Road to Serfdom – Book Review

Introduction

The “Road to Serfdom” is authored by Friedrich Hayek who was born in Austria (Hayek, 2015). It mostly focuses on socialism and its resulting adverse effects on a country’s economic path and life of the people. Through the various chapters, covered economic aspects are dealt with regard to socialist tendencies. Socialism is thought in the book to be the foreseen root of the future evils like Nazism and fascism. The book focuses on organization especially in a conscious way that direct all society’s step.  The book focuses on various countries and the socialist stances they have taken while ignorant of the anticipated evil results. Nazism and fascism are brought out as some of the evils of socialism and which lead to an end in the independence of individuals and the centralization of power to few individuals. In dealing with the great utopia, most people are of the view that socialism and democracy can be practiced together, which is not possible. Socialism has its roots in the French revolution and regards people as numbers democracy is the total opposite where freedom is sought through equality.

Totalitarianism and collectivism are some of the negative results from socialism. Totalitarianism mostly leads to a society directly controlled by the leader in place.  Collectivism is brought forth as the freedom of many, which is propagated by leaders who decide how the economy runs on behalf of their people. Totalitarianism inhibits freedom of the people. Hayek pursues another important aspect of the economy especially regarding the basics of people in satisfying their needs. Hayek is of the opinion that the society can advance greatly if liberty is assured to the people. Learning from the past and how organized activities by states has led to various evils like Nazism will help the government make better decisions and create a free society for every individual to exercise their freedom without infringing on the rights of others. The writer notes that serfdom comes in when there are controlled activities by the government and therefore lack of freedom for the people in question.

Critical Analysis

The author has lived in countries that were affected negatively because of having socialist thought for some time. Countries that have held or hold socialist thinking and further seen the evils or experienced them. As such, the author is in a better position of showing the state of society, which embraces socialist thought. The constant thoughts of planning and organizes may seem attractive at first but may provide a platform of destruction in the end. Freedom is an important aspect that Hayek handles in the book especially about political and economic freedom. A society rises and falls with the direction of its leaders especially those who think that everything in society should be centralized. Having lived in such countries and experienced such brutal forms of leadership, it becomes paramount that his arguments are valid when considering the aftermath of socialism. Hayek provides a greater understanding of how socialist thinking prepares leaders to undertake destructive tendencies and gives relevant instances of leaders like Mussolini and Hitler. Such incidences did not happen by chance, but the social processing of the society by the leaders further led them to such evils. Leaders in such cases did not anticipate such adverse consequences, but through their thinking of organizing and planning everything set a stage. Though the socialist approach is subtle, it is important to know the consequences of engaging in such thought and the author provides a better explanation of government control on various aspects of the society. Hayek bases his reasoning on his experiences especially in Austria and does not borrow much from other countries that have fared on well as socialists.

Hayek brings out the argument of socialism being a contributor to evils such as Nazism and fascism. In holding such views, he insinuates that Germany should not have been blamed on the Nazism that resulted but the focus should be on the social approach that was gaining ground in Germany before Hitler took place. Such an approach gave him the platform to carry out his leadership tendencies that led to brutal actions carried out on various sections of people in the society by his governance. Hayek further focuses on the individuals and their freedom, which is clearly a part of the thinking in Christianity. His thoughts on individualism are connected with humanism especially in the western European thought. Hayek dwells on various freedoms that are to be associated with the economy and the individual himself particularly relating the humanistic way of thinking. He is the view that liberalism is removed from society by leadership that embraces socialism. Therefore, though he is of the opinion that liberalism is highly beneficial to society especially its governance and economy there are various setback that can cause conflicting interests between liberalists.

Liberalism according to Hayek slacked at the start, and people did not put much consideration to it. Hayek notes that planning and organizing guided the thoughts of many philosophers like Hegel and Karl Marx who did not like such talk about the consequences that would arise if such controlling attitudes were taken by the leadership in place (MacGregor, 2014). Hayek further shows that socialism can be undertaken by honoring the freedom that people should have. Hayek further delivers into various systems in society like communism and fascism have the same means but different goals especially in leading to unintended consequences. Hayek further focuses on individualism and notes that governments or the leadership in place cannot meet all the needs of every individual in an instant. A planning to meet all needs would be quite cumbersome and complex since it will have to factor in all individuals. Hayek in is arguments disputes any notion that socialists can be democrats.

In dealing with economics and politics, Hayek suggests that the government should intervene where necessary and not have immense control over the business environment. He differs with Keynes on how government can intervene in a dire economic situation since he holds the view that government intervention should be minimal (Cate, 2012). Planned systems have both powers to regulate and to control the economy. The controlling of the economy stifles independences of the business to carry out their activities with freedom. Hayek in his thoughts on economy control and regulation by parliament does not give a definite answer to which systems of leadership especially liberalism or democracy can protect the freedoms of people in doing their daily economic activities. Totalitarianism clearly shows the ways in which economic progress is stifled. Hayek notes on the demerit of economic control and thus notes that it cannot assist a society to progress. In such economic control, people are restricted to the choices made for them through economic control, which Hayek totally disagrees with. Hayek is of the view that a controlled economy as predetermined actions as opposed to a free market economy. For securities of the people to be met, there is need for there to be the consideration of freedom to be considered. The provision of security should not counter the freedoms of the people.

Philosophical relevance

Hayek points out important issues that are part of any economic society. At present as governments, seek a more controlling stake, their respective economies it becomes significant to consider the resultant consequences. Governments should, therefore, learn to create a political and economic environment where they are not controlling. As such, they should not concentrate on centralizing powers particularly on how they can control the economic activities. The relationship of the government with people can benefit greatly if the government focuses on other aspects of the country such as legislation and playing a regulatory role in fostering the economy.  Socialism, in this case, should be avoided at all coasts since it cannot be intermingled with democracy.

Many leaders today hold socialist thoughts present in the modern day society, especially in America. Some of the features include too much stress on planning, the rising veneration in the country among others. Socialist forces were the precedence of Nazism in Germany, and even though the policies may seem good, they inevitably lead to evil consequences. Such tendencies as coming up with an economic system that is consciously directed as opposed to that which is competitive stems from socialist thoughts, which eventually lead to dire consequences in the end. In the most developed countries, the need for organization of the society is greatly stressed and some of the people hold socialist views without knowing the resulting consequences. Therefore, philosophically Hayek brings about a way of thinking that abhors socialist thinking and instead promotes aspects that support freedom and the government being more of a regulatory player in the economic stage.

Conclusion

Friedrich focuses on the freedoms that people have and how governments control can take away such freedoms. As such, most countries are adopting more control while some are taking partial control of the economy. At present democracy is emphasized and countries which stifle their economies by having much control will according to Hayek have destructive results. It is further important to note that at present more governments are taking on free trade areas between their borders and thereby encouraging more trade between countries and not only within the specific countries. Therefore societies should be watchful on how they use various policies at can be socialist and lead to bad leadership.

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