Summary of The Road to Serfdom

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The Road to Serfdom book summary
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Friedrich A. Hayek, an Austrian economist, wrote this classic defense of democracy and market economies in 1944. That it remains a bestseller is a testament to the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of his critique of socialism and centrally planned economies. The Road to Serfdom cites the influence of Karl Marx and other German philosophers who primed German citizens to embrace the totalitarian rule of Adolf Hitler. The Great Depression of the 1930s stepped up questions about capitalism and boosted support for socialism among the people of democratic countries. But Hayek warned that citizens of America, Britain and other democracies put their freedom at risk when they extolled the goals of socialism. This edition of Hayek’s classic includes a comprehensive introduction by the book’s editor, ample annotation of the original text and an appendix with numerous related documents, as well as the introduction to the 1994 edition by monetary policy expert Milton Friedman. getAbstract recommends this book to readers who want to know the seminal works in this field, and to explore the philosophical differences between socialism and capitalism.

About the Author

Friedrich August von Hayek (1899-1992), an economist from Vienna, Austria, and a proponent of market-based economies, was co-winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics in 1974 and recipient of the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991.

 

Summary

Doubts About Democracy and Capitalism

In the early decades of the 1900s, Europeans and Americans increasingly considered alternatives to democratic government and capitalism, especially during the terrible economic depression in the 1930s. Many critics questioned the “liberal,” or minimal, style of government that democracy fostered and wondered if socialism might deliver better results.

These were dangerous daydreams. For market-based economies like those of America and Great Britain, a full turn toward socialism would require abolishing property rights and adopting a centrally planned economy, sharply cutting the scope of individual decision making. True, many supporters of socialism and other types of totalitarian rule have societal goals similar to those of democracy, but socialism’s pious objectives fail to justify its punitive means of achieving them.

Few countries integrated socialism into their governance to a greater extent than Germany did in the 50 years prior to the pivotal 1930s, when Adolf Hitler rose to power. German philosopher Karl Marx died in 1883, but his revolutionary belief in socialism and central economic planning lived on, attracting...


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    Steven Hatley 10 months ago
    It would be beneficial to all readers if the audio followed the abstract as written. This one jumped around so much that it was very hard to follow — and this happens to be a book I know well.
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      Erica Rauzin 10 months ago
      Thanks for your suggestion. As it happens, our audio summaries are edited for clear elocution and smooth listening and our print/on screen/mobile abstracts are edited for smooth visual reading -- different missions, different pieces drawn from our writer's original summary, often very different user needs. Having once taught reading by using books alongside books-on-tape, I do understand what you're thinking of, but we create purpose-built summaries for audio and visual audiences, so having them be the same wouldn't fit that mission. Thanks very much, though, for the food for thought. E. Rauzin, Senior Managing Editor, getAbstract