Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is appropriate that today, after the announcement of Britain's departure from the European Union, I finally finished Hayek's book, the last chapter of which is named "The Prospects of International Order." Although he did see the European Union coming (this book was first published in the late 1940's), and although he castigates what we now call Eurosocialism, he could not have foreseen this development. After all I learned reading this book, I do think he would agree with the outcome, scary though it be.

Reading this book gave me great perspective on where the boundaries should be drawn on collectivism and it renewed my interest in the great strength gained by decentralized groups. I wonder what Nassim Taleb would say about this - he teaches us how strength comes from randomness and disorder in his books Anti-Fragile and The Black Swan.

In medieval times, a serf worked (for his lord) 3 days out of the 7 day week. Today, if you add up all of the taxes you pay, you are working much more than 3 days out of 7 for your czar. It makes one wonder if progress should be defined not only by the development of antibiotics, iPhones, and painkillers but by more sobering and less romantic notions like taxes.

My absolute favorite quote from this book (which I am bound to re-read and study in the years to come):

“Probably it is true enough that the great majority are rarely capable of thinking independently, that on most questions they accept views which they find ready-made, and that they will be equally content if born or coaxed into one set of beliefs or another. In any society freedom of thought will probably be of direct significance only for a small minority. But this does not mean that anyone is competent, or ought to have power, to select those to whom this freedom is to be reserved. It certainly does not justify the presumption of any group of people to claim the right to determine what people ought to think or believe.”

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