THE ROAD TO SERFDOM by Friedrich August von Hayek

Routledge 1997. (First Published 1944). ISBN 0-415-06560-7

The growing "anti-globalization" movement is fiercely opposed to the "neo-liberalism" that dominates todays free market economies.

Friedrich Hayek is identified as a founder of neo-liberalism (see the anti-globalist article by Susan George at so it is only fair to read Hayeks book to make up ones own mind about neo-liberalism vs. anti-globalization.

Most of Hayeks writing was in economics but it is for this political work that he is remembered. It was published in 1944 at a time when "scientific socialism" was very much the fashion. War time central planning was seen as extending into peacetime and the view was bolstered by the spectacular success of the communist centrally controlled U.S.S.R. in the defeat of Germany. Society was seen as a giant perfectly designed machine that had to resist loosness ( i.e. free enterprise) in its moving parts (people).

It was taken as obvious that the sucesses of the scientific method in the development in technology could be applied to society.

Hayek was a lone voice opposing this view. As he says,"The important point is that, if we take the people who's views influence developments, they are now in this country in some measure all socialists. It is no longer fashionable to emphasize that "we are all socialists now", this is so merely because the fact is too obvious. Scarcely anybody doubts that we must continue to move towards socialism."

He traces the fragile growth of personal liberty and democracy out of the ground of feudalism and draws a parallel between the new central planners and the old autocrats. They both desire all the power and are both fundamentally anti-democratic. (top)

He quotes de Toqueville,"Domocracy and Socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude." In this respect he draws strong parallels between fascism and socialism. Their violent conflict was not seen as a war between rival ideologies but rather a fight for power between two anti-democratic systems. He quotes Eduard Heimann,"But one fact stands out with perfect clarity from all the fog: Hitler has never claimed to represent true liberalism. Liberalism has the distinction of being the doctrine most hated by Hitler", and on the socialist side we have Professor Laski opening the door to dictatorship when he asks,"whether in a period of transition to Socialism, a Labour Government can risk the overthrow of its measures as a result of the next general election....?". In pursuit of an ideal, democracy is disposable.

He states clearly that there is a wide and unquestioned field for state activity and he wouldn't have supported the abuses of free markets that we see today. The idea of trading pollution rights or the current multiples of chief executives vs. workers salaries wouldn't have appealed to him.

However, in a real life experiment from the 1940's onwards we have seen the superiority of free markets vs.central planning. Hayek is only following Adam Smith in pointing out that free competition is a superior method of coordinating individual effort.

The problem is that Anti-Globalization is taking on the blind collectivist quasi religious fervour of the early communist or national socialist movements and it faces a tired economic liberalism showing plenty of excesses. In these circumstances we may have to face a growing Anti-Globalist power that Hayek would certainly have opposed.

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