James's Reviews > The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek
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Jan 15, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: great-books-group, economics, favorites, philosophy, read-and-reread, capitalism, top-twenty
Read in January, 2005

This is one of the foundational books for my personal philosophy. Along with his other works, the thought of Friedrich von Hayek is basic to my own indivdualist world view. In this book Hayek contends that liberty is fragile, easily harmed but seldom extinguished in one fell swoop. Instead, over the years “the unforeseen but inevitable consequences of socialist planning create a state of affairs in which, if the policy is to be pursued, totalitarian forces will get the upper hand.” He asserts that liberty has developed from an a posteriori recognition of humans’ inherent limitations – particularly the restrictions of their knowledge and reasoning. Most importantly, no planner or group of planners, however intelligent and well resourced, can possibly obtain and process the countless bits of localised and tacit information required such that a government plan meets its objectives. Only price signals emitted in an unhampered market enable harmony and efficiency to arise spontaneously from many millions of individuals’ plans. Hence government intervention in the plans of individuals, even if undertaken by men of good will, inevitably leads to loss of liberty, economic stagnation (at best) and war and impoverishment (at worst). Needless to say, his message is even more relevant today than when he wrote this masterpiece more than half a century ago. This is among my favorite works of philosophy and economics.
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