Certainly, there are a rare few books in any person's lifetime that not only define a perspective but also persuade you to see things differently. Classic fiction literature tends to draw notice right away, but non-fiction has always been given short shrift in most environments. That's quite probably due to the fact that more people will pick up either a fiction book or an autobiography for casual reading as opposed to attempting to digest F.A. Hayek's THE ROAD TO SERFDOM. We, as Americans, get a bad rap around the world and in our own national press -- we don't eat the right things, we don't think the right things, we don't look for the right things -- and there-in lies to evil at the core of much of what SERFDOM dissects with great precision.
Thankfully, this book has not fallen at the wayside on the road of history. It seems like every so often it's been given a breath of new life by various media figures who suggest it, and that's what I'd say is the book's single-greatest drawback. SERFDOM is NOT an easy read, by any stretch of the imagination. There's a lot of heavy lifting (think "brainwork") involved here because Hayek was a scholar, and he was trying to craft an examination of the world as he saw it from a full perspective not from one narrow track. He examines history. He examines culture. He examines education. He examines economics. In fact, one could quite probably make a strong argument that there may be too much examination in here, but that probably accounts for the fact that books like THE ROAD TO SERFDOM are fairly rare and, when encounters, its ideas deserve greater study. I picked this up to read based upon the recent round of suggestions from a variety of conservative pundits, and it was not at all what I expected. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest, but I found significant parts of the book hard to access because of the wealth of material and ideas. Like the average Joe, I tend to gravitate toward "average Joe" books, and SERFDOM is hardly that. It's probably the exact opposite.
Hayek's ideas deserve greater study. They certainly deserve greater discussion because, if for no other reason, he lived through a time when many governments of the world embraces the 'soft tyranny' that the United States didn't directly embrace at the time, though it did gravitate toward it with many ideas presented in the late 1920's and early 1930's. Culturally, what was going on within the global intelligentsia at the time that led everyone to conclude that a socialist perspective was what government needed? In my almost five decades on this planet, that's the first time I've ever heard that postulated, and, when examined against the backdrop of pure facts, Hayek's right. Something psyhological was afoot, and the fact that it's never been discussed in any classroom in my own five decades caught me by surprise. I hadn't thought about it, and that's what I mean when I say SERFDOM would be best coupled with a discussion group. It would best be fitted where it could be reviewed and studied and discussed. There's nothing casual about this read, and I tend to think that most folks may miss it's greatness because it's truly daunting.
Also, economics has never been my strong suit, but SERFDOM was the first time that I experienced a macro perspective of how commerce and government policy are so tightly linked. That alone is an idea that requires greater study, and there's probably no better place than to begin than with this book. I only gave it four stars because it required so much of me ... it's a relentless assault on your brain, but I think you'll be a better person if you can wade through the lessons and wisdom it delivers. Just DON'T expect it to be easy.
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F. A. Hayek (1899-1992), recipient of the Medal of Freedom in 1991 and co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1974, was a pioneer in monetary theory and a leading proponent of classical liberalism in the twentieth century. He taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg.