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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A backdrop for economic liberalism
Although I believe this book is best enjoyed with an educated empathy for the historical, academic and emotional context of its writing (by an Austrian-born, Austrian-educated, London-residing freedom-lover who - because of his heritage - isn't allowed to join the Allies' war effort during WWII), it's easy to apply its lessons and grand ideals to a myriad of...
Published on April 10 2010 by Trevor G. Stack

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2.0 out of 5 stars Revisit the 20th Century
As all the previous reviewers of this book have noted, this is an historic and notable work. But as Hayek himself clearly says in the introduction (and in his now famous dedication of the book "to the socialists of all parties"), he wrote it specifically for early to mid-20th Century British labour enthusiasts to counter their preoccupation with central economic planning...
Published on July 11 2001 by RW


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A backdrop for economic liberalism, April 10 2010
By 
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek) (Paperback)
Although I believe this book is best enjoyed with an educated empathy for the historical, academic and emotional context of its writing (by an Austrian-born, Austrian-educated, London-residing freedom-lover who - because of his heritage - isn't allowed to join the Allies' war effort during WWII), it's easy to apply its lessons and grand ideals to a myriad of "I-told-you-so" economic and political events in the interval since its publication. Its humble association of uncoordinated free markets with efficiency, its aggressive association of central planning with unambiguous loss of personal freedoms and its statistical association of commerce with liberal freedoms provided the idealogical backdrop for the prominent Chicago School of Economics.

Its author admits that "The Road to Serfdom" is a work of Political Science, not Economics. Its subsequent influence and its ideas that are seemingly on par with its infused respect for the "Rule of Law", to me, elevate it to a work of political philosophy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Paradox of success, July 7 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Hayek distinguishes liberty, or true freedom, from license and "serfdom." In the tradition of Adam Smith, he analyzes economic and political questions from moral and practical perspectives, with emphasis on individual liberty. His central conceit, that increasing government activity in the economic sphere would devalue individual dignity and stifle human progress, might seen overblown to some readers; it could be that the influence of this book on conservative political leaders and thinkers in the latter half of the American century may have corrected some of the impending problems Hayek foresaw. The Road to Serfdom is a pleasurable, thought-provoking read, persuasively written.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Relevant, May 8 2011
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek) (Paperback)
Writing in the middle of WWII, F.A. Hayek was concerned with what he was seeing: far from learning lessons from the destructive forces of fascism and communism, many politicians and intellectuals in the west were getting ready to wholeheartedly embrace some of the policies and practices that led to the rise of some of the most vile and destructive regimes in history. The title of the book evokes the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and Hayek readily acknowledges that most proponents of state control of economy would be vehemently opposed to the methods that are necessary to implement those policies. Unlike many in his time and unfortunately many more today, Hayek did not see fascism and communism as polar opposites of each other, but rather two aspects of the same socialist ideology. Sometimes those that are most alike are most opposed to each other, and the communist portrayal of fascists and Nazis as right wing movement was a label that stuck to this day. Hayek perceived this to be very dangerous, not least because it would create an environment in which self-proclaimed leftist ideologues would face far less scrutiny than those on the self-proclaimed right. This is the reason why Hayek dedicated this book to "socialists of all parties."

The most remarkable thing about this book is that it has aged so well. The style of writing, the ideas presented, and the importance of what it had to say are as fresh and relevant today as they were when the book was first written. This, to me at least, is quite unsettling. It is rather sad that after all these years we still have to debate the same premises that were spelled out so clearly during one of history's worst moments.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "All that is gold does not glitter", June 27 2008
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition (The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek) (Paperback)
This definitive edition has been edited and provided with a Foreword and Introduction by Bruce Caldwell who retained the prefaces and forewords of earlier editions. The text has been enhanced by explanatory notes and new appendices that are listed at the end of this review.

Even after six decades, The Road To Serfdom remains essential for understanding economics, politics and history. Hayek's main point, that whatever the problem, human nature demands that government provide the solution and that this is the road to hell, remains more valid than ever. He demonstrated the similarities between Soviet communism and fascism in Germany and Italy.

The consensus in post-war Europe was for the welfare state which seemed humane and sensible for a long time. Now it is clear that this has led to declining birth-rates amongst native Europeans, mass immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, and a tendency to exchange their ancient cultural values for multiculturalism and moral relativism which is just another form of nihilism as the French philosopher Chantal Delsol observes.

In this timeless classic, Hayek examines issues like planning and power, the fallacy of the utopian idea, state planning versus the rule of law, economic control, totalitarianism, security and economic freedom. He brilliantly explains how we are faced with two irreconcilable forms of social organization. Choice and risk either reside with the individual or s/he is relieved of both. Societies that opt for security instead of economic freedom will in the long run have neither.

Complete economic security is inseparable from restrictions on liberty - it becomes the security of the barracks. When the striving for security becomes stronger than the love of freedom, a society gets into deep, deep trouble. The way to prosperity for all is to remove the obstacles of bureaucracy in order to release the creative energy of individuals.

The government's job is not to plan for progress but to create the conditions favorable to progress. This has been proved by the impressive economic expansion under Reagan and Thatcher and by the amazing growth of the Asian Tiger economies, and most recently India since it started implementing sensible economic policies. Everywhere entrepreneurial energy is unshackled, massive improvements follow.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the contrast between phenomenal growth in formerly communist countries like Estonia or Poland or even the economic health of the UK as measured against the stagnant economies of Germany and France during the first years of the millennium. Old Europe would have benefited by a Thatcher and the French would have welcomed Polish plumbers instead of being resentful.

Hayek warns against utopian yearnings that are exploited by politicians, the stealthy way in which welfarism diminishes individual freedom, the totalitarian impulse and different types of propaganda. As pointed out by Chantal Delsol in Icarus Fallen, lack of personal responsibility leads to perpetual adolescence where citizens conflate desires with rights. Defining this process as the "sacralization" of rights, she shows that freedoms are then transformed into entitlements.

What a pity people don't learn; what a blessing we have in The Road to Serfdom as a reminder and a warning. The new Appendix of Related Documents include: Nazi-Socialism (1933), Reader's Report by Frank Knight (1943), Reader's Report by Jacob Marschak (1943), Foreword to the 1944 American Edition by John Chamberlain, Letter from John Scoon to C. Hartley Grattan (1945) and Introduction to the 1994 Edition by Milton Friedman. The book concludes with an index.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relevant and potent sixty years on, Jan. 15 2004
By 
Julian Hunt - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
The Road to Serfdom - Hayek
Scribing about the Road To Serfdom is a humbling experience. This is, after all, a book that would launch a thousand other similar philosophies, perceiving humanity at its glorious apex, when it is, both economically and politically, liberated from the framework of the interfering state. Pertinently avowed within Hayek's writing is that germ of alarm and concern at the world he has left behind. This is no ordinary academic, swallowed up from an early age in the same old, same old study, but a man who had out of a horrible necessity fled from Nazi Germany to save himself.
The book gives an urgent, unhindering tone to what might well have been an otherwise stale political treatise. Hayek, we must remember, is not writing about politics from a third person perspective ; he is writing from the vantage point of someone supremely concerned that curtailment of our economic freedom in this country, through ostensible socialism, will eventually lead to solid totalitarianism. It goes like this. First, the wages are controlled, then the housing supply is controlled, then your neighbours disappear, then we build a Gulag. It is an easy idea, one that we can see in our everyday experiences - if you give a child a piece of chocolate, he will demand more and more. If you allow free reign to governments to have some economic control over my life- and yours- they will, and believe me on everyone of these words, will want the whole cake in the end. They won't just eat it, but snatch it, smash it, and fashion it in their own image.
Mocking is an easy habit, and it is something that liberals have often felt it necessary to do at the sincere, well-meaning writings of right-wing libertarians. It is a reaction to be pitied. But, the last twenty odd years have shown that heeding Hayekian politics results, ultimately, in the best of all possible economic results. Thatcherism's arching pillar was Hayekian. It is one that has been adopted, and hardly touched by the current Labour Government. The 90s, with their unparalleled growth and prosperity throughout the West, could only have happened because the leaders of the eighties took on board Hayek's fundamentals. We ought to pray that today's politicians reaffirm this vision.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHOOSE LIFE!, July 16 2006
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Even after six decades, The Road To Serfdom remains essential for understanding global economics and politics. Hayek's main point, that whatever the problem, human nature demands that government be the solution, and that this is the road to hell, remains more valid than ever. He pointed out how similar the situation was under Soviet communism and fascism in Germany and Italy.

The consensus in post-war Europe was for the welfare state and this has led to declining birth-rates, mass immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, and a tendency to exchange their ancient cultural values for the frauds of postmodernism and multiculturalism.

In this classic, Hayek discusses matters like planning and power, the fallacy of the utopian idea, planning versus the rule of law. He brilliantly explains how we are faced with two irreconcilable forms of social organization. Either choice and risk resides with the individual or he is relieved of both.

Complete economic security is inseparable from restrictions on liberty - it becomes the security of the barracks. When the striving for security becomes stronger than the love of freedom, a society is in deep, deep trouble. The way to prosperity for all is to remove the obstacles of bureaucracy in order to release the creative energy of individuals.

The government's job is not to plan for progress but to create the conditions favourable to progress. This has been proved by the awesome economic expansion under Reagan and Thatcher and by the amazing growth of the Asian Tiger economies, and most recently India as it implements sensible economic policies.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the contrast between the phenomenal growth in formerly communist countries like Estonia or Poland against the stagnant situation in Germany and France where they never had a Thatcher.

One of the best books by one of Hayek's intellectual heirs is In Defence Of Global Capitalism by Johan Norberg. I also recommend Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, Freedom: Alchemy For A Voluntary Society by Stephan Hoeller and The Mainspring Of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but not completely timeless, July 21 2003
By 
R. Price "caesar_42" (Liverpool, New York) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
In this work, his most famous, Hayek presents the classic arguement against central planning of economic activity. But the book has to be understood within its context. Hayek wrote it as a warning to the British who appeared at the time to be embracing socialist planning advocated by the Labour party. So most of the book is somewhat dated by this focus that has less relevancy today. Those elements that do have a broader applicabilty Hayek returned to later in greater detail, but these works are much less popular.
Regardless of this Hayek has a problem in his analysis. He uses the experiences of the rise of totalitarian government in Germany and Russia (primarily) and seeks to generalize that result to Britian (and to a lesser extent the U.S.). Hayek ignores the important difference between these states, the existence of stable democratic rule. Hayek sees any serious economic planning attempt as the begining of a slippery slope that will end in totalitarian government. But the experience of Britian disproved this view. While the post-war Labour government did create a number of socialist programs, these programs never really expanded later. A "collectivist consensus" developed in which it was understood that Labour would not seriously push for more socialized planning and the Conservatives wouldn't seek to unravel what was already settled. This arrangment lasted until the system begain to breakdown in the late 70s and Thatcher was elected. This demonstrates that a healthy democratic polity can engage in planning without it necessarily sliding into the abyss. A similar story is evident in American politics, though in a different and less dramatic fashion due to the more conservative nature of American institutions. Hayek's main problem is that he discounts the value of a democratic system because his direct experience was in unstable democracies such as interwar Austria. These experiences installed a deep distrust of democracy that colors his analysis.
While this is a significant limitation this book should be read by anyone interested in political economic theory. Its historical and intellectual impact has been enormous.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Signs of Freedom, July 15 2003
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
F.A. Hayek provides articulate a strong argument against the use of centralized state power to satisfy our wants and needs. In 2003, in a time period when we have elected small-government minded Republicans who wish to experiment by expanding the role of centralized government (i.e., Medicare), it is best to heed Mr. Hayek's warning. By centralizing power for the elites (who are always in favor of increasing its power; for reference, read any major newspaper's editorial page, academic arguments in journals; elite judges and other holier-than-thou commentators), we cede our control to them. Rather than "emporing" people to make decissions for themselves, centralized state power limits the available choices we can reasonably make for ourselves. As such, we have given some of our freedom away. We ought not make this decission now. It is quite easy for liberals to say we need governmental intervention in the economy. But what say you regarding the results, including giving up the power to dictate our own destinies? Why should we give this freedom to the state, and then beg for the freedom to do what we wish economically?
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5.0 out of 5 stars For lovers of freedom., June 22 2003
By 
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
"Road to Serfdom", by F.A. Hayek, is one of the greatest arguments for economic, political, and social freedom written during the 20th Century. Published in 1944 as an assessment of what went so wrong in Western Europe as to allow the rise of Hitler and National Socialism, Hayek also perfectly forecast the disaster and horrors of Communism that would follow for the next several decades.
In this now famous book, Hayek breaks down the different ways in which state planning, as opposed to individual or more localized control, nearly always means the loss of liberty. Ultimately, in an economic system planned from the top down, should the system seek to continue, it will require dreadful, totalitarian measures. One of the saddest facts of these systems though is that in order to be put into place, they require many once-free people to willingly give up their freedoms: "the totalitarians in our midst" Hayek labels them. One passage along this line that holds just as true today as when Hayek wrote it:
"And, undoubtedly, not merely the ideas which in Germany and elsewhere prepared totalitarianism but also many of the principles of totalitarianism itself are what exercises an increasing fascination in many other countries. Although few people, if anybody, in England would probably be ready to swallow totalitarianism whole, there are few single features which have not yet been advised by somebody or other. Indeed, there is scarcely a leaf out of Hitler's book which somebody or other in England or America has not recommended us to take and use for our own purposes. This applies particularly to many people who are undoubtedly Hitler's mortal enemies because of one special feature in his system. We should never forget the anti-Semitism of Hitler has driven from his country, or turned into his enemies, many people who in every respect are confirmed totalitarians of the German type."
For anyone who has wondered recently why Pat Buchanan can often be seen receiving large applause at rallies with ultra-Leftist labor union leaders, or how other fringe Right groups often march these days against international free trade along side of socialist/environmentalist groups, F.A. Hayek explained it perfectly nearly 60 years ago. Whether seeking to force a large group of people to pay excessive amounts for goods and services, through trade protectionism supposedly planned to "protect" the jobs of a much smaller group, or through more directly stated taxation and redistribution of wealth programs, these groups are both taking a page from the Russian and German totalitarians of the 20th Century. Often "mortal enemies" of each other, they have found common cause at the modern-day economic forums, and should a free American people ultimately hand them control, as the Germans gave to these groups' National Socialist forebears, then similar results would ultimately not be far behind. (And if you think there weren't numerous leftists in strong roles in Hitler's National Socialist party, you need to read this book that much more.)
"The Road to Serfdom" lays out just what the title implies. F.A. Hayek was a brilliant thinker who was sadly dismissed by many of his day. Hopefully, more leaders of our era will read this book and realize that economic planning, be it through protective tariffs or progressive tax rates, while such an easy sell and so tempting at times, lead only to a loss of freedoms for everyone (as economic freedom is at the base of all the others), including the people they are supposedly intended to help.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hayek should be canonized!!!, May 30 2003
By 
Hatless Cat (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Road to Serfdom (Paperback)
Hayek's ideas were necessarily self-moderated by the circumstances surrounding "The Road to Serfdom"'s authorship. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time to go about writing a sarcastically damning indictment of government and central planning. While some claim that this detracts from the importance of his work, I disagree. The fact that he literally risked his life for his ideas in noble and honorable, and adds to the value of the book. If he were any weaker a person we might not have ANY of his ideas, ideas that were influential in shaping Macroeconomics and helping to tear down the Berlin wall, among other things.
While the writing is characteristic of the era, and often awkward, the power of the idea that individuals are the best judges of their own interests and that planning does not work, and the arguments used to support these ideas more than overcome this defect. The next saint to be canonized should be Ludwig von Mises, the second Rothbard, and the third Hayek, for the ideas of the Austrian school of Economics and the great minds behind them have led to countless social miracles.
For more information on the battle between Keynes and Hayek, one would be wise to view the series "Commanding Heights".
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