    Despite the fact that The Road to Serfdom is currently being championed by conservatives, Hayek calls himself a liberal and the book is written with fellow liberals in mind. There is no contradiction. Definitions, especially in the world of politics, have a way of changing. For Hayek liberalism was tantamount to freedom and liberty. Today the definition of the world liberal has shifted. In economics, liberalism is now a synonym for equality, and significantly, not equal freedom for all, but rather equal, or at least more equal, distribution of resources.

    In a time when on one hand the accusation of socialism is bandied about as a slur and on the other there is a strong anti-capitalist movement that champions the same socialism, it's useful to understand not only what socialism really is, but what the implications for society are. They might not be what you think.

  6. Bookshark Bookshark says:

    The historical analysis upon which this book depends amounts to nothing more than extremely poor scholarship masquerading as thoughtful contrarianism. Hayek's conflation of Nazism with Socialism merely because they have similar names in German is an example of stupidity on the level of mistaking the PATRIOT Act for patriotism or the Ministry of Peace for peacefulness. This distracting error is unfortunately the foundation of the entirety of his argument. His theory of authoritarianism consists of extrapolations from misplaced assumptions about Nazi Germany and disproven projections about the direction the U.S. & Britain are heading in the post-war era. His quaint economic theory tells us little about contemporary authoritarian regimes and even less about modern social democracy. In sum, don't bother.

  7. Jason Holt Jason Holt says:

    There is an old cartoon (found here) which summarizes the logic of this work rather perfectly. Essentially, the government gets involved in your life, they dictate how you live, then they kill you.

    The notions in this text are trifling at best.

    Hayek never confronts the fact that a lack of some centralized body somewhere making decisions for you does not mean an end to governance. Clearly, businesses govern. They also plan. To take this power away from a centralized and (at least ostensibly) publicly accountable body and to diffuse this power throughout the business community is not to rid oneself of governance. It simply means that businesses are the government.

    If we are to acknowledge the quite obvious tendency for capital to move toward those with the most capital, that is, for businesses to develop into monopolies and oligopolies, then one might see that Hayek's model accomplishes nothing less than the restoration of the same feudal structures he's supposedly warning against.

    His argument, if taken to the same disparate conclusions as the one's he takes communism and socialism to, would result in the ownership of all land by a handful of oligarchs. We would then tend their land for a pittance. We would be serfs.

  8. Howard Olsen Howard Olsen says:

    Finally got around to reading this libertarian/conservative classic. It's short, but deep, combining economics, politics, sociology, and a short history of Socialist thought, to create the greatest critique of the collectivist impulse that you can read. Hayek's message is blunt: despite the freedom and liberality that is western man's birthright, there is an inevitable clamor for order and equality that arises from the intellligensia and the wealthy. This clamor leads to the demand-often in the guise of a new freedom-for stronger government regulation and guidance of economic activity. But the increase of government activity in the private sphere makes people so dependent on government largesse that the recipients are reduced to a modern form of serfdom-forever tied to the government that can determine whether they eat or starve. Hayek was writing during WW2, so much of his critique centers on the National Socialism of the Germans, but he makes clear that the Marxists and Laborites were just as bad. Hayek's analysis of German thought is especially interesting, inasmuch as he traces a tendency towards planning and collectivization in Germany going back decades. Rather than the modern cartoon villian portrait of Hitler that we now know, Hayek portrays that Nazis as simply finishing an effort to nationalize the German economy that began in Bismark's time and was the overarching goal of that nation's political, scientific, and capitalist elite. Hayek's arguments are often subtle and academic, but he pulls no punches, and is eminently quotable. a must read for anyone who cares about politics, and its intersection with economics

  9. sologdin sologdin says:

    Introduced by Chicago don Milty Friedman, who assures us that “the free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy” (xi). Preach it, Brother Milt!

    So-called 'collectivism' had been burying purported 'individualism,' apparently, in Padre Fred’s 1944 analysis, but was unexpectedly checked by the time of Frere Milt’s semicentennial celebratory gala binge. Fra Milt is pleased to report that Father Fred was dead wrong in his predictions that collectivist statism was taking over the UK, mostly because “central planning was sacrificed rather than individual liberty” (xiii) (i.e., parliamentary procedure kept the sky from falling), but also because collectivism is “mired in bureaucratic confusion and inefficiency” (id.). That latter cliché is not rigorously evidenced, but is taken as a postulate of market fundy-triumphalism. ‘Confusion’ is of course cipher for public due process and ‘inefficiency’ the normal code for unions plus intentionally non-profit.

    Gubmint nevertheless grew and tried to regulate bidness, usually at the behest of “special interest groups” (xiii), the cryptograph for ‘not rich people.” Despite Hayek being 100% wrong about statist takeover, Brother Milty confirms that “Hayek’s central insight” is correct: “coordination of men’s activities through central direction and through voluntary cooperation are roads going in very different directions: the first to serfdom, the second to freedom” (xiii-xiv), because medieval economics is characterized precisely by state planning and public ownership of the means of production. (Also NB: coordination of activity centrally through a large corporation is presumably perfectly acceptable!)

    Fra Milt concludes with charm: “The bulk of the intellectual community almost automatically favors any expansion of governmental power so long as it is advertised as way to protect individuals from big bad corporations, relieve poverty, protect the environment, or promote ‘equality’” (xv-xvi). NB: the same topos found in objectivism, which traffics in similar rhetorics of mendacity; Milt objects to the expansion of state power when the object is to protect 'individuals,' when they are to be protected from corporations--manifestly not an 'individualist' position.

    This text is ripe for a derridean reading from the “Outwork,” the preface to end all prefaces ( Dissemination ), considering the guest intro here, the 1976, 1956, 1944 prefaces, and author’s introduction proper, all preceding the text itself. It’s a parade of horribles. 1976 preface concedes, in a moment of rare candor, “I was myself uncomfortable about the possibility that in going beyond technical economics, I might have exceeded my competence” (xxi). Well, quite. Notes an equivocation: “At the time I wrote [1944], socialism meant unambiguously the nationalization of the means of production and the central economic planning which this made possible and necessary” (xxiii); however, “socialism has come to mean chiefly the extensive redistribution of incomes through taxation and the institutions of the welfare state” (id.). 1976 backs away from the thesis that “any movement in the direction of socialism is bound to lead to totalitarianism” (xxiv). A concession that there is no necessary connection between ‘socialism’ and ‘totalitarianism,’ no matter what Papa Freds thinks they mean on a given day.

    If anyone thought that Freds meant that any step toward socialism leads to totalitarianism, however, we might excuse their apparently erroneous belief on the basis of the 1956 preface, wherein Big Poppa admits that his audience is already against fascism and communism (which he identifies as substantially identical, in a standard reckless construction), and that “democratic socialism is a very precarious and unstable affair” (xxxii), revealing the true polemical target, and associating by the bye New Deal policies with totalitarianism by implication even though “hot socialism is probably a thing of the past” (id.). Notorious lets us know his ideological roots pretty plainly in 1956: “But in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, the defeat of the onslaught of systematic socialism has merely given those who are anxious to preserve freedom a breathing space” (xliv). 1944 preface affirms that his argument is “derived from certain ultimate values” (xlv). Preface does not disclose them, but his lebensraum reference in 1956 clears it up for me.

    Author’s own original introduction opens with epigraph from Lord Acton, rightwing fan favorite, that “Few discoveries are more irritating than those which expose the pedigree of ideas” (3). With that kind of arrogance, the reasonable reader can assume that the text will lay out the intellectual pedigree of socialist doctrine. As it happens, the text examines almost no socialist doctrine of any flavor whatsoever. It does eventually get around to laying out a thesis regarding the “socialist roots of Nazism” (183-198), which links Marxism to Hitler through figures such as Sombart, Plenge, and others; it’s the strongest part of the text, as it is at least specific--but my five-year old daughter could do better. The entire section relies upon equivocations; Pops is not content with his original definition of ‘socialism,’ as we have seen.

    The book’s purpose: “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” (6). So, the causal relation is allegedly socialism --> fascism. If the Acton epigraph is aimed at democratic socialists/social democrats, as per the 1956 preface, then this causal relation is not much concern, even if it is assumed arguendo to be true. That is, it’s not at all irritating anyone with the pedigree of socialism to point out that fascism is its alleged evil offspring. It doesn’t make any sense, unless Bigg Poppa is expecting us to accept a non distributio medii or affirmed consequent fallacy. Later, pedigree for coercion and lack of freedom of thought is located in “the French writers who laid the foundations of modern socialism” (28), without reference to any particular writer or text, except Saint Simon, who is quoted slightly as wanting to treat disobedient persons as cattle, which is not exactly an idea that arises exclusively (or even) in socialism (cf. Ottoman governance theory).

    Entire volume relies on an equivocation fallacy, broadly maligning ‘socialism,’ no matter how that term is defined (as hinted by the 1976 preface). The conflict between Nazis and commies is “the kind of conflict that will always arise between rival socialist factions” (11). Doggfather is not interested, yet, in substantiating this puerile equivalence, but rather prefers to point out that “German socialists have found much support in their country from certain features of the Prussian tradition; and this kinship between Prussianism and socialism, in which in Germany both sides gloried, gives additional support to our main contention” (11). Noted: socialism shares a continuity with ‘prussianism,’ which must be a reference to Bismarck or whatever else in the deep history of Germania that the Doggfather wishes us to infer with neoliberal psychic powerz.

    Begins the argument proper with the contention that ‘we’ are unwilling to consider the ‘crisis’ as the result of a “genuine error on our part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected” (14). We should therefore “not forget that this conflict has grown out of a struggle of ideas within what, not so long ago, was a common European civilization and that the tendencies which have culminated in the creation of the totalitarian systems were not confined to the countries which have succumbed to them” (id.). This is a curious admission for Atomic Dogg to make. The current crisis (WW2, surely, but more, perhaps) is the result of “most cherished ideals” and grew out of the common civilization, of which prussianism seems to have been a part. No problem. It’s not like extraterrestrials started the war or zombies took over (objectivism’s position on zombies & socialism notwithstanding). If all that is true, then why dogmatically state that everyone is unaware of “not merely the magnitude of the changes which have taken place during the last generation but the fact that they mean a complete change in the direction of the evolution of our ideas and social order” (15-16)? I suppose “our ideas” are not the same as “our most cherished ideals,” then? Apparently all of the evil altruists (sorry, hard not conflate this with Ayn Rand) “have progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed” (16). This last point is dogmatically stated throughout the text, and never evidenced with any rigor. Never mind the fact that it all grew out of civilization or progressively developed; we are solemnly informed of “How sharp a break not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization the modern trend toward socialism” (16), which is something that must be measured by reference to the “longer historical perspective” back to the Bible and the bloody Romans, which are held up as exemplars of ‘individualism’ along side Montaigne, Erasmus, Pericles, and Thukydides. Heh, yeah. So, never mind that you just said right before this that the crisis grew out of European civilization, progressively developed, is rooted in prussianism--now it’s some sort of epistemic ‘break’ from the entire tradition of the West. (As an aside, is anyone actually persuaded by argumentum ad antiquitatem?) Confirmed thereafter in his concern to “show how completely, though gradually and by almost imperceptible steps, our attitude toward society has changed” (24) (NB: the ‘steps‘ aren‘t shown). Mmkay. Revise and resubmit when you get your story straight, P-Funk.

    Not only is Stalinism worse than fascism (31), but marxism led to fascism (32), fascism is the stage reached after communism fails (id.), and all the fascist leaders began as socialists (id.). Fascists and communists are the same, compete with each other for the same personnel, and hate each other as heretics (34). Socialism transitioned to fascism so easily because they are so closely related (35). And so on. It’s a mess, and it’s thoroughly mendacious. That last point, for instance, is simply, manifestly erroneous; at which point did a state with socialism (as Big Poppa defined it in 1944--state ownership of the means of production with central planning (37 (a mere 3 pages later))) exist, and then transition to fascism? The answer was never in 1944, and remains never now. The errors are so coarse, the confusions so gross, that it can only be intentional misrepresentation, as no one is this stupid.

    Cites de Tocqueville for the proposition that democracy and socialism have only equality in common, “while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude” (29), which is offered as self-evident fact, without any substantiation whatsoever. Eventually throws this proposition under the bus, however, as ‘democracy’ is not very interesting to Thug Life except as a truncheon to beat leftists. We see this, not only in the prefatory remarks regarding social democrats, but also in the inane expansion of the target from ‘socialism’ to ‘collectivism,’ which includes ‘liberals’ (as understood in the US) (39). Collectivism is defined childishly as marked by central planning (39), which planning is to be opposed because ‘inefficiency’ (41), but also because “it is impossible to assume control over all the productive resources without also deciding for whom and by whom they are to be used” (46). (Gang Starr heads all the way down this slippery slope with “And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served” (101)). Both of these objections are unevidenced by Doggfather, principally because they are completely false, but even were they true, Pops is too indolent to think through the details of the argument, preferring to sweep grandly and generally all manner of facts and whatnot under the newly whitewashed rug.

    Individualism is “this recognition of the individual as the ultimate judge of his ends, the belief that as far as possible his own views ought to govern his actions” (66). Individuals should “be allowed, within defined limits, to follow their own values and preferences rather than someone else’s; that within these spheres the individual’s system of ends should be supreme and not subject to any dictation by others” (id.). This is a quaint kindergarten notion, a solipsism that is thoroughly depoliticized, ahistorical, a fantasia. Any market participant should know that an individual is unable to dictate terms to the market, for, as you just fucking said, the market “enables entrepreneurs […] to adjust their activities to their fellows”: “the price system will fulfill this function only if competition prevails, that is, if the individual producer has to adapt himself to price changes and cannot control them“ (56 emphasis added). The economic participant is always already governed by the external; Big Poppa is not interested in this implosion, of course, but it dicks up the primary basis for his preference for private property. He shrugs away the obvious objection in canards such as how in the market system “no person’s view about what is right and desirable overrules that of others” (113). ORLY?!

    Total obfuscation in comments such as “German anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism spring from the same root” (154), which is as apodictically false as can be. We also see that no cliché is left undefecated in “a movement like that of National Socialism or communism can probably be compared only to those of the great religious movements” (164).

    Our antenna should alert on unevidenced proclamations that those with authority for an economic plan will inevitably “impose their scale of preferences on the community for which they plan” (73). It is outrageous in its hubris, in its cynicism--but also in its hypocrisy: for which capitalist allows notice & comment on corporate policy? Delegation of economic authority to a public planning board will result in “arbitrary decisions” (74), leading to the completely candid confession that “Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom,” and is “by no means infallible or certain”--for “there has often been much more cultural and spiritual freedom under an autocratic rule than under some democracies” (78). And out with it: “A true ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy” (78-79). This contempt for democratic polity is revealed in Bigg Poppa’s legal illiteracy (like Rand, he has no law, and accordingly errs in his discussions of it), such as when he suggests that the ‘rule of law,’ “stripped of all technicalities […] means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand--rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers” (80 emphasis added). Any reference to ‘technicalities’ regarding the law should disqualify the utterance, and probably the utterer--because law is ‘technicality.’ His notion that ‘everything should be known beforehand’ is also manifestly erroneous; plenty in law applies retroactively.

    Reader can thus only laugh when Biggy Freds suggests that central planners will not want to “be fettered by democratic procedure” (97). (Didn’t you just tell us that democratic procedure doesn’t matter, and what matters is private property?) Ultimately, the ‘individualist’ position here, as found in Rand’s ‘objectivism,’ is profoundly illiberal, retaining only a preference for markets and private property (both Rand and Pops will not be completely committed to markets, of course, and will allow differing degrees of monopolization). This makes the argument here structurally identical to fascism, and therein lies the principal stupidity of Pops’ argument; he had defined socialism as central planning over state ownership of the means of production. Fascism however never got to either prong of that definition. Fascism did have anti-liberal components, regarding liberalism as too much too soon; fascism attempts to arrest history, to turn back the clock. Whereas the fascists would undo liberalism’s egalitarianism while retaining property and markets, the socialist proper position is that liberalism is not enough too late. This set of basic distinctions is manifest in the most basic writings on the subject (cf. Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism, Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Neumann’s Behemoth). Pops doesn’t care about any of that. Pops only cares about property.

    It’s a sad commentary on the world that this, one of the worst books ever written, is also considered one of the most important. It’s actually embarrassingly bad, especially in its most famous bits, such as the dogmatic assertion that the price system under competition is “an apparatus of registration which automatically records all the relevant effects of individual actions and whose indications are at the same time the resultant of, and the guide for, all the individual decisions” (55)--this argument simply removes the mystery one step, and then is, without more, declared efficient and just. This “automatic coordination” is graceful, whereas central planning is “incredibly clumsy, primitive, and limited in scope” (id.)--nevermind that the alleged efficiency in the market mechanism is based precisely on pricing participants out of the market, which may not matter for irrational luxury goods, but when it results in market starvation (or market famines, as in Victorian India or Ireland, or during the general crisis of the ‘30s) , that’s a bit different. Automatic coordination is deprivation and death, but because it’s papered over with woad-warrior FREDUM!!1, it’s the fault of the deprived or the decedent, who obviously wasted their freedom.

    I have only commented on the lowest of the low points. The lowest point, probably, is the crude suggestion that “one of the surprising features of the political emigration from Germany is the comparatively small number of refugees from the Left who are not ‘Jews’ in the German sense” (203). This is deception beyond measure, as the German left had been destroyed just after WWI and then again by the NSDAP in the ‘30s; the suggestion here is accordingly outrageous, and the suggester scum of the earth, considering that the surviving leftists in germania during WWII were sweating it out in concentration camps or acting as part of the armed resistance. So fuck you, Pops, and fuck Brother Milt, and fuck Ayn Rand, just because.

    Recommended for readers who experience the horror inspired by the idea of everything being directed from a single center, persons who claim as a virtue that under one system we shall know less, and those who believe that it is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought.

  10. Mel Mel says:

    1/2 star not simply for Hayek's preachy, condescending tone, but because this book was the catalyst for the gutting of the State by the flying monkeys of the Chicago School under Milton Friedman. From Pinochet's Chile to Thatcher's Britain to post-Soviet Russia, Hayek's callous version of individualism and competition gave a veneer of legitmacy to an explosion of untramelled human greed in which millions of people lost any security of income or employment whilst a few within the charmed circle of power were enriched outrageously. In fact, outrage is the only appropriate response to this book.

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10 thoughts on “The Road to Serfdom

  1. Cami Cami says:

    This book captures the frustration of classical liberals (as opposed to modern liberals) when they see collectivist policies enacted despite the overwhelming evidence that socialism brings about disastrous results.

    Having grown up and lived in Austria during World War I and later moving to Great Britain, Hayek was particularly frustrated when he saw Britain and the United States making the same mistakes of the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hayek argues that collectivism eventually leads to tyranny. Central economic planning gives too much power to the government, which essentially puts that power in the hands of a small group rather than in each individual.

    My favorite quote: “Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

    Hayek’s thesis is very pertinent today in that when the federal government does meddle too much with the free market it causes problems and then those problems ironically are seen as the failing of the free market and not the ineptitude of government.

  2. Trevor Trevor says:

    I could be wrong, but surely not even the greatest fans of Hayek could believe this is a particularly nuanced book. The central thesis is that everyone that disagrees with Hayek is either a totalitarian or someone who is inadvertently leading society down the road towards totalitarianism. This doesn’t only include Marxists and Fascists – who Hayek equates as identical – nor even members of the Labour party in Britain who might be considered ‘fellow travellers’, but even many of the younger members of the Conservative party too. You see what I mean about ‘nuance’ then perhaps? Not only is everyone else wrong, but any differences between them are as nothing when compared with what binds them in common. There literally can be no nuance.

    Decades later Maggie Thatcher would flung down a copy of Hayek’s ‘The Constitution of Liberty’ during a meeting with members of her party and yell, “This is what we believe”. It fits, of course. Both held that there was no alternative and that any deviation from the one true path inevitably leads to destruction and serfdom. ‘Freedom’ is somewhat oddly defined if there is, ultimately, only one available choice.

    The later preference for forced choices by radical free market types is perhaps one of the most potent current criticisms of this book. Worth reading in this context is William Davies’ ‘The Limits of Neoliberalism’, particularly in relation to Nudge theory. As the book Nudge makes clear, while it takes free market ideas very seriously, it also believes that people might make better decisions if they were nudged towards them. This ought to otherwise seem problematic if you really believed what Hayek says here. You see, central to his thesis is that such an understanding of what is best for others isn’t possible, in fact, it is fundamentally impossible. The thing that makes capitalism, and radical free market capitalism in particular, such a fantastic system is the fact that ‘experts’ are kept away from decision about what might make the lives of others better. It is hard to no think that Hayek would view these ‘nudges’ as little more than a further step down the road to serfdom.

    There are infinitely better criticisms of this book than I’m going to provide in this little review. Some of those include ‘Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste’ and ‘Capitalist Realism’. Why I find this book particularly terrifying is that it really has a distasteful understanding of what ‘freedom’ means. Freedom here is the elimination of every kind of safety net, it means dog eat dog, it means the war of all against each, it means an almost ludicrous extreme of competition, because only in this is the purity of individualism able to be assured. Any restrictions on individualism is understood as inevitably leading to fascism/communism/social democracy, all of which are seen as basically identical – he literally says as much here.

    Society is understood as a kind of information exchange where money is the chief form of data and therefore money needs to be protected from any distortion (say, imposed inflation) since money (or prices, rather) allow everyone in society to know which choices they should make that will best suit their needs. The reason why any form of planning is ineffective (and ultimately evil), is because the whole system is so insanely complex that any form of centralised planning inevitably introduces inefficiencies to the entire system. This makes the whole system worse for everyone – but since the planners benefit by keeping their own jobs regardless of the poor outcomes of their plans, those inefficiencies compound. People then are forced to accept products they do not want and this leads to further distortions in the proper price signals within the system which then further multiplies inefficiencies. And because there is no way of seeing what a more efficient system would look like outside the plan, the plan is still held to be the most efficient organisation of the system.

    Rather than planning, a system based on the anarchy of economic activity is the only system capable of meeting the needs of the whole of society and of producing freedom at the same time. Since there is no central planner, individuals are able to understand the messages contained in the highly situated contexts they live within and from within the prices of good they observe, and that means they are able to act in ways that meet their needs from within those circumstances. The system is self-regulating, because competition ultimately leads to a situation where the people who are most efficient and best at meeting the needs of those around them are the only people who will succeed. The system also can only exist on increased freedom – to the extent that freedom can be equated with economic anarchy – since any restriction on this freedom will necessarily be imposed upon it from outside (by the dreaded planners who we have already decided will lead us to fascist-communist-collectivism).

    Any individual may end up crushed under the driving wheel of progress, in fact, this is inevitable and necessary – for risk cannot be mitigated in the system without distorting the system as a whole. And since competition is the engine of progress, and competition means ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ – then the economic equivalent of Darwinian natural selection is, however regrettable, inevitable.

    Thus Hayek presents his vision-splendid of unfettered free markets. His expectation, of course, is that although some people will inevitably be crushed under foot – overall, most people will be better off under this system than under any other system capable of operating. There are occasional nods to the benefits of democracy, but it isn’t at all clear how ‘democracy’ can be exempt from also being seen as yet another collectivist project that undermines his radical individualism. Thatcher’s ‘there is no society, only individuals’ rings in your ears while reading this. Certainly, Hayek imposes stringent limitations upon democracy – democracy clearly can’t place any limits on the radical free market he proposes.

    Part of me wants to say that after four decades of living in lock-step with Hayek’s ideal of laissez faire capitalism, and the gross inequality that has produced, and the ecological suicide we are gormlessly heading toward, that perhaps some of those who yelled the loudest that radical free market economics would lead to the promised land should be a little embarrassed now. That certainly has not proven to be the case. As Capitalist Realism makes all too clear – the GFC only proved to his followers that Hayek’s ideas were not implemented stringently enough. And that is the beauty here. Hayek’s ideas are so over-the-top, so utopian (or dystopian, rather) that it is impossible for them to ever be fully implemented – even in Chile under a dictator – and so there will always an escape clause. Even after the Thatcher nightmare there was an escape clause that said, ‘if only his ideas had been more consistently followed…’

    I doubt we will move on from these ideas any time soon – they form a solid plank of our current received wisdom, our axiomatic truths. Those who benefit from such ideas are rich beyond imagining and they hold so much power with their wealth that it isn’t in the least bit clear to me how an opposition to these views would be possible to be sustained. And so, we will continue to march proudly over the cliff, each in turn proclaiming our freedom even as we begin our descent under the iron clad laws of gravity. As someone or other much wiser than me once said, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. I guess therein lies Hayek’s greatest legacy.

  3. Stephen Stephen says:

    6.0 stars. On my list of All Time Favorite Books. One of the most important books ever written and most concise, brilliant, scathing and impressive argument against the planned economy that has been, or likely ever will be, written. Hayek, while always being respectful to the adherents of the idea that state control over resources and goals is the right approach, nevertheless absolutely destroys each and every argument and rationale alluded to by such people.

    His general thesis that socialism, communism, fascism will inevitably lead to totalitarianism and the loss of freedom for the individual is demonstrated without skipping logical steps or leaping to a conclusion not supported by the preceding argument. It is powerful, powerful stuff.

    His conclusion is that the only way to truly create and just and free society is to re-adopt the classic liberalism of the 19th century (more closely linked today with libertarianism). Government should be limited and exist only to (1) protect the people in time of war or national emergency and (2) provide the rule of law which means basic rules that apply equally to everyone (i.e.,no special treatment, no unfair treatment)and that do not change and allow competition and the market to decide the success or failure of individuals. This does not guaranty anyone success or failure, but rather guaranties everyone the opportunity for success or failure. While such a system is not without flaws that may at times lead to abuses that people of good conscience may find objectionable, Hayek makes a powerful case that it is the only system that provides the opportunity for success to everyone.

    Any change to the system that modifies this (i.e., grants special assistance or rules to benefit one group) necessarily hurts another group and this kind of intervention leads to the determination by a small group of people without all necessary factual evidence (as no group can ever be fully informed of all of the variables that go into how a society operates) based on its opinion of what the correct result should be. This imposing of the values and morals (which all opinion is derived from) of one person or a group people on society necessarily is done at the expense of the morals and values held by others. Hayek argues that such an action is fundamentally flawed.

    HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

  4. Trish Trish says:

    I tried to read this several times, beginning back when I almost convinced myself I might be able to understand (read: respect) what Republicans were thinking. I'm sorry to say that is over, at least for now. If we can lie, cheat, and steal our way to power, what difference does it make what is just?

    I made some notes before I gave up. Putting them here in case I ever get back to this in time to challenge Paul Ryan personally.

    This book has gone through so many editions, it is worth noting which one is referenced. Bruce Caldwell, Professor of Economics at Duke University, wrote the introduction to this 2007 edition, published, as ever, by the University of Chicago Press. It is said current Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan gives out copies of this book to his staff when they begin working for him The staff must discuss the book in small groups like bible study because—I guaran-f-ing-tee you—a young and busy staff in D.C. will not know what the heck Hayek is talking about, much less apply it to the U.S. economy in the context of the world.

    The ideas in this book began as a memo to the director of the London School of Economics in the 1930s, which then became a magazine article, and then, during WWII, became a monograph of its own. When it was published in the United States—was it 1944?—it became a surprise popular hit, though hated by the intelligensia.

    I skimmed the book only. Words like “freedom” are bandied about with great earnestness—freedom from coercion—and I can’t believe we are still talking about this in 2017. No, I am not going to go back and fight these arguments all over again. We spent much of the twentieth century watching one insufficiently great man after another tell us they’ve got our backs.

    In the end, after a lifetime of hard knocks, we find that, no, in fact, corporations took care of themselves and cared about us only insofar as we needed enough money to buy their product. We discovered that corporations really needed rules and regulations to do the right thing because they defined their responsibility more narrowly than we did. After all, they were responsible to shareholders, not customers, not citizens who give them space, water, energy, raw materials.

    I’m tired of replaying this argument over and over because over and over we discover that corporations don’t actually do the right thing.

    p. 20 “If you have any comprehension of my philosophy at all, you must know that one thing I stand for above all else is free trade throughout the world.”

    p. 28 “A final criticism has sometimes been called the “inevitability thesis” or the “slippery slope” argument: Hayek is claimed to have said that, once a society engages in a little planning, it is doomed to end up in a totalitarian state….Any departure from the practice of free enterprise, any joke that reason and science may be applied to the direction of economic activity, any attempt at economic planning, must lead us remorselessly to serfdom…”

  5. Marcus Marcus says:

    The Road to Serfdom is not an anti-government book, it's definitely not a libertarian or pro-laissez-faire capitalism or even a pro-democracy book. It's purely and simply an anti-socialism book. And, just to be clear, to Hayek, socialism primarily means central-planning. It's chapter after chapter of reasons why socialism, despite it's apparently noble goals, both will not work in the practical sense, and how it tends to lead to totalitarianism.

    Hayek's arguments are level-headed and logical. He is careful not to insult his opponent and goes out of his way to point out their good intentions.

    Despite the fact that The Road to Serfdom is currently being championed by conservatives, Hayek calls himself a liberal and the book is written with fellow liberals in mind. There is no contradiction. Definitions, especially in the world of politics, have a way of changing. For Hayek liberalism was tantamount to freedom and liberty. Today the definition of the world liberal has shifted. In economics, liberalism is now a synonym for equality, and significantly, not equal freedom for all, but rather equal, or at least more equal, distribution of resources.

    In a time when on one hand the accusation of socialism is bandied about as a slur and on the other there is a strong anti-capitalist movement that champions the same socialism, it's useful to understand not only what socialism really is, but what the implications for society are. They might not be what you think.

  6. Bookshark Bookshark says:

    The historical analysis upon which this book depends amounts to nothing more than extremely poor scholarship masquerading as thoughtful contrarianism. Hayek's conflation of Nazism with Socialism merely because they have similar names in German is an example of stupidity on the level of mistaking the PATRIOT Act for patriotism or the Ministry of Peace for peacefulness. This distracting error is unfortunately the foundation of the entirety of his argument. His theory of authoritarianism consists of extrapolations from misplaced assumptions about Nazi Germany and disproven projections about the direction the U.S. & Britain are heading in the post-war era. His quaint economic theory tells us little about contemporary authoritarian regimes and even less about modern social democracy. In sum, don't bother.

  7. Jason Holt Jason Holt says:

    There is an old cartoon (found here) which summarizes the logic of this work rather perfectly. Essentially, the government gets involved in your life, they dictate how you live, then they kill you.

    The notions in this text are trifling at best.

    Hayek never confronts the fact that a lack of some centralized body somewhere making decisions for you does not mean an end to governance. Clearly, businesses govern. They also plan. To take this power away from a centralized and (at least ostensibly) publicly accountable body and to diffuse this power throughout the business community is not to rid oneself of governance. It simply means that businesses are the government.

    If we are to acknowledge the quite obvious tendency for capital to move toward those with the most capital, that is, for businesses to develop into monopolies and oligopolies, then one might see that Hayek's model accomplishes nothing less than the restoration of the same feudal structures he's supposedly warning against.

    His argument, if taken to the same disparate conclusions as the one's he takes communism and socialism to, would result in the ownership of all land by a handful of oligarchs. We would then tend their land for a pittance. We would be serfs.

  8. Howard Olsen Howard Olsen says:

    Finally got around to reading this libertarian/conservative classic. It's short, but deep, combining economics, politics, sociology, and a short history of Socialist thought, to create the greatest critique of the collectivist impulse that you can read. Hayek's message is blunt: despite the freedom and liberality that is western man's birthright, there is an inevitable clamor for order and equality that arises from the intellligensia and the wealthy. This clamor leads to the demand-often in the guise of a new freedom-for stronger government regulation and guidance of economic activity. But the increase of government activity in the private sphere makes people so dependent on government largesse that the recipients are reduced to a modern form of serfdom-forever tied to the government that can determine whether they eat or starve. Hayek was writing during WW2, so much of his critique centers on the National Socialism of the Germans, but he makes clear that the Marxists and Laborites were just as bad. Hayek's analysis of German thought is especially interesting, inasmuch as he traces a tendency towards planning and collectivization in Germany going back decades. Rather than the modern cartoon villian portrait of Hitler that we now know, Hayek portrays that Nazis as simply finishing an effort to nationalize the German economy that began in Bismark's time and was the overarching goal of that nation's political, scientific, and capitalist elite. Hayek's arguments are often subtle and academic, but he pulls no punches, and is eminently quotable. a must read for anyone who cares about politics, and its intersection with economics

  9. sologdin sologdin says:

    Introduced by Chicago don Milty Friedman, who assures us that “the free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy” (xi). Preach it, Brother Milt!

    So-called 'collectivism' had been burying purported 'individualism,' apparently, in Padre Fred’s 1944 analysis, but was unexpectedly checked by the time of Frere Milt’s semicentennial celebratory gala binge. Fra Milt is pleased to report that Father Fred was dead wrong in his predictions that collectivist statism was taking over the UK, mostly because “central planning was sacrificed rather than individual liberty” (xiii) (i.e., parliamentary procedure kept the sky from falling), but also because collectivism is “mired in bureaucratic confusion and inefficiency” (id.). That latter cliché is not rigorously evidenced, but is taken as a postulate of market fundy-triumphalism. ‘Confusion’ is of course cipher for public due process and ‘inefficiency’ the normal code for unions plus intentionally non-profit.

    Gubmint nevertheless grew and tried to regulate bidness, usually at the behest of “special interest groups” (xiii), the cryptograph for ‘not rich people.” Despite Hayek being 100% wrong about statist takeover, Brother Milty confirms that “Hayek’s central insight” is correct: “coordination of men’s activities through central direction and through voluntary cooperation are roads going in very different directions: the first to serfdom, the second to freedom” (xiii-xiv), because medieval economics is characterized precisely by state planning and public ownership of the means of production. (Also NB: coordination of activity centrally through a large corporation is presumably perfectly acceptable!)

    Fra Milt concludes with charm: “The bulk of the intellectual community almost automatically favors any expansion of governmental power so long as it is advertised as way to protect individuals from big bad corporations, relieve poverty, protect the environment, or promote ‘equality’” (xv-xvi). NB: the same topos found in objectivism, which traffics in similar rhetorics of mendacity; Milt objects to the expansion of state power when the object is to protect 'individuals,' when they are to be protected from corporations--manifestly not an 'individualist' position.

    This text is ripe for a derridean reading from the “Outwork,” the preface to end all prefaces ( Dissemination ), considering the guest intro here, the 1976, 1956, 1944 prefaces, and author’s introduction proper, all preceding the text itself. It’s a parade of horribles. 1976 preface concedes, in a moment of rare candor, “I was myself uncomfortable about the possibility that in going beyond technical economics, I might have exceeded my competence” (xxi). Well, quite. Notes an equivocation: “At the time I wrote [1944], socialism meant unambiguously the nationalization of the means of production and the central economic planning which this made possible and necessary” (xxiii); however, “socialism has come to mean chiefly the extensive redistribution of incomes through taxation and the institutions of the welfare state” (id.). 1976 backs away from the thesis that “any movement in the direction of socialism is bound to lead to totalitarianism” (xxiv). A concession that there is no necessary connection between ‘socialism’ and ‘totalitarianism,’ no matter what Papa Freds thinks they mean on a given day.

    If anyone thought that Freds meant that any step toward socialism leads to totalitarianism, however, we might excuse their apparently erroneous belief on the basis of the 1956 preface, wherein Big Poppa admits that his audience is already against fascism and communism (which he identifies as substantially identical, in a standard reckless construction), and that “democratic socialism is a very precarious and unstable affair” (xxxii), revealing the true polemical target, and associating by the bye New Deal policies with totalitarianism by implication even though “hot socialism is probably a thing of the past” (id.). Notorious lets us know his ideological roots pretty plainly in 1956: “But in Britain, as elsewhere in the world, the defeat of the onslaught of systematic socialism has merely given those who are anxious to preserve freedom a breathing space” (xliv). 1944 preface affirms that his argument is “derived from certain ultimate values” (xlv). Preface does not disclose them, but his lebensraum reference in 1956 clears it up for me.

    Author’s own original introduction opens with epigraph from Lord Acton, rightwing fan favorite, that “Few discoveries are more irritating than those which expose the pedigree of ideas” (3). With that kind of arrogance, the reasonable reader can assume that the text will lay out the intellectual pedigree of socialist doctrine. As it happens, the text examines almost no socialist doctrine of any flavor whatsoever. It does eventually get around to laying out a thesis regarding the “socialist roots of Nazism” (183-198), which links Marxism to Hitler through figures such as Sombart, Plenge, and others; it’s the strongest part of the text, as it is at least specific--but my five-year old daughter could do better. The entire section relies upon equivocations; Pops is not content with his original definition of ‘socialism,’ as we have seen.

    The book’s purpose: “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” (6). So, the causal relation is allegedly socialism --> fascism. If the Acton epigraph is aimed at democratic socialists/social democrats, as per the 1956 preface, then this causal relation is not much concern, even if it is assumed arguendo to be true. That is, it’s not at all irritating anyone with the pedigree of socialism to point out that fascism is its alleged evil offspring. It doesn’t make any sense, unless Bigg Poppa is expecting us to accept a non distributio medii or affirmed consequent fallacy. Later, pedigree for coercion and lack of freedom of thought is located in “the French writers who laid the foundations of modern socialism” (28), without reference to any particular writer or text, except Saint Simon, who is quoted slightly as wanting to treat disobedient persons as cattle, which is not exactly an idea that arises exclusively (or even) in socialism (cf. Ottoman governance theory).

    Entire volume relies on an equivocation fallacy, broadly maligning ‘socialism,’ no matter how that term is defined (as hinted by the 1976 preface). The conflict between Nazis and commies is “the kind of conflict that will always arise between rival socialist factions” (11). Doggfather is not interested, yet, in substantiating this puerile equivalence, but rather prefers to point out that “German socialists have found much support in their country from certain features of the Prussian tradition; and this kinship between Prussianism and socialism, in which in Germany both sides gloried, gives additional support to our main contention” (11). Noted: socialism shares a continuity with ‘prussianism,’ which must be a reference to Bismarck or whatever else in the deep history of Germania that the Doggfather wishes us to infer with neoliberal psychic powerz.

    Begins the argument proper with the contention that ‘we’ are unwilling to consider the ‘crisis’ as the result of a “genuine error on our part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected” (14). We should therefore “not forget that this conflict has grown out of a struggle of ideas within what, not so long ago, was a common European civilization and that the tendencies which have culminated in the creation of the totalitarian systems were not confined to the countries which have succumbed to them” (id.). This is a curious admission for Atomic Dogg to make. The current crisis (WW2, surely, but more, perhaps) is the result of “most cherished ideals” and grew out of the common civilization, of which prussianism seems to have been a part. No problem. It’s not like extraterrestrials started the war or zombies took over (objectivism’s position on zombies & socialism notwithstanding). If all that is true, then why dogmatically state that everyone is unaware of “not merely the magnitude of the changes which have taken place during the last generation but the fact that they mean a complete change in the direction of the evolution of our ideas and social order” (15-16)? I suppose “our ideas” are not the same as “our most cherished ideals,” then? Apparently all of the evil altruists (sorry, hard not conflate this with Ayn Rand) “have progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed” (16). This last point is dogmatically stated throughout the text, and never evidenced with any rigor. Never mind the fact that it all grew out of civilization or progressively developed; we are solemnly informed of “How sharp a break not only with the recent past but with the whole evolution of Western civilization the modern trend toward socialism” (16), which is something that must be measured by reference to the “longer historical perspective” back to the Bible and the bloody Romans, which are held up as exemplars of ‘individualism’ along side Montaigne, Erasmus, Pericles, and Thukydides. Heh, yeah. So, never mind that you just said right before this that the crisis grew out of European civilization, progressively developed, is rooted in prussianism--now it’s some sort of epistemic ‘break’ from the entire tradition of the West. (As an aside, is anyone actually persuaded by argumentum ad antiquitatem?) Confirmed thereafter in his concern to “show how completely, though gradually and by almost imperceptible steps, our attitude toward society has changed” (24) (NB: the ‘steps‘ aren‘t shown). Mmkay. Revise and resubmit when you get your story straight, P-Funk.

    Not only is Stalinism worse than fascism (31), but marxism led to fascism (32), fascism is the stage reached after communism fails (id.), and all the fascist leaders began as socialists (id.). Fascists and communists are the same, compete with each other for the same personnel, and hate each other as heretics (34). Socialism transitioned to fascism so easily because they are so closely related (35). And so on. It’s a mess, and it’s thoroughly mendacious. That last point, for instance, is simply, manifestly erroneous; at which point did a state with socialism (as Big Poppa defined it in 1944--state ownership of the means of production with central planning (37 (a mere 3 pages later))) exist, and then transition to fascism? The answer was never in 1944, and remains never now. The errors are so coarse, the confusions so gross, that it can only be intentional misrepresentation, as no one is this stupid.

    Cites de Tocqueville for the proposition that democracy and socialism have only equality in common, “while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude” (29), which is offered as self-evident fact, without any substantiation whatsoever. Eventually throws this proposition under the bus, however, as ‘democracy’ is not very interesting to Thug Life except as a truncheon to beat leftists. We see this, not only in the prefatory remarks regarding social democrats, but also in the inane expansion of the target from ‘socialism’ to ‘collectivism,’ which includes ‘liberals’ (as understood in the US) (39). Collectivism is defined childishly as marked by central planning (39), which planning is to be opposed because ‘inefficiency’ (41), but also because “it is impossible to assume control over all the productive resources without also deciding for whom and by whom they are to be used” (46). (Gang Starr heads all the way down this slippery slope with “And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served” (101)). Both of these objections are unevidenced by Doggfather, principally because they are completely false, but even were they true, Pops is too indolent to think through the details of the argument, preferring to sweep grandly and generally all manner of facts and whatnot under the newly whitewashed rug.

    Individualism is “this recognition of the individual as the ultimate judge of his ends, the belief that as far as possible his own views ought to govern his actions” (66). Individuals should “be allowed, within defined limits, to follow their own values and preferences rather than someone else’s; that within these spheres the individual’s system of ends should be supreme and not subject to any dictation by others” (id.). This is a quaint kindergarten notion, a solipsism that is thoroughly depoliticized, ahistorical, a fantasia. Any market participant should know that an individual is unable to dictate terms to the market, for, as you just fucking said, the market “enables entrepreneurs […] to adjust their activities to their fellows”: “the price system will fulfill this function only if competition prevails, that is, if the individual producer has to adapt himself to price changes and cannot control them“ (56 emphasis added). The economic participant is always already governed by the external; Big Poppa is not interested in this implosion, of course, but it dicks up the primary basis for his preference for private property. He shrugs away the obvious objection in canards such as how in the market system “no person’s view about what is right and desirable overrules that of others” (113). ORLY?!

    Total obfuscation in comments such as “German anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism spring from the same root” (154), which is as apodictically false as can be. We also see that no cliché is left undefecated in “a movement like that of National Socialism or communism can probably be compared only to those of the great religious movements” (164).

    Our antenna should alert on unevidenced proclamations that those with authority for an economic plan will inevitably “impose their scale of preferences on the community for which they plan” (73). It is outrageous in its hubris, in its cynicism--but also in its hypocrisy: for which capitalist allows notice & comment on corporate policy? Delegation of economic authority to a public planning board will result in “arbitrary decisions” (74), leading to the completely candid confession that “Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom,” and is “by no means infallible or certain”--for “there has often been much more cultural and spiritual freedom under an autocratic rule than under some democracies” (78). And out with it: “A true ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy” (78-79). This contempt for democratic polity is revealed in Bigg Poppa’s legal illiteracy (like Rand, he has no law, and accordingly errs in his discussions of it), such as when he suggests that the ‘rule of law,’ “stripped of all technicalities […] means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand--rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers” (80 emphasis added). Any reference to ‘technicalities’ regarding the law should disqualify the utterance, and probably the utterer--because law is ‘technicality.’ His notion that ‘everything should be known beforehand’ is also manifestly erroneous; plenty in law applies retroactively.

    Reader can thus only laugh when Biggy Freds suggests that central planners will not want to “be fettered by democratic procedure” (97). (Didn’t you just tell us that democratic procedure doesn’t matter, and what matters is private property?) Ultimately, the ‘individualist’ position here, as found in Rand’s ‘objectivism,’ is profoundly illiberal, retaining only a preference for markets and private property (both Rand and Pops will not be completely committed to markets, of course, and will allow differing degrees of monopolization). This makes the argument here structurally identical to fascism, and therein lies the principal stupidity of Pops’ argument; he had defined socialism as central planning over state ownership of the means of production. Fascism however never got to either prong of that definition. Fascism did have anti-liberal components, regarding liberalism as too much too soon; fascism attempts to arrest history, to turn back the clock. Whereas the fascists would undo liberalism’s egalitarianism while retaining property and markets, the socialist proper position is that liberalism is not enough too late. This set of basic distinctions is manifest in the most basic writings on the subject (cf. Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism, Griffin’s Modernism and Fascism, Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, Neumann’s Behemoth). Pops doesn’t care about any of that. Pops only cares about property.

    It’s a sad commentary on the world that this, one of the worst books ever written, is also considered one of the most important. It’s actually embarrassingly bad, especially in its most famous bits, such as the dogmatic assertion that the price system under competition is “an apparatus of registration which automatically records all the relevant effects of individual actions and whose indications are at the same time the resultant of, and the guide for, all the individual decisions” (55)--this argument simply removes the mystery one step, and then is, without more, declared efficient and just. This “automatic coordination” is graceful, whereas central planning is “incredibly clumsy, primitive, and limited in scope” (id.)--nevermind that the alleged efficiency in the market mechanism is based precisely on pricing participants out of the market, which may not matter for irrational luxury goods, but when it results in market starvation (or market famines, as in Victorian India or Ireland, or during the general crisis of the ‘30s) , that’s a bit different. Automatic coordination is deprivation and death, but because it’s papered over with woad-warrior FREDUM!!1, it’s the fault of the deprived or the decedent, who obviously wasted their freedom.

    I have only commented on the lowest of the low points. The lowest point, probably, is the crude suggestion that “one of the surprising features of the political emigration from Germany is the comparatively small number of refugees from the Left who are not ‘Jews’ in the German sense” (203). This is deception beyond measure, as the German left had been destroyed just after WWI and then again by the NSDAP in the ‘30s; the suggestion here is accordingly outrageous, and the suggester scum of the earth, considering that the surviving leftists in germania during WWII were sweating it out in concentration camps or acting as part of the armed resistance. So fuck you, Pops, and fuck Brother Milt, and fuck Ayn Rand, just because.

    Recommended for readers who experience the horror inspired by the idea of everything being directed from a single center, persons who claim as a virtue that under one system we shall know less, and those who believe that it is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought.

  10. Mel Mel says:

    1/2 star not simply for Hayek's preachy, condescending tone, but because this book was the catalyst for the gutting of the State by the flying monkeys of the Chicago School under Milton Friedman. From Pinochet's Chile to Thatcher's Britain to post-Soviet Russia, Hayek's callous version of individualism and competition gave a veneer of legitmacy to an explosion of untramelled human greed in which millions of people lost any security of income or employment whilst a few within the charmed circle of power were enriched outrageously. In fact, outrage is the only appropriate response to this book.

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