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)
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.
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.
I might listen to it again, but there are so many other great books out there to get to.
Hayek wrote the book in the 40's, but it is as if he is telling the story of America in 2014.
Heed the warnings.
Pay attention to what the great thinkers of the last century are telling you about our world today.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Road to Serfdom is every bit as applicable today as it was 70 years ago. My mind was taken many different directions over the course of the book.
William Hughes does a fantastic job with this book. His voice is very engaging on a piece which-- profound or not-- is still 9 hours of economic nonfiction... I have listened to other similar books that I wonder if the production company chose the narrator most likely to put people to sleep. Not here.
Old & fat, but strong; American, Chinese, & Indian (sort of); Ph.D. in C.S.; strategy, economics & stability theory; trees & machining.
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).
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.
Interesting ideas, seminal political philosophy for the time period.
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.
No. I don't think political philosophy does that for many. And if it does, perhaps they should consider a career in comedy.
Get Robert Beltran to re-do this.
The listening experience is very good: 5 out of 5. The narrator, William Hughes, reads Hayek confidently, articulately, and with intonation that keeps listeners engaged like they're listening to a lecturer who knows what he is talking about.
I was drawn to this book as a liberal who wanted to know of what charges and counter points to socialism existed in the mid 20th century, and why Hyak insisted that progressive ideology leads to tyranny. It did not disappoint.
I approached this book with a completely open mind, and I must say I learned a great deal from it. Hayek's main points were delivered in a clear and lucid fashion, easy to understand, and cause many epiphanies and "ahah" moments while I was exercising at the gym.
It's readability is high for people who enjoy reading on such subjects of liberty, history, freedom, and social ideas. His challenge against socialist ideology is that the collectivization of values in society, and the never ending debate of the means and ends of a socialist society, is not conducive to freedom but rather it is conducive to tyranny. He asserts that we should avoid it at all costs to preserve the freedom to choose our own values, our own means and ends, and our own economic livelihood.
This book is excellent and I highly recommend it to liberals and conservatives alike. For the liberal, you will learn the sacrifices individuals make in socialist societies and begin to question how much liberty you sacrifice for your own collectivist values. For conservatives, you will learn the fundamental arguments in favour of drastically small government and the importance of individual agency over collectivist thinking.
Even after 60 plus years this book has a powerful message that resonates. F.A. Hayek's projections of what a socialist society inadvertently leads to is dead bang on. Thoughtful readers on the left and right will be able to recognize how accurate Mr. Hayek's by reading today's news stories.
Report Inappropriate Content