Essential Reading: The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek

It is no lie that F.A. Hayek is one of my favorite thinkers from the Austrian school of Economics. Hayek won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974 for “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and for… penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.” Needless to say, Hayek was an amazing and intelligent man. His explanation of the business cycle and its causes have been indispensable in countering the wrong headed thinking of his day all the way to now.

Click here to see the book
on amazon.

One of my favorite works by him (also one of his easier reads) is The Road to Serfdom. It isn’t a particularly long read but it is full of nuggets of information. Through out the book Hayek discusses the connection between central planning and tyrannical governments. Every chapter is a thorough defense of free market ideas and economics that even today, stand the test of time.

Today as it was then, the ideas in this book are seen as blasphemous to mainstream wisdom… Which should tell you right there that it is full of great ideas and arguments.

In Hayeks time, same as today, people viewed socialism and government planned economies as the answer to all of their woes. The poor, we are told, can only be protected if we “redistribute” wealth. The consumer can only be protected if we “properly” regulate industry and commerce. Even today we find new excuses to regulate the voluntary exchanges that occur between individuals with excuses like feminism, environment protection and income inequality. Today really is not too different from Hayek’s day in 1944. The same arguments are used and Hayek destroys them all.

“Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one’s own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one’s own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.”
– F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

So many ideas are fleshed out in a way that is easy for the reader to understand. I think one of the most important chapters is on how socialism invariably leads to fascism. Hayek rightly notes how the Nazis of his day embraced socialist planning by controlling the means of production and planning the economic decisions for everyone. We can all agree that fascists regimes like those of the Nazi’s are very undesirable, yet we still trudge along paths that lead us to a similar end.
If you are a veteran student of the Austrian school, or completely new to it’s ideas, you cannot go wrong by reading this book. Do your self a favor and read a classic piece of literature on political philosophy and economics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *