The Road to Serfdom (1944) – F.A. Hayek

Introduction

  • We can learn from the past to avoid a repetition of the same process.
    • Accidental combination of experience & interest often reveals events to one man.
    • Moving from one country to another, one may sometimes watch similar phrases of intellectual development more than once.
    • When you hear for the 2nd time opinions expressed or measures advocated 20-25 years ago, but new meaning as symptoms of a definite trend. They suggest the probability that developments will take a similar course.
  • Now we’re in danger of repeating Germany’s fate. The danger in the US & England is so remote that it’s hard to believe we’re going the same way.
    • We’re not yet like Hitler’s Germany. But there’s more than a superficial similarity between the trend of thought in Germany between the wars & our current democracies.
    • Now there’s the same determination we have for defense used for creation.
      • It’s the same that holds contempt for liberalism, same spurious “realism” & even cynicism, the same fatalistic acceptance of “inevitable trends”.
  • This book will show a bunch of other reasons that we”ll be doing the same as Germany is now in about 15-20.
    • Progressives have been pushing socialist policies, stemming originally from Germany.
  • Hayek spent the 1st half of his life in Austria & was tuned into the Germany train of thought of the era. He spent the next half of his life (up to the publication of the book in 1944) in the US & England. In the 2nd half, he saw the seeds of what eventually killed freedom in Germany being sowed. We understand these ideas even less than the Germans did.
    • It was sad the ideas were proposed in Germany by people of goodwill that were used by others to destroy the things the good people loved.
    • The chances of avoiding the same fate depends on our ability to revise cherished hopes & ambitions if they end up being the cause of the problem.
    • We don’t seem to be able to admit that we can be wrong. Few are ready to recognize that the rise of Fascism & Nazism wasn’t a reaction against Socialism but an outcome of the tendencies. People don’t want to see the eerie similarities between Communist Russia & Nazi Germany. But those who hate these 2 work for the ideals that’s lead to tyranny.
      • These outcomes can be prevented if people realized where their efforts may lead. They aren’t inevitable but we should face the issues straight on.
  • The Socialism we speak of isn’t about parties & their differences. What’s more important is how the views influence developments now showing up in democracies.
    • Hardly anyone doubts we must continue toward Socialism. It’s because almost everyone wants it that we’re going this way. But nothing makes it inevitable.
    • The question is where the movement will lead us. Most people who press for it, if they saw where it led, they’d be horrified & would stop their efforts. It we try to shape our future with high ideals, but have the opposite results, it would be a tragedy.
    • Democracies showed insecurity & uncertainty in dealing with dictators before the war. We refused to believe the enemy was sincere in its beliefs.
    • Both the Left & the Right have been fooled in thinking that Nazism was to serve capitalists who opposed Socialism. So many of Hitler’s policies are still being recommended for imitation, but they are incompatible with free society.
      • Our mistake is in not understanding the opponent & what produces totalitarianism because doing so would burst our illusions we cling to.
      • We have to understand the character & growth of their ideas. Some think that the Germans are inherently vicious. That’s not a credible way of thinking (Mill was influenced by Germans, Goethe & Humboldt. Nazism was influenced by Chamberlain & Carlyle). To keep that idea would be the same racial supremacy Nazism holds to.
    • Once passed that, let’s see why Germans allowed progressive growth & victory of these ideas, & why it brought about the vicious element which rose to the top.
      • Hatred for all things German is dangerous & blinds us to the real threats. It’s a form of escapism by being unwilling to recognize tendencies, not confined to Germany, being reluctant to re-examine & discard beliefs.
      • Exiles from Germany hold prevalent socialist views & see Nazism as a reaction to those whose privileges were threatened by Socialism.
      • The Left & the Right were only in conflict over different types of Socialism. These socialist exiles in the West will spread their particular version of Socialism that had led Germany on its path.
      • Anglos are shocked at what German refugees say in a semi-fascist tone & put them down to being German, rather than Socialists.
        • There’s a kinship between Socialism & Prussianism that causes this confusion. We often ignore the fact that Socialism is also big in Italy & Russia.

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