Author: Friedrich Hayek
Synopsis by MD. Rakibul Mobin
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Since its publication back in the 1940s, ‘The Road to Serfdom’ has played an influential role in illustrating liberalism. Author Friedrich Hayek strongly opposed the state control over the means of production in the book when it seemed pretty heretical as the then US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt espoused a totalitarian state’s head Stalin’s effort. Hayek feared the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic power might lead countries to some sort of fascist institutions. He instead focused on individualism for economic development as a whole. He also argued that western democracies (i.e., the United States and the United Kingdom) have “progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past.” And in such a way, society leads to centralized planning, which naturally leads to totalitarianism.
The book illustrates Hayek’s cynical take on socialism and his utter disbelief in that system. He found it hypocritical because centralized systems often require propaganda to manipulate mass people to believe the state’s goals are theirs. According to him, the only chance to build a decent world is to “improve the general level of wealth,” which can only be achieved via the activities of free markets. Besides, the involvement of international organizations was also seen by him as a further threat to individual freedom.
“The Road to Serfdom” was listed as 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written by Martin Seymour Smith. It even influenced the 1945 British general election when Winston Churchill questioned a Labour Party government's feasibility based on Hayek’s thoughts on socialism and centralized planning.
Though many scholars opposed Hayek’s idea by proving that a social welfare state might outperform free-market economics, this book still significantly impacts the modern free market and individualistic economy and liberalism.
Elementary knowledge in political science, political philosophy, history, microeconomics and macroeconomics can help the readers grasp the content of this book in an easier way.