The Road to Serfdom

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The Road to Serfdom

By Friedrich A. Von Hayek
University of Chicago Press, 1944
274 pp.
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The Road to Serfdom is an intellectual attack on socialism. Hayek's main message was that central planning and public ownership would lead slowly but inevitably to totalitarianism. Written in the midst of a titanic struggle against Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, the book offended many because it suggested that the intellectual influences in Germany were also present in Britain and the United States, and if unchecked would lead to totalitarian societies in those countries as well. The tract was part of an ongoing debate in Britain on postwar arrangements for organizing the economy and society and was received as such there, leading to alterations in the program of the Labour government of 1945.

It had a more dramatic impact in the United States, where some American liberals charged Hayek with being hopelessly reactionary, while some conservatives embraced him as a kindred spirit and intellectual champion. In fact he was neither. As he explained in an annex to The Constitution of Liberty (1960), which set out his arguments more thoroughly, systematically, and at greater distance from the highly charged atmosphere of 1944, he does not consider himself a conservative but rather a liberal in the tradition of John Stuart Mill and other European liberals.

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