I woke up this morning to find Hayek’s Road to Serfdom topping the bestseller list on Amazon. And while it’s quite disturbing that it took Glenn Beck’s promotions (the guy who called President O a racist and regularly preaches doomsday on Fox) to get it there, I’m quite happy for the result.
The Road to Serfdom outlines the dangers of falling prey to socialist principles, however honorable they may seem from afar. Due to the complexities of the economic system, a centralized, planned economy is only feasible in practice under a tyrannical regime. This, in turn, breeds economic inequality, the very opposite of what the structure strives to achieve.
Road to Serfdom was first published in the 1940s to a world that had just emerged from the cruelty of the Nazi regime and was facing the looming threat of Communism. It’s bewildering that almost seventy years later we are still debating the merits of such a system.
With the onset of the recession, more and more people are turning to socialism, interpreting the recent events as a failure of capitalism. Cries can be heard from left and right for increased regulation and government control. Yet we are conveniently forgetting the unavoidable dangers that all such admirable ideals entail (The Communist Manifesto was veiled as a call to arms for the cause of equality). The choices we make in the pretense of the greater good may result in unintended consequences. In the words of Hayek:
To the great apostles of political freedom the word “freedom” meant freedom from coercion, freedom from the arbitrary power of other men, release from the ties which left the individual no choice but obedience to the order of a superior to whom he was attached. The new freedom promised, however, was to freedom from necessity, release from the compulsion of the circumstances, which inevitably limit the range of choice of all of us. Freedom in this sense is, of course merely another name for power or wealth.