Friday, February 22, 2008

The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek

This is one of my favourite books. It was published in 1944 and remains as relevant today as ever.

In plain, simple language, it explains (in Milton Friedman’s words), “why it is that ‘good’ men in positions of power will produce evil, while the ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbours will produce good.”It explains why collectivism necessarily leads to tyranny and misery, and individualism leads to freedom and plenty.

Collectivism is usually promoted as a means to achieve justice, equality, and security. Few people will argue against that ideal. However, collectivism requires planning. Planning inevitably suppresses individualism and forces some (and eventually most) to make sacrifices. Planning well requires impossibly large amounts of information. Democracy is inefficient and unable to produce the type of action to carry out the planning. Increasingly demands will appear for strong leadership, concentrated power, and coercive action. The result is dictatorship.

There are no diagrams (my favourite), no equations, no big and difficult words. Just simple, clear language, and relevant examples. It is a small format book with less than 300 pages. Hayek made his case convincingly and elegantly. I wish I can write as well.

Highly highly recommended.

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