Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hayek's Road to Serfdom: Radical, Relevant?

Hayek’s book The Road to Serfdom has had a burst of popularity recently. It’s notorious, of course, and I had read excerpts and accounts of it. But I’d never read it cover-to-cover. My general impression, mostly garnered from second-hand interpretations of the work over the years, was that it was radically right-wing.

Having just read it, I find that interpretation untrue. I find very little in the book that the Labo(u)r parties of the UK and Australia would reject. This is probably partly a function of the move toward markets since the 1980’s. But partly it is because the views expressed really are simply those of a classic European liberal.

However, I am genuinely puzzled why anyone would think the book was particularly relevant today. It argues against centralised planning of the economy, ie, state ownership of the means of production. Who is advocating that today? States had to be forced into part-ownership of financial institutions during the financial crisis. The refusal to bail out Lehman Brothers shows clearly the extent of government reluctance to own these firms.

Read the rest of my review here.

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