An unimpeachable 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 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.
With this new edition, The Road to Serfdom takes its place in the series The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. The volume includes a foreword by series editor and leading Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell explaining the book’s origins and publishing history and assessing common misinterpretations of Hayek’s thought. Caldwell has also standardized and corrected Hayek’s references and added helpful new explanatory notes. Supplemented with an appendix of related materials ranging from prepublication reports on the initial manuscript to forewords to earlier editions by John Chamberlain, Milton Friedman, and Hayek himself, this new edition of The Road to Serfdom will be the definitive version of Hayek’s enduring masterwork.
Prophetic, but not Constructive
Hayek's work makes a passionate and reasonable case concerning the consequences of planned economies. Drawing on his extensive personal and academic knowledge of affairs in Germany leading up to WWII, he proves beyond a reasonable doubt that National Socialism is first and foremost a form of Socialism. He goes on to show, that despite the good intentions of many on the Left, the consequences of such planning can lead only to totalitarianism. But while staunchly defending the 'old liberals' of the nineteenth century--those who adhere to participatory democracy and market economics--he proposes very little in regards to mitigating the very real risks inherent in capitalism, such as poverty, dehumanization, and the variability of markets. For what Hayek does say, though, it is well worth the read by those of any political or economic stripe.
This appears to be a timeless work having impact far greater than just the field of economics. The author delves into human social behavior in a way I’ve not seen before, laying a strong case for rethinking how our government should be organized - and how good intentions can lead to undesirable results.
The author also gives great perspective on the Germany that emerged from WW1 and the conditions that allowed Hitler’s national socialism to take hold.