TeeJaw Blog

Hayek’s Road To Serfdom Still Number One in Amazon Sales Rank

Posted in Government and Politics by TeeJaw on Thursday, June 10, 2010, 9: 45 AM

F.A. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, first published in April, 1945, is still # 1 in sales at Amazon. The book recounts how wartime planning that enables a country to successfully defend itself against an enemy can lure a people into believing that what worked during wartime should be able to produce spectacular results in peace time. National unity to win a war being a matter of necessity soon gives way to the differing interests of citizens during peace time and so central planning quickly leads to bickering between factions that prevents consensus on a plan. What works for one group inevitably hurts another group and chaos takes over. Everybody begins to think that a strong leader is needed to devise and implement a plan that works. There being no shortage of individuals desirous of becoming the strong man, a leader emerges to “clean up the mess” and get things in order. It is thought that the strong man, adept at raising consciousness and clever in devising procedures for a successful economy, will just be temporarily needed until the machine is up and running.

But no strong man, once in power, goes away voluntarily. A powerful and all-encompassing government now in place, citizens suddenly realize they have given up their freedom for some temporary comfort. They seek to reverse course, but soon find themselves inundated with propaganda, threatened with prisons and firing squads by the secret police, and locked in the grip of a totalitarian state. The road to serfdom has been traveled to its end.

Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba are the obvious historical examples. Modern examples are Venezuela, Bolivia, and now it appears, Nicaragua. A police state with prisons and firing squads for dissenters is not always the result at the end of the road to serfdom. The European Union may lack firing squads and labor camps but is nevertheless another type of road to serfdom, one that many here would like to see imposed in the United States. The EU-type road to serfdom only destroys the soul and spirit of its victims while leaving their bodies intact.

The Readers’ Digest Condensed Version of the Road to Serfdom is now available in PDF format here. The Road to Serfdom in Cartoons begins on page 63 of the PDF.

Here are the jacket notes written by Hayek for the first edition:

• Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that in our endeavour consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?

• The contention that only the peculiar wickedness of the Germans has produced the Nazi system is likely to become the excuse for forcing on us the very institutions which have produced that wickedness.

• Totalitarianism is the new word we have adopted to describe the unexpected but nevertheless inseparable manifestations of what in theory we call socialism.

• In a planned system we cannot confine collective action to the tasks on which we agree, but are forced to produce agreement on everything in order that any action can be taken at all.

• The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.

• The economic freedom which is the prerequisite of any other freedom cannot be the freedom from economic care which the socialists promise us and which can be obtained only by relieving the individual at the same time of the necessity and of the power of choice: it must be the freedom of economic activity which, with the right of choice, inevitably also carries the risk and the responsibility of that right.

• What our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guarantee of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not.

• We shall never prevent the abuse of power if we are not prepared to limit power in a way which occasionally may prevent its use for desirable purposes.

• We shall all be the gainers if we can create a world fit for small states to live in.

• The first need is to free ourselves of that worst form of contemporary obscurantism which tries to persuade us that what we have done in the recent past was all either wise or unavoidable. We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.

Finally, this quote by Hayek from his other writings appears apt:

The task of economics is to teach men how little they know about what they imagine they can design.


 The University of Chicago Press is sold out.  I hope they are printing more.  Meanwhile, it’s available on Kindle.

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2 Responses

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  1. Michael Newton said, on Thursday, June 10, 2010, 11: 21 AM at 11:21 AM

    I have a list of Hayek quotes I use in my book on my blog. I think you might enjoy them.

  2. TeeJaw said, on Thursday, June 10, 2010, 11: 28 AM at 11:28 AM

    Thanks, great quotes.

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