Skip to main content
Add Me To Your Mailing List
Boulder Republican Women
P.O. Box 21475
Boulder, Colorado 80308-4475
HomeRecommended Readings

 

Recommended Readings



One of the most valuable learning tools we can all take advantage of, is the accumulated knowledge of the intelligent and

intuitive thinkers who have gone before us, and have left us with some basic writings to mull over, and apply to our current

problems.

We at BRW have tried to assemble some of the reading lists of some of the conservative thinkers of both yesterday and today,

and are presenting them to you here. We will start by grouping some of these books and articles by category, and we'll add to

them as time goes by.

Let's start with The Road To Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. Following is a review of the book, which is on every conservative's

'Must Read" list to understand the dangerous direction our nation is following, a creeping movement toward socialism.


 

This review is from: The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents--The Definitive Edition

(The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek, Volume 2) (Paperback)

This new edition of the RTS is worth buying even if you already own an earlier edition.

The editor has included important material on how this book was developed and

interpreted. 

As for the book itself, the Road to Serfdom explains the rise of totalitarianism in

twentieth century Europe. Yet it also made a more general argument concerning

the incompatibility of democracy and comprehensive central planning. Hayek

argues that the pursuit of socialist ideals leads to totalitarianism. While

socialist ideals seem noble to many, those who persist in realizing these ideals

will find it necessary to adopt coercive methods that are incompatible with

freedom. Thus socialists must choose between their egalitarian goals and the

preservation of individual liberty. 

Hayek describes how Europeans came to expect progress, and became impatient for faster

progress. The liberal reforms of the 19th century delivered unprecedented

economic progress. Much of this was directly due to scientific discovery. The

role of free competition in promoting scientific discovery was less obvious.

Europeans increasingly came to believe that scientific planning of society

itself could accelerate greater progress. 

Europeans also changed how they thought about equality and freedom. Insistence upon

freedom from want displaced the yearning for freedom from coercion. Democracy

came to be seen as a means of realizing an increasing number of social goals,

rather than as a means of preserving freedom. To Hayek, these were dangerous

errors. Democracy could only work effectively in areas where agreement upon

ultimate ends could be attained with little difficulty. A democratic government

could enforce general rules of conduct that applied to all equally (i.e. free

speech and free association). Democracy can never produce agreement over

policies that affect specific economic results. One always gains at the expense

of others in such matters. Such Economic planning places impossible demands upon

democracy. This is because pursuit of specific ends requires timely and decisive

action. Democracies move too slowly to attain specific ends, so arbitrary powers

of government will grow. A planned economy will ultimately require acceptance of

dictatorship. This is a dire consequence, as it is the worst sort of tyrants who

are most adept at wielding dictatorial powers. 

Some might say that these arguments are unduly pessimistic. Hayek points to the examples of

Hitler and Stalin to support his case. Of course, these are worst case

scenarios. Have not England, Sweden, and the US adopted large welfare-regulatory

states without such tyranny? This is a fair point, yet we should remember two

things. First, Hayek claimed that centralized control of the economy would

destroy freedom ultimately, but gradually. Second, Western nations have not yet

gone as far in planning their economies as did Russia and Germany in the 1930's.

The fact that we have yet realized the horrible results of Stalinism implies

neither that were are safe from despotism in the future, nor that our present

situation is entirely satisfactory. One can easily argue that we have already

started on the wrong path. For instance, Hayek's chapter on `The End of Truth'

applies to modern political correctness. 

Hayek wrote this book not only to warn people about the limits of democracy and the

incompatibility of planning and freedom. This was the start of his project

concerning the abuse of reason. His warning is also about the tendency to

overestimate the abilities of even the best and brightest individuals. Not even

the best and brightest can comprehend modern societies. Socialists who favor

comprehensive planning, and even modern liberals and conservatives who want to

plan part of society, proceed on a false assumption concerning human reason.

Ultimately, Hayek makes a strong case for limited constitutional government. To

expect more of democracy than what Madison and Jefferson intended invites

disaster. 

The Road to Serfdom is a profound defense of commercial society and limited government.

The RTS also is where Hayek started his 'abuse of reason' project. To fully

appreciate Hayek's genius in the RTS, one should read his subsequent books in

this project- The Constitution of Liberty and Law Liberty and Legislation

V1-3. 

The RTS has its critics, mainly on the left. Due to its insightful nature the Road to

Serfdom has produced hysterical responses from the left. Leftists despise the

RTS simply because it strikes at the core of both democratic-socialist or

Marxist beliefs. Some serious scholars have attacked the RTS (i.e. Farrant and

Levy) but their objections are misguided. The Road to Serfdom stands out as a

true classic, as timeless as it is insightful. It offers insights that are

relevant to our current problems with growing Federal spending and regulation.

Read it completely and repeatedly.