By F.A. Hayek
University Of Chicago Press, 274 pp, 1944
All right, so it's been a while since I've
posted a book review. Over a month, which may be a record. Usually, long
delays between posts means I'm reading a very long book, but not this
time. As you can see, The Road to Serfdom isn't very long at all.
In fact, I'd normally consider it a short book. But it's not. It's very
Why is that? I'll get to that later.
Let me say right now, that this book is a
powerful refutation of socialism and communism. It was badly needed in
1944. America's faith in free enterprise had been shaken by the Great
Depression, and our war-time ally the Soviet Union seemed to be building
the perfect society. Of course, it wasn't, and that was clear to
reasonable thinkers at the time, but scores more were duped.
So this book comes out and says socialism
is a pile of horse manure. Any way you slice it, it inevitably leads to
oppression, dictatorship, and totalitarianism. It has to. The only way to
achieve the goal of socialism is through coercion. Socialism is not
compatible with freedom or democracy.
Okay, fine and good. I agree, and I
appreciate this book and the ground it broke at the time.
So why is it so long? Because it's so
Yes, I said it. It's boring. It's tedious.
Long sentences. Dense paragraphs. Awkward sentence construction. Needless
It's also nothing I haven't heard or read
before. Hayek is cherished by both conservatives and libertarians, and
both groups try to claim his as their own. Because of that, his ideas have
been endlessly repeated and expanded upon for the last 60 years. I've
heard all these arguments, just with different words written by different
I know I'm taking a chance here. I'm bound
to get outraged e-mails by Hayek fans, angry that I've dissed a giant. So
let me be clear. I am not dissing Hayek's ideas. He was absolutely right
in 1944, and he's right now. I admire his courage and convictions. I am
dissing his writing style, and nothing else.
So I'm glad I read the book, because it's
rightly considered a classic. It will occupy a prized spot on my
bookshelf. But am I going to read it again?