On The Road to Serfdom

I recently finished reading the book The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek. The central premise of this book is that individual freedom (classical liberalism) goes hand in hand with economic freedom. Hayek argues that centralized economic planning inevitably leads to totalitarianism.

The main content presented is preceded by two prefaces and a foreword that assist the reader in further gaining context around the time the work was written and views on how it applies in a more recent context. The book is divided into sixteen chapter, each adding a viewpoint to the central premise. Topics covered include: democracy, security, freedom, international order to name a few.

A definite must read classic for anyone in interested in the fields of political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics!

Below are quotes from the book that I found particularly inspiring:

1- “His (Hayek’s) specific fear what that, for a war to be fought effectively, the power and size of the state must grow. No matter what rhetoric they employ, politicians and the bureaucracies over which they preside love power, and power is never easily surrendered once the danger, if there ever was one, has passed. Though eternal vigilance is sage advice, surely “wartime” is when those who value the preservation of individual liberty must be most on guard.”

2- Tocqueville: “Democracy extends the sphere of individuals freedom, socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.”

3- “Both competition and central direction become poor and inefficient tools if they are incomplete; they are alternative principles used to solve the same problem, and a mixture of the two means that neither will really work and that the result will be worse than if either system had been consistently relied upon. Or, to express it differently, planning and competition can be combined only by planning for competition but not by planning against competition.”

4- “Though in the short run the price we have to pay for variety and freedom of choice may sometimes be high, in the long run even material progress will depend on this very variety, because we can never predict from which of the many forms in which a food or service can be provided something better may develop.”

5- “While there is nothing in modern technological developments which force us toward comprehensive economic planning, there is a great deal in them which makes infinitely more dangerous the power a planning authority would possess.”

6- “Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower – in short, what men should believer and strive for: Central planning means that the economic problem is to be solved by the community instead of by the individual; but this involves that it must also be the community, or rather its representatives, who must decide the relative importance of the different needs.”

7- “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 our economic activity which, with the right of choice, inevitably also carries the risk and the responsibility of that right.”

8- “The tragedy of collectivist thought is that, which it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends. It may indeed be said that it is the paradox of all collectivist doctrine and its demand for “conscious” control or “conscious” planning that they necessarily lead to the demand that the mind of some individual rule supreme – while only the individualist approach to social phenomena makes us recognize the superindividual forces which guide the growth of reason. Individualism is thus an attitude of humility before this social process and of tolerance to other opinions and is the the exact opposite of that intellectual hubris which is at the root of the demand for comprehensive direction of the social process.”

9- “Planning on an international scale, even more than is true on a national scale, cannot be anything but a naked rule of force, an imposition by a small group on all the rest of that sort of standard and employment which the planners think suitable for the rest.”

10- “…And, even more than in the national sphere, it is essential that these powers of the international authority should be strictly circumscribed by the Rule of Law.”

11- “If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only true progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century.”


Omar Halabieh

The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom


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