Originally published in 1944, The Road to Serfdom has profoundly influenced many of the world's great leaders, from Orwell and Churchill in the mid-'40s, to Reagan and Thatcher in the '80s. The book offers persuasive warnings against the dangers of central planning, along with what Orwell described as "an eloquent defense of laissez-faire capitalism".
Hayek shows that the idea that "under a dictatorial government you can be free inside," is nothing less than a grievous fallacy. Such dictatorial governments prevent individual freedoms, and they often use psychological measures to perform "an alteration of the character of the people". Gradually, the people yield their individuality to the point where they become part of the collectivist mass.
©1944 The University of Chicago (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“This book was like a Mike Tyson (in his prime) right hook to socialism in Western Europe and in the United States. But its influence didn’t stop there. It has inspired political and economic leaders for decades since—most famously Ronald Reagan. Reagan often praised Hayek when he talked about people waking up to the dangers of big government.” (Glenn Beck)
“Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left' and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses.” (National Review, 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century)
“This book has become a true classic: essential reading for everyone who is seriously interested in politics in the broadest and least partisan sense.” (Milton Friedman)
Parts of this "mid-century" (1940's) book may send shivers up your spine since they seem like "today's news" (circa 2011). Hayek's writing is incisive and insightful, if at times a bit "dense" due to high expectations of the vocabulary and language skills of his readers. One example is the occasional use of short quotes in French and German with no translations supplied. Bill Hughes is a master narrator, and his skills are tested in this book with its extensive citations and quotes having parenthetical attributions.
I appreciated this book for a historical context on the pendulum swings between planning and the free market. No matter which side you are rooting for, you will experience both thrills and slumps, because in the intervening 50+ years since this books original publication, some things are recurring and others are not [yet?].
Another reason to like this book is the logical/philosophical approach. While the title hints at a provocative rhetoric, the text itself is quite level-headed.
I love classic fiction, Austrian economics, enlightenment through history, libertarian politics and humorous stories (both fiction and non).
Not only does F.A. Hayek address and debunk every facet of the appeal for socialism, he does it in a manner of respect and understanding. What is lost in current political debates is the ability to stick to facts, history and logic; instead, on both sides, we see the attacking of character before the arguing of specific points.
What was most amazing and impressive about The Road to Serfdom was the fact that it wasn't written one year ago. Among my contemporaries (20-somethings), there is the tendency to write off classical liberalism as something that is outdated and no longer relevant or practical for the world we live in. However, Hayek shows that the problems that were present 50 years ago are the problems that are still with us today.
Einstein says that the definition of insanity is
I would give the narrator's performance a 4.3. I didn't love his voice, but it was just my particular taste. He was, however, very easy to listen to and follow along with.
Socialism: the invisible Road to Serfdom!
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
It seems common that authors of popular, sometimes classic, books are often interpreted by people who have not read them. Authors like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Richard Wright, Ayn Rand, Vladimir Nabokov, and Friedrich Hayek are frequently commented on but when one reads what they wrote, content often becomes a surprise.
Conservatives that rant against government regulation based on Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” are as incorrect as liberals that argue Hayek wrote against social government programs for the poor, disabled, and unemployed. Both myopic views reveal the likelihood that “Road to Serfdom” has not been read by either party.
Listen to what Hayek really wrote rather than what politicians of the right and left say he wrote. William Hughes does a nice job of revealing the truth in a narration of Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom".
Excellent book, it should be a must for every college student especially Business and Econ majors. We are all just pawns in the central planners game.
Hayek in this book is making the case that centralized state planning is the road to totalitarian government. He elegantly build the case that in order for a state central plan to be implemented it will require wide authorities delegated to some experts. But because the economy is too complex to be regulated by some experts, regardless of how smart they are, the plan will always fall short of the promised outcomes and the experts will always ask for more authority to make more changes to achieve those goals. These expanded authorities will erode the power of the elected democratic parliament and the individual liberties of people.
He refers to all the people who advocate for regulating the economy to achieve certain social or national goals as socialists because they prefer social goals to individual liberties.
He uses the example of Germany's progress from a liberal state to a welfare state to eventually the nazi state that took over in the 1930s.
The books is a very relevant to the modern time. As I read it, I kept reflecting on the growth of government in the United States over the last decades and the failures it keep facing in achieving the promised goals. The gradual growth of the regulatory executive agencies and decline in the power of congress since the beginning of the twentieth century fits perfectly with the pattern Hayek is describing in the book.
Fantastic, perception altering book. And also quite scary to realise in many respects how much further we have continued down the path Hayek warned us against.
Essential reading (or listening!)
Also love William Hughes' narration. Top notch.
Half a century ago, Hayek laid down many of the logical contradictions inherent to a planned economy, and the conclusions of such reasoning. Unfortunately, he offers little alternative nor does he argue for the moral and practical virtues of freedom.
This book was recommended to me by a spinal surgeon with whom i work. The subject matter and articulation of it and the time in which it was written, 1944, is not The easiest book to listen to. I will listen to it again as much of the subject matter was not fully comprehendible hearing it the first time.
I listen to audiobooks while working outdoors and don't always have 100% of my attention to devote to book. I enjoy books most that are entertaining enough and straightforward enough to not lose focus of while working. I believe some of the concepts in this book are difficult to understand and may have been more easily interpreted by the physician who recommended it. If you have a greater education of history and a supreme working knowledge of much of the vocabulary , which was not immediately understood by me, you may find the book informative.
I will give the book another listen, but my initial impression only inclined me to leave three stars because overall it was difficult to listen to and not immediately clear in many instances what the author was speaking about. as stated above, this may be due to my lack of understanding of some of the vocabulary within the book and also because of the time in which it was written but overall my enjoyment of the publication only merited three stars.
Hayek was a star pupil of the great economist and political philosopher Ludwig von Mises. He has written a clear and convincing defense of liberty, linking economic and political liberty together.
His terminology uses the 19th century meaning of "liberalism" -- a term that has been stolen and transformed in a modern "newspeak" to mean the opposite of its original definition. That aside, Hayek offers a well reasoned defense of what used to be called the liberal position on economics and politics. Writing seventy years ago, he presciently foresaw the wave of collectivism and statism gradually taking over Western democratic nations.
The title of the book is a reference to the way a statist, socialist government will, via the sometimes well meaning (and sometimes nefarious) interference with the liberal perspective, eventually turns its citizens into subjects, dependent on the state in much the way serfs were dependent on the nobility in earlier eras.
The first two-thirds of the book are densely written but a careful listener can follow the reasoning without undue effort. The final one-third becomes even more dense and may take more concentration to understand. But it is all worth the effort.
While I doubt that pro-statist collectivists would ever take the trouble to listen to Hayek or to engage him in philosophical debate, those who are advocates of liberty must read this book to strengthen their own pro-liberty arguments and put their advocacy on sound intellectual footing. This book is a true classic by one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century.
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