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The Road to Serfdom

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  18,698 ratings  ·  1,217 reviews
A classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in England in the spring of 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the so ...more
Paperback, Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 274 pages
Published October 15th 1994 by University Of Chicago Press (first published September 18th 1944)
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Robin Card It was originally published in London, hence the Anglo-centric nature of the book and the frequent reference to British peers.

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Cami
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book captures the frustration of classical liberals (as opposed to modern liberals) when they see collectivist policies enacted despite the overwhelming evidence that socialism brings about disastrous results.

Having grown up and lived in Austria during World War I and later moving to Great Britain, Hayek was particularly frustrated when he saw Britain and the United States making the same mistakes of the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Hayek argues that collectivism eventually leads to t
...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
He inspired Milton Friedman. There´s nothing to add to that, it´s just making one speechless.

As soon as abstract, not measurable, highly abstract, not concrete concepts and words such as freedom, justice, right, etc. are used, it´s often a highly alarming sign, signal, and warning that something is going terribly wrong, that the author has left reality and entered the spheres of speculation, guessing, or just doing as if subjective, in the best cases just eccentric, DIY creative problem solving
...more
Trevor
Dec 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
I could be wrong, but surely not even the greatest fans of Hayek could believe this is a particularly nuanced book. The central thesis is that everyone that disagrees with Hayek is either a totalitarian or someone who is inadvertently leading society down the road towards totalitarianism. This doesn’t only include Marxists and Fascists – who Hayek equates as identical – nor even members of the Labour party in Britain who might be considered ‘fellow travellers’, but even many of the younger membe ...more
Stephen
6.0 stars. On my list of "All Time Favorite" Books. One of the most important books ever written and most concise, brilliant, scathing and impressive argument against the "planned economy" that has been, or likely ever will be, written. Hayek, while always being respectful to the adherents of the idea that state control over resources and goals is the right approach, nevertheless absolutely destroys each and every argument and rationale alluded to by such people.

His general thesis that socialis
...more
Trish
Nov 28, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: skimmed
I tried to read this several times, beginning back when I almost convinced myself I might be able to understand (read: respect) what Republicans were thinking. I'm sorry to say that is over, at least for now. If we can lie, cheat, and steal our way to power, what difference does it make what is just?

I made some notes before I gave up. Putting them here in case I ever get back to this in time to challenge Paul Ryan personally.

This book has gone through so many editions, it is worth noting which o
...more
Marcus
Sep 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: capitalists and socialists
The Road to Serfdom is not an anti-government book, it's definitely not a libertarian or pro-laissez-faire capitalism or even a pro-democracy book. It's purely and simply an anti-socialism book. And, just to be clear, to Hayek, socialism primarily means central-planning. It's chapter after chapter of reasons why socialism, despite it's apparently noble goals, both will not work in the practical sense, and how it tends to lead to totalitarianism.

Hayek's arguments are level-headed and logical. He
...more
Bookshark
The historical analysis upon which this book depends amounts to nothing more than extremely poor scholarship masquerading as thoughtful contrarianism. Hayek's conflation of Nazism with Socialism merely because they have similar names in German is an example of stupidity on the level of mistaking the PATRIOT Act for patriotism or the Ministry of Peace for peacefulness. This distracting error is unfortunately the foundation of the entirety of his argument. His theory of authoritarianism consists o ...more
Jason Holt
Jan 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: neoliberal
There is an old cartoon (found here) which summarizes the logic of this work rather perfectly. Essentially, the government gets involved in your life, they dictate how you live, then they kill you.

The notions in this text are trifling at best.

Hayek never confronts the fact that a lack of some centralized body somewhere making decisions for you does not mean an end to governance. Clearly, businesses govern. They also plan. To take this power away from a centralized and (at least ostensibly) publ
...more
sologdin
Introduced by Chicago don Milty Friedman, who assures us that “the free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy” (xi). Preach it, Brother Milt!

So-called 'collectivism' had been burying purported 'individualism,' apparently, in Padre Fred’s 1944 analysis, but was unexpectedly checked by the time of Frere Milt’s semicentennial celebratory gala binge. Fra Milt is pleased to report that Father Fred was dead wrong in his predictions that colle
...more
Howard Olsen
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Finally got around to reading this libertarian/conservative classic. It's short, but deep, combining economics, politics, sociology, and a short history of Socialist thought, to create the greatest critique of the collectivist impulse that you can read. Hayek's message is blunt: despite the freedom and liberality that is western man's birthright, there is an inevitable clamor for order and equality that arises from the intellligensia and the wealthy. This clamor leads to the demand-often in the ...more
Mel
1/2 star not simply for Hayek's preachy, condescending tone, but because this book was the catalyst for the gutting of the State by the flying monkeys of the Chicago School under Milton Friedman. From Pinochet's Chile to Thatcher's Britain to post-Soviet Russia, Hayek's callous version of individualism and "competition" gave a veneer of legitmacy to an explosion of untramelled human greed in which millions of people lost any security of income or employment whilst a few within the charmed circle ...more
Jason
Apr 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
Hayek creates a facile equation of fascism and communism, and argues that any political or economic system that is not laissez-faire capitalism is tyranny. Hayek's seemingly deliberate misreadings of history left me unconvinced, and very uneasy with the libertarian movement, if this is to be taken as a representative text.
James
This is one of the foundation books for my personal philosophy. Along with his other works, the thought of Friedrich von Hayek is basic to my own individualist 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 tha ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Review written in 2010


The temptation here will be to try and say too much. This is a short book, though it is thickly packed. I won't try to relate here what the author relates in the book. I will try to say a few words about the book and recommend it.

This is the same book that was released in England in 1944, but it is a new edition and thus has a new intro by the author. If you can get this edition I recommend it for the intro. This book was written during (near the end of)WWII and thus will b
...more
Andrea
Oct 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: democracy, theory
Hayek is a huge figure in economics and of immense influence on neoliberalism, and reading this I was struck by just how deeply and completely neoliberalism goes as a theoretical framework. I know many would not agree with that (though many would), but Thatcher claimed him as her own and that is enough for me. There are also those conversations in the Mount Pelerin Society with Milton Friedman. It fascinates me that this resonance is true not just of the ideas, but also in the way language is us ...more
Patrick Peterson
2020-06-24 - I first read this book my junior year in college, over spring break, on a trip to Florida (1976). I remember trying to talk about some of the amazing ideas I was reading in the book with the two other students in the long car rides from northern NY state to Panama City, FL and back ... and being pretty disappointed. Both were quite reflexive, though fairly moderate, statist/socialists. One was into history, but he was so smart and lazy, that he did not seem to take anything seriousl ...more
Jonny
May 11, 2010 rated it did not like it
“We are today living out the dim echo—like light from a fading star—of a debate conducted seventy years ago by men (John Meynard Keynes and Friedrich Hayek) born for the most part in the late nineteenth century. To be sure, the economic terms in which we are encouraged to think are not conventionally associated with these far-off political disagreements. And yet without an understanding of the latter, it is as though we speak a language we do not fully comprehend.”
- Tony Judt ‘What is Living and
...more
C. Scott
Aug 29, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, finished at last. This was a bit of a hate-read for me, but I was surprised that I didn't hate it with quite the intensity I expected.

I was able to appreciate Hayek's arguments against full-scale government planning as predicting a lot of what went wrong with the Soviet Union. Still, I am unmoved by his slippery slope argument that any socialist policies inevitably lead to totalitarian government. Give me a break.

Also, this notion that Nazi Germany came about because of socialist policies ad
...more
Amy
There is something a little awe-inspiring about reading a book and realizing how much of your personal philosophy and intellectual heritage you owe to it. I got the same feeling the first time I read Two Treatises of Government. When I consider the impact this book has had on my life and work, it amazes me it took me this long to read it.
This should be required reading alongside 1984. It conveys the problems of socialism and yet eerily resembles a conversation we could be having today.
Thought-
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Hamidur
May 02, 2016 rated it did not like it
Edit: August 2018

My politics has changed somewhat in the couple of years since I wrote the review below. I was somewhat of an anarchist at that time and my position on state control and centralization were pretty much aligned with the book's argument except it came from a socialist perspective. I've changed my position drastically on how centralized or state controlled a socialist state should be but left the review unchanged since it doesn't fundamentally alter my position on the book.

--------
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Douglas Wilson
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
What a fine book. What a timely book. Those who want to understand Obamonomics need to read this. Those who have read it already should probably read it again. The political world is divided into two main groups -- those who think controlling everything from the center is a good idea and those who do not. Each side of that divide has its variations, but those are the basic options. Those on the fascist side (control) have the hard totalitarians and the soft totalitarians, but that is basically a ...more
Aniruddha
Jul 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
The Road to Serfdom is a book that has divided the post-war divided world. In developed countries that practice capitalism, Hayek's book created a stir although his influence was a shadow of the effect Keynes had on countries. No body said 'I'm an Hayekian now'. Hayek barely finds a place in my economics textbook. This book told me why he was never respected in his life.

With all respect to Hayek and his intellect, this book falls short of being the ultimate attack on socialism it set out to be.
...more
Laila Kanon
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
Audio-format
This is not an easy thesis to digest but I more or less understood the main arguments and I agree with the author analysis. What so sobering in reflection of the arguments in this book is the realization as to how little we learn from history that socialism is only good in theory but in practice it bring nothing but misery to humanity and it would takes decades to recover from it, if any. Democracy isn't perfect but only in this system of governance that humanity able to thrive and p
...more
David M
(going to make an exception to my only-radicals rule. It's always important to know your enemies. It comes recommended by Perry Anderson.)
Connor
Apr 29, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was utter garbage. This was the lowest point of intellectual history; it combined selfish morals with so-called 'logic' and used distorted arguments to justify libertarian capitalism that whenever tried has led to starvation and the deaths of thousands. What is clear from his writings is that Hayek was a dick. He was even worse than his successor Milton Friedman and that is saying a lot! All these so-called libertarian economists prove by their stupid books and arguments is that they just w ...more
Amy Sturgis
Jul 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hayek's The Road to Serfdom was both prophetic and influential in its day, and its message is as timely now as it ever was. He offers a compelling warning that the collectivism required for centralized planning is incompatible with democracy and the individualism on which it's built. In so doing, he provides key insights into economic concepts rarely discussed or understood today in mainstream conversations, such as how the price system works as a means of conveying information, how the rule of ...more
Chris Wells
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
If "compassionate conservatism" means anything, than it surely means something like this. Hayek's thought no longer qualifies as hardcore libertarian because he believed in government welfare programs, albeit limited ones, as supplementary to the free market system for those unable to participate in it. Central planning was what he was really against, and he has a very convincing argument against putting economic planning in the hands of any government, no matter how benevolent it may seem to be ...more
George Mazurek)
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read for every liberal, socialist or communist ;-)
Alicia
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alicia by: Ben Shapiro
Wow! This book from 1944 is a great discussion of the relationship between individual liberty and government authority. Anyone who is enamored with Bernie Sanders and collectivism needs to read this book. Actually, everyone should read this prophetic book. I wish I could hear what Hayek would say about Chairman Mao and communist China.

Quotes worth remembering:

A former member of the Labour party said, “from the point of view of fundamental human liberties there is little to choose between commun
...more
Jud Barry
OK, I'll admit that I finally broke down and read this book because of Glenn Beck. I've heard about this book for so long from conservatives who say that it shows how contemporary liberalism is Hayek's "road to serfdom."

Balderdash. If you read this book, you'll see that Hayek wrote at the end of World War II to warn about the dangers of centralized, planned economies, as opposed to economies based on competition. That's it.

Hayek is not against "big government." In fact, he says a lot about the t
...more
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Friedrich August von Hayek CH was an Austrian and British economist and philosopher known for his defense of classical liberalism and free-market capitalism against socialist and collectivist thought. He is considered by some to be one of the most important economists and political philosophers of the twentieth century. Hayek's account of how changing prices communicate signals which enable indivi ...more

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“Probably it is true enough that the great majority are rarely capable of thinking independently, that on most questions they accept views which they find ready-made, and that they will be equally content if born or coaxed into one set of beliefs or another. In any society freedom of thought will probably be of direct significance only for a small minority. But this does not mean that anyone is competent, or ought to have power, to select those to whom this freedom is to be reserved. It certainly does not justify the presumption of any group of people to claim the right to determine what people ought to think or believe.” 71 likes
“It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now--independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one's own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one's neighbors--are essentially those on which the of an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good.” 52 likes
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