Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December Book of the Month

Fiftieth Anniversary Edition
By F.A. Hayek
with a new Introduction by Milton Friedman
The University of Chicago Press, 1954

For a closely related documentary video (appears to be from PBS in the same vintage about 50 years ago), click on: Milton Friedman on Limited Government.

THE ROAD TO SERFDOM, by F. A. Hayek may be the most important book of political philosophy written during the lifetime of C-133 crewmembers. Its message was a revelation particularly to the young men and women who were in the armed forces during WWII. Their recent experiences with Fascism and Nazism enhanced their appreciation of the value and meaning of individual freedom. They saw the horrors of socialism as not leading to a utopian State, but to a State besieged with tyranny and criminality.

The Road To Serfdom was first published in England in March 1944, followed by its American debut later that year. In the fifty years since its publication, over 250,000 copies have been purchased. Hayek dedicated the book "To TheSocialists Of All Parties." Hayek noted that in America those intellectuals within the academic institutions, and the New Deal rejected it out of hand as a malicious and disingenuous attack on their finest ideals. He also noted that a large part of the American intelligentsia had caught "the infection" in spite of the experimentation of the New Deal.

Ten years later these same countries that officials had held up as a model for central planning were now being called "totalitarian" and we had entered into the "Cold War." William Rehnquist, a future Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, read it as a Sergeant in the Army Air Force and deemed it probably the most influential book of his professional career. During the post war years it led him and others on the road of knowledge and understanding that personal freedom and economic freedom can be achieved only through individuals pursuing their own objectives. And, most importantly, the free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy.

Hence, the present hope and seeming success of globalization. Democracies have never been known to pursue a war with one another.The concept of free markets continues to infuriate those who believed in the simple and seductive false argument that collectivism (socialism, central planning) would create a utopian world order. In 1945, here and through out the world, it seemed there would be a continuing and steady growth of the state at the expense of the individual, and a steady replacement of private initiative and planning by the state. However, this was a socialist road to abject poverty for the ordinary man and it was rightly checked in the free world: Central planning was sacrificed rather than individual liberty; and, collectivism was too inefficient to mange enterprises. Government failed then as it does now in such central planning endeavors by becoming mired in bureaucratic confusion.

Those countries that continued to pursue socialism had to build fences to keep their citizens from leaving. Presently, reformers in old core western societies, including the U.S., have created a "hodgepodge of ill-assembled and inconsistent ideals" that has largely replaced socialism with the Welfare State. Hayek suggests that achieving (by coercion) these ends is not compatible with the preservation of a free society, as it tends to subordinate personal and economic freedom to the demand of the State. Almost all elections are about the redistribution of personal and business income by the State and that restricts one's freedom. The Road To Serfdom rose from a cry in the wilderness for individual freedom to now become an integral part of the philosophy and governance of the newly freed Iron Curtain countries throughout Eastern Europe. Most have overthrown past collectivist failures to become free market democracies with rapidly growing economies propelled by individuals pursuing their own economic and personal objectives.

While teaching Economics in an MBA program during the 90's, I used The RoadTo Serfdom as required reading. Every week the students were to write a one-page summary of each chapter and to report about personal discussions they had with others. They consistently expressed their amazement that this extraordinary published work had never been brought to their attention during their undergraduate years. They were simply stunned by its enduring truths and its personal applications.

I urge you to read this compelling, timeless message between individual liberty and government authority, as it was the great fight during our life and military service. The Road To Serfdom may be more relevant today then when it was written. Enjoy!

Reviewed for C-133 Crew Members by
Richard L. Spencer
39th ATS 1962-65
To find out more about this enlightening book, and buy it for $5.05, click on: The Road to Serfdom


Anonymous said...

In Dec07 I reviewed Hayek's 50th Anniversary edition of The Road To Serfdom. In it, Hayek offered good reason to be skeptical of government actions that encroached upon an individual's personal or economic freedoms. Dick Armey, in the WSJ 4Feb09 edition, has authored an article offering the reader a most cogent explanation of Keynes vs. Hayek. For those wanting to understand the difference between these two opposing economic views, this is it. It is especially important as Keynesian economics is at the root of the proposed stimulus bill. Read and decide! Here it is:


Rick Spencer

Anonymous said...

Today, The Road to Serfdom is a number one best seller on Amazon!

Rick Spencer

Anonymous said...

Today, the WSJ has another good article about a Hayek resurgence that you might like.


Amazing! Rick

Anonymous said...

Here is a video of Milton Friedman being interviewed by Brian Lamb of C-SPAN about the 50th anniversary edition of The Road to Serfdom. A must see! Rick