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The Road to Serfdom | [Friedrich A. Hayek]

The Road to Serfdom

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".
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Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Emily Seattle, WA, United States 02-03-12
    Emily Seattle, WA, United States 02-03-12

    I love classic fiction, Austrian economics, enlightenment through history, libertarian politics and humorous stories (both fiction and non).

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    "Incredibly Relevant with Respectful Arguments"
    What made the experience of listening to The Road to Serfdom the most enjoyable?

    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 did you like best about this story?

    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


    What about William Hughes’s performance did you like?

    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.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Socialism: the invisible Road to Serfdom!


    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Hardaway 04-13-15 Member Since 2014
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    "Not the easiest"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    smarmer Los Angeles, CA USA 11-13-14
    smarmer Los Angeles, CA USA 11-13-14 Member Since 2011

    smarmer

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    "Articulate Persuasive Defense of Liberty"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CMC Arizona, USA 08-30-14
    CMC Arizona, USA 08-30-14 Member Since 2012

    CMC

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    "A good perspective on history"

    Hayek drives this point home of how centralized governments evolve over time. His path of argument is tainted by the National Socialist party in Germany and the Communist party in Russia in the first half of the 20th century. The book is well read and should be finished. I have the paper book, but I have never been able to finish it. My commute to work allows me to read (listen to) books like this.

    The book discusses the challenges as any government tries to centralize its functions. No government wants to be remembered as incompetent. Most try to do their best to help the people. A few Caligula's come, but hopefully they are few. Each government sees many ways they can improve the lives of the governed. In this effort, they try to improve the status of each person to the best methods of their thinking patterns.

    In some manner, the government needs to restrict less productive activities compared to more productive activities. This requires some bounds on the governed. It can be setting the amount of grain sold, or the classes taught in schools, or the amount of refinery capacity--due to building permits, etc. This restricts the freedom of citizens in some degree. Some nations restrict the amount of doctors, pharmacists, dentists to prevent over saturation of a job market. Taxation, a necessary evil, also restricts where money is invested in an economy.

    One can see this "bounding" effort will grow into many areas over time. Each such effort is intended for good, but it is a bound or restriction that is enforced by the governments power. Each such effort must have some error in it. Government philosophy changes. One encourages open growth, one encourages "planned" growth. Laws must be refined to help. Experts in law are generated over time. These experts see the law and its framework only. Even if the government wants to do its best, it is forced by the nature of the situation to become more restrictive. The second law of thermodynamics is in play as well.

    The nature of people who have a new idea for societal improvement becomes more forceful over time. They are certain of the rightness of their ideas and methods. They insist on implementing their ideas for the best of the nation. Only the more determined will become governmental leaders. They will choose people of their own philosophy to help them.

    Hayek drives this point home and its outcome. He does his work well. Listen to the book and consider his thinking pattern. Recognize he has his own philosophy as well. The book is a classic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    bobtec United States 08-18-14
    bobtec United States 08-18-14 Member Since 2010
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    "The topic is great, but the narrative is DRY!!!"
    What would have made The Road to Serfdom better?

    Not including footnotes in the narrative (perhaps having footnote glossary on a pdf file).


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    He probably wouldn't be as dry as Ben Stein? I don't know. I've never heard Ben Stein narrate a book. For a political comedy, It may be hilarious (He was the only one I liked in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and I still watch him on Cavuto on Business).


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of William Hughes?

    Christopher Hurt, or Scott Brick.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    apathy. I don't really think that's what Hayek was going for


    Any additional comments?

    I could only get through half the listening, and had to quit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-21-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-21-14 Member Since 2014

    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.

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    "SOCIALISM"

    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".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Anderson Davenport, IA USA 04-30-14
    Scott Anderson Davenport, IA USA 04-30-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Prescient for our time."
    Would you listen to The Road to Serfdom again? Why?

    I might listen to it again, but there are so many other great books out there to get to.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    Hayek wrote the book in the 40's, but it is as if he is telling the story of America in 2014.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Heed the warnings.


    Any additional comments?

    Pay attention to what the great thinkers of the last century are telling you about our world today.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    patrick MACON, GA, United States 03-24-14
    patrick MACON, GA, United States 03-24-14 Member Since 2015
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    "A long important essay on Socialism vs. Capitalism"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would, but that friend would need the ability to understand long chains of big words spoken one after another. It would sound a lot like "word salad" to most. This is especially so if the reader isn't particularly interested in politics or defense of one's own freedom.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    There were no characters in this book. This is a long essay. It consists of general statements that the author finds to be true. A reader may gain a lot from this book, even if only two or three sentences are listened to at a time. The author says a mouthful in each sentence.


    What three words best describe William Hughes’s voice?

    The narrator was decent, but his pronunciation of German words and pronunciation of titles of referenced German books is comical. Does he only speak German with a mouth full of food? Perhaps he has a speech impediment only in German.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I didn't have an extreme reaction, but I did come away with an understanding of why a free economy functions much better than a planned (or socialist) economy.


    Any additional comments?

    This book was written from an Englishman's perspective when WWII was winding down or had just ended. This was at a time when the Soviet Union was still an ally of the United States and England against the Axis Powers. The socialism aspect was in context of the German Nazis (short for Nationalist Socialist) form of socialism, just before the cold war began. It seems that England had it's share of proponents of socialism and this book was written to highlight the unfortunate things that would happen if socialism were allowed to grip England. Many of these things are not obvious, but make perfect sense when explained. One could draw a parallel to the scary direction the United States is heading under the leadership of Barack Obama.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kenneth LEESBURG, VA, United States 06-29-13
    Kenneth LEESBURG, VA, United States 06-29-13 Member Since 2010

    Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.

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    "Top Classical Political Work of the 20th Century"

    Writing during World War II, Fredrick Hayek (a prominent academic at the London School of Economics), presents a passionate argument for what we now think of as libertarianism, but which he called Classical Liberalism. He argues that central planning, rather it be liberal or conservative is the great evil. This is because central planning can only be implemented through an ever escalating slide towards totalitarianism. He further argues that the British and American traditions of individual freedom are the antidote.

    In the context of World War II he argues that although the Nationalizes and the Nazis purport to be the opposite of the Socialist and the Communist, they are merely arguing over how to implement central planning. The important question is rather (or when) to have central planning.

    Another perspective on this work is that at any given time the political discourse tends towards the one dimensional. The result is that the actual interaction of the government with “real life” are (with rare exceptions) significantly more multi-dimensional than the discussion of this interaction. From World War I to the present much of the political discussion has focused on the “left/right debate”. But the difference between classical liberalism and central planning is the important distinction.

    As an aside while arguing with my wife about this book, I had an epiphany, which is suggested by the book, but not explicitly in the book. Neither central planning nor laissez faire are inherently more efficient, the apparent difference in efficiency are a matter of perspective. The difference is strongly analogous to the difference between vertical and horizontal integration in technology. Central planning can more efficiently accomplish a small number of objectives at the expense of an even greater loss of efficiency in other parts of the system (i.e., vertical integration). Laissez faire maximizes system efficiency at the expense of a loss of end-to-end efficiency in nearly every specific objective (i.e., horizontal integration).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kindle Customer Austin, Texas, United States 03-13-13
    Kindle Customer Austin, Texas, United States 03-13-13
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    "Boring Performance."
    Would you listen to The Road to Serfdom again? Why?

    I have been trying to finish this for a while now. Sadly, I have a really hard time listening without zoning out because I think the performer just isn't paying attention to the concepts. The sentences are long, and the semantics flow throughout the paragraphs, but the narrator EMphaSIZES EVery OTHer syllable, just about, and every sentence is in the same dull range. He's not communicating, he's just reading.

    In fact, in order to pay attention, I "re-read" each sentence aloud in my head. I am going to have to pick up a physical copy or find another performance. Very disappointed.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Interesting ideas, seminal political philosophy for the time period.


    What didn’t you like about William Hughes’s performance?

    This should be professed, lectured, explained. When you read a complicated philosophical work, your voice should flow with the ideas, and not stupidly recite long paragraphs with virtually no change in intonation while hammering staccato emphasis on every other syllable. It should be thought through, like a revelation. It's not an instruction manual.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No. I don't think political philosophy does that for many. And if it does, perhaps they should consider a career in comedy.


    Any additional comments?

    Get Robert Beltran to re-do this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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