The Road To Serfdom

by Friedrich A. Hayek, Milton Friedman

Troy Shu
Troy Shu
Updated at: March 04, 2024
The Road To Serfdom
The Road To Serfdom

What are the big ideas? 1. The Dangers of Central Planning and Collectivism: Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and the dange

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What are the big ideas?

  1. The Dangers of Central Planning and Collectivism: Hayek's "Road to Serfdom" emphasizes the importance of individual freedom and the dangers of central planning and collectivism in shaping society. Unlike other works, it provides a unique historical analysis of how the desire for security and control can ultimately lead to totalitarian regimes and the suppression of individual rights.
  2. The Contrast between Democratic and Totalitarian Ideologies: Hayek highlights the fundamental differences between democratic and totalitarian ideologies, arguing that compromises or concessions are not feasible. He emphasizes the importance of defending traditional democratic values, such as personal freedom and responsibility, to distinguish it from the collectivist goals of totalitarianism.
  3. The Role of Intellectuals in Promoting Totalitarian Ideas: Hayek critiques intellectuals for their role in promoting planning and control, which can ultimately lead to totalitarian regimes. He argues that this trend is not unique to Germany but also present in other countries, including Britain. His analysis challenges the common belief that intellectuals are inherently progressive or benevolent actors in society.
  4. The Need for Local Self-Government: Hayek advocates for local self-government as essential to preserving democracy and fostering its growth. He believes that large centralized states stifle creativity and responsibility among individuals, and emphasizes the importance of a true system of international law with a powerful but limited supernational authority. This perspective is distinct from other political theories that prioritize strong centralized governments or international organizations.
  5. The Role of Federalism in Preventing Totalitarianism: Hayek sees federalism as an effective check on democracy and the solution to some of the world's most difficult problems. He emphasizes the importance of reducing the risk of friction likely to lead to war, but recognizes that creating a permanent organization which makes all war impossible may not be achievable. His analysis highlights the role of federalism as a viable alternative to centralized governments or international organizations that could potentially suppress individual rights and freedoms.

Chapter Summaries



  • The Road to Serfdom was originally published in 1944 as a series of essays in the British journal, The Saturday Evening Post.
  • The book is a critique of economic planning and collectivism, warning that such policies would lead to totalitarianism and the suppression of individual liberty.
  • Hayek argues that central planning requires an impossible degree of knowledge and information for a single mind or organization to possess.
  • He contends that economic progress depends on the division of labor and the spontaneous order it generates, which cannot be directed by a central authority.
  • Hayek's opposition to planning does not equate to opposition to government intervention in markets or the provision of public goods.
  • The book was initially met with skepticism and criticism, but its popularity grew after World War II as concerns about state control increased.
  • Critics accused Hayek of being an anti-scientist, but he argued that his position was based on scientific insights and the limitations of human knowledge.
  • Some scholars argue that Hayek's work influenced the rise of neoliberalism in the latter half of the 20th century.
  • The Road to Serfdom continues to be an influential work, with many of its arguments still relevant today.


“presupposes a much more complete agreement on the relative importance of the different ends than actually exists, and that, in consequence, in order to be able to plan, the planning authority must impose upon the people that detailed code of values which is lacking.”

“the price system is a mechanism for coordinating knowledge; and”

“But scarcely less surprising to me was the enthusiastic welcome accorded to the book by many whom I never expected to read a volume of this type—and from many more of whom I still doubt whether in fact they ever read it.”

“Though eternal vigilance is sage advice, surely “wartime” (or when politicians would try to convince us that it is such a time) is when those who value the preservation of individual liberty must be most on guard.”

One: The Abandoned Road


  • The liberal trend of ideas, which had dominated Western civilization since the Enlightenment, is being reversed by a new approach emphasizing collective direction and control of society.
  • This change has coincided with a shift in intellectual leadership from England to Germany.
  • German ideas have been influential in shaping the socialist and planning movements that emerged during this period.
  • The new approach emphasizes the need for conscious direction and regulation of all aspects of society, rather than relying on spontaneous forces and individual freedom.
  • This reversal of trends is significant because it represents a fundamental departure from the individualist tradition that has underpinned Western civilization since the Enlightenment.
  • The new approach emerged in response to social and economic challenges that arose during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but its roots can be traced back to earlier intellectual developments, such as Hegelianism and historicism.
  • The impact of these ideas has been far-reaching, shaping the course of political and economic development in many parts of the world. It is essential to understand this intellectual background if we are to assess the implications of contemporary political and economic debates.


“We are ready to accept almost any explanation of the present crisis of our civilization except one: that the present state of the world may be the result of genuine error on our own part and that the pursuit of some of our most cherished ideals has apparently produced results utterly different from those which we expected.”

“We have progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past. Although we had been warned by some of the greatest political thinkers of the nineteenth century, by Tocqueville and Lord Acton, that socialism means slavery, we have steadily moved in the direction of socialism.”

“Individualism has a bad name today, and the term has come to be connected with egotism and selfishness.7 But the individualism of which we speak in contrast to socialism and all other forms of collectivism has no necessary connection with these.”

“To appreciate what it meant to those who took part in it, we must measure it by the hopes and wishes men held when it began:”

“It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.”

Two: The Great Utopia


  • The transformation of socialism into fascism is not an accident, but rather a logical development of its inherent characteristics
  • Socialism and fascism share a hatred for liberal individual freedom and the belief that the state should control every aspect of people's lives
  • Many leading figures of fascist and socialist movements began as socialists before converting to fascism
  • The intellectual history of many fascist leaders reveals that they began as socialists or Marxists before becoming fascists
  • Eduard Heimann, a German religious socialist leader, acknowledged that Hitler had never claimed to represent true liberalism but rather true democracy and socialism with a "grain of truth"
  • The main difference between socialism and fascism is their interpretation of equality: socialism demands equality in freedom while fascism demands equality in servitude and grievance.


“Is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?”

“There can be no doubt that the promise of greater freedom has become one of the most effective weapons of socialist propaganda and that the belief that socialism would bring freedom is genuine and sincere. But this would only heighten the tragedy if it should prove that what was promised to us as the Road to Freedom was in fact the High Road to Servitude. Unquestionably, the promise of more freedom was responsible for luring more and more liberals along the socialist road, for blinding them to the conflict which exists between the basic principles of socialism and liberalism, and for often enabling socialists to usurp the very name of the old party of freedom. Socialism was embraced by the greater part of the intelligentsia as the apparent heir of the liberal tradition: therefore it is not surprising that to them the idea of socialism's leading to the opposite of liberty should appear inconceivable.”

“It is true, of course, that in Germany before 1933, and in Italy before 1922, communists and Nazis or Fascists clashed more frequently with each other than with other parties. They competed for the support of the same type of mind and reserved for each other the hatred of the heretic. But their practice showed how closely they are related. To both, the real enemy, the man with whom they had nothing in common and whom they could not hope to convince, is the liberal of the old type. While to the Nazi the communist, and to the communist the Nazi, and to both the socialist, are potential recruits who are made of the right timber, although they have listened to false prophets, they both know that there can be no compromise between them and those who really believe in individual freedom.”

Three: Individualism and Collectivism


  • Competition is a system of social organization that allows individuals and firms to act in their own self-interest while producing benefits for society as a whole.
  • The main benefits of competition include promoting efficiency, innovation, and consumer satisfaction through the price mechanism.
  • Negative requirements of competition include freedom to sell and buy at any price, open entry into trades, and preservation of property rights.
  • Positive requirements of competition include a suitable legal framework and the provision of certain services that cannot be supplied through the market alone.
  • The modern movement for planning is a movement against competition as such and aims to replace it with a centrally planned economy.
  • Competition and central direction are alternative principles used to solve the same problem, and a mixture of the two produces worse results than either system in its pure form.


“The dispute about socialism has thus become largely a dispute about means and not about ends—although the question whether the different ends of socialism can be simultaneously achieved is also involved.”

“This is not necessarily true, however, of measures merely restricting the allowed methods of production, so long as these restrictions affect all potential producers equally and are not used as an indirect way of controlling prices and quantities. Though all such controls of the methods of production impose extra costs (i.e., make it necessary to use more resources to produce a given output), they may be well worth while. To prohibit the use of certain poisonous substances or to require special precautions in their use, to limit working hours or to require certain sanitary arrangements, is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. The only question here is whether in the particular instance the advantages gained are greater than the social costs which they impose. Nor is the preservation of competition incompatible with an extensive system of social services — so long as the organization of these services is not designed in such a way as to make competition ineffective over wide fields.”

“Yet, though all the changes we are observing tend in the direction of a comprehensive central direction of economic activity, the universal struggle against competition promises to produce in the first instance something in many respects even worse, a state of affairs which can satisfy neither planners nor liberals: a sort of syndicalist or "corporative" organization of industry, in which competition is more or less suppressed but planning is left in the hands of the independent monopolies of the separate industries. This is the inevitable first result of a situation in which the people are united in their hostility to competition but agree on little else. By destroying competition in industry after industry, this policy puts the consumer at the mercy of the joint monopolist action of capitalists and workers in the best organized industries.”

“Or, to express it differently, planning and competition can be combined only by planning for competition but not by planning against competition. It is of the utmost importance to the argument of this book for the reader to keep in mind that the planning against which all our criticism is directed is solely the planning against competition — the planning which is to be substituted for competition. This is the more important, as we cannot, within the scope of this book, enter into a discussion of the very necessary planning which is required to make competition as effective and beneficial as possible. But as in current usage "planning" has become almost synonymous with the former kind of planning, it will sometimes be inevitable for the sake of brevity to refer to it simply as planning, even though this means leaving to our opponents a very good word meriting a better fate.”

Four: The “Inevitability” of Planning


  • The belief that modern technological progress necessitates comprehensive economic planning is a misconception.
  • Competition, rather than planning, enables efficient coordination in complex societies.
  • While it is possible that compulsory standardization or the prohibition of variety beyond a certain degree could increase abundance in some fields, sacrificing freedom and choice for the sake of material comfort may not be worthwhile in the long run.
  • The frustration of specialists in their own field often drives them to advocate for planning, but this overlooks the potential conflicts between different objectives and the need for balancing competing interests.
  • Planning unites single-minded idealists, but the hopes they place in planning are often based on a limited view and an exaggeration of the importance of their particular aims.
  • The potential dangers of planning lie in the possibility that the most eminent specialists in each field might be allowed to proceed unchecked with the realization of their ideals, leading to intolerance and an unbearable world.
  • The economist's plea is for a method that effects coordination without the need for an omniscient dictator, which means retaining impersonal checks on individual efforts.


“It should be noted, moreover, that monopoly is frequently the product of factors other than the lower costs of greater size. It is attained through collusive agreement and promoted by public policies. When these agreements are invalidated and when these policies are reversed, competitive conditions can be restored.”

“One need not be a prophet to be aware of impending dangers. An accidental combination of experience and interest will often reveal events to one man under aspects which few yet see.”

Five: Planning and Democracy


  • Central planning on a large scale requires suppression of individual freedom, leading to dictatorship.
  • Democratic control is ineffective for fields where agreement cannot be achieved by free discussion.
  • Democracy is a means for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom; it is not an end in itself.
  • The belief that power derived from democratic procedure cannot be arbitrary is false.
  • Delegation of legislative powers to ministers can lead to elasticity essential for laws that affect people's lives closely, resulting in the conferment of arbitrary power.
  • Planning and democracy are fundamentally incompatible due to planning requiring suppression of individual freedom.
  • The focus on democracy as the main value threatened is misleading, as it overlooks the importance of limitation of power in preventing arbitrariness.


“The fact that we are constantly choosing between different values without a social code prescribing how we ought to choose does not surprise us and does not suggest to us that our moral code is incomplete. In our society there is neither occasion nor reason why people should develop common views about what should be done in such situations. But where all the means to be used are the property of society and are to be used in the name of society according to a unitary plan, a “social” view about what ought to be done must guide all decisions. In such a world we should soon find that our moral code is full of gaps.”

“Hitler did not have to destroy democracy; he merely took advantage of the decay of democracy and at the critical moment obtained the support of many to whom, though they detested Hitler, he yet seemed the only man strong enough to get things done.”

“Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom. As such it is by no means infallible or certain. Nor must we forget that there has often been much more cultural and spiritual freedom under an autocratic rule than under some democracies and it is at least conceivable that under the government of a very homogeneous and doctrinaire majority democratic government might be as oppressive as the worst dictatorship.”

“There is no justification for the belief that, so long as power is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary; the contrast suggested by this statement is altogether false: it is not the source but the limitation of power which prevents it from being arbitrary.”

Six: Planning and the Rule of Law


  • The Rule of Law is a principle that limits the scope of legislation and restricts it to general rules, excluding laws that directly target particular people or enable discrimination.
  • In a planned economy, the delegation of legislative powers to various boards and authorities becomes increasingly common, leading to broad discretionary authority with little regard for pre-established rules.
  • The preservation of the Rule of Law is incompatible with central planning and control of economic life as it would limit the power of the government to act arbitrarily.
  • Those advocating for central planning often argue for individual rights but then make them largely meaningless by qualifying them with conditions that render them subject to government discretion.
  • The loss of the Rule of Law in a planned economy results in the totalitarian state, where the "interests of the community" determine what is legal or not.


“The state should confine itself to establishing rules applying to general types of situations and should allow the individuals freedom in everything which depends on the circumstances of time and place, because only the individuals concerned in each instance can fully know these circumstances and adapt their actions to them. If the individuals are able to use their knowledge effectively in making plans, they must be able to predict actions of the state which may affect these plans. But if the actions of the state are to be predictable, they must be determined by rules fixed independently of the concrete circumstances which can be neither foreseen nor taken into account beforehand; and the particular effects of such actions will be unpredictable. If, on the other hand, the state were to direct the individual’s actions so as the achieve particular ends, its actions would have to be decided on the basis of the full circumstances of the moment and would therefore be unpredictable. Hence the familiar fact that the more the state “plans”, the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

“To produce the same result for different people, it is necessary to treat them differently. To give different people the same objective opportunities is not to give them the same subjective chance. It cannot be denied that the Rule of Law produces economic inequality—all that can be claimed for it is that this inequality is not designed to affect particular people in a particular way.”

Seven: Economic Control and Totalitarianism


  • Central planning requires total control over economic activity, extending beyond traditional economic activities to include people's leisure and freedom of travel.
  • The idea of potential abundance, which drives people towards central planning, is a false hope without any supporting evidence or plans for realization.
  • Economic freedom, which includes the right to choose and bear responsibility for that choice, is essential for political freedom.
  • Planning necessitates greater control over people's lives than ever before in history. This control extends beyond economic activities to cover people's leisure as well.
  • False promises of poverty alleviation in western Europe or world-wide wealth distribution have long haunted socialist propaganda under various names.
  • The hope for more equitable distributions of wealth, the only remaining argument for planning, may result in more discontent and greater oppression than ever before caused by free economic forces.


“Economic control is not merely control of a sector of human life which can be separated from the rest; it is the control of the means for all our ends. And whoever has sole control of the means must also determine which ends are to be served, which values are to be rated higher and which lower, in short, what men should believe and strive for.”

“Our freedom of choice in a competitive society rests on the fact that, if one person refuses to satisfy our wishes, we can turn to another. But if we face a monopolist we are at his absolute mercy. And an authority directing the whole economic system of the country would be the most powerful monopolist conceivable…it would have complete power to decide what we are to be given and on what terms. It would not only decide what commodities and services were to be available and in what quantities; it would be able to direct their distributions between persons to any degree it liked.”

“Few people ever have an abundance of choice of occupation. But what matters is that we have some choice, that we are not absolutely tied to a job which has been chosen for us, and that if one position becomes intolerable, or if we set our heart on another, there is always a way for the able, at some sacrifice, to achieve his goal. Nothing makes conditions more unbearable than the knowledge that no effort of ours can change them; and even if we should never have the strength of mind to make the necessary sacrifice, the knowledge that we could escape if we only strove hard enough makes many otherwise intolerable positions bearable.”

Eight: Who, Whom?


  • Fascism and National Socialism emerged from socialist movements but represented a different interpretation of what society should look like.
  • Both movements recognized the need for a hierarchical order, but disagreed on which groups should occupy the dominant positions.
  • Older socialist parties had difficulty understanding why lower classes resented them, as they saw themselves as champions of the working class.
  • New socialist movements were able to attract supporters by offering a theory or worldview that justified their privileges and appealed to resentment against the old socialist parties.
  • The new socialist movements grew in a world already dominated by socialist policies, which raised issues about the role of the state in assigning places in society and the distribution of resources.
  • These movements offered tactics and ideologies that were well-suited to the challenges posed by the experience of an increasingly regulated society.
  • The new socialist movements did not promise equality but offered a hierarchical order based on merit, ability, and contribution to the community.
  • They recognized that reason alone could not decide the questions raised by planning, and that democratic solutions were unlikely to be satisfactory.
  • The new socialist movements offered theories that seemed to justify the privileges they promised to their supporters, such as the idea of a natural order or an elite chosen by merit.


“The power which a multiple millionaire, who may be my neighbour and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest functionaire possesses who wields the coercive power of the state, and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work.”

Nine: Security and Freedom


  • The desire for security has led to a transformation of society in which security is seen as a privilege granted to some, while others are left insecure.
  • This transformation has been hastened by the disparagement of economic risk-taking and the moral opprobrium cast on profits, leading young people to prefer salaried positions over entrepreneurship.
  • The ideal of security has been promoted through policies aimed at providing full employment, stabilizing prices and wages, and regulating competition. However, these policies have led to greater insecurity for those outside the protected group, as well as a growing contrast between their precarious situation and the secure positions of the privileged.
  • The transformation of society has also been influenced by the German experience, where a larger part of civil life was deliberately organized from the top, and distinction and rank were achieved mainly through becoming a salaried servant of the state.
  • While security is essential to preserve liberty, it cannot be provided through interfering with the market system. Instead, competition should be left to function unobstructed.
  • The ideal of security has been promoted by influential intellectuals who argue that it is worth sacrificing freedom for temporary safety. However, this view ignores the fact that liberty can only be had at a price and that as individuals we must be prepared to make severe material sacrifices to preserve our liberty.


“when security is understood in too absolute a sense, the general striving for it, far from increasing the chances of freedom, becomes the gravest threat to it.”

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Ten: Why the Worst Get on Top


  • Totalitarian regimes are characterized by a collectivist ideology that subordinates individual interests and rights to those of the community or state.
  • The intensity of moral emotions in totalitarian movements is comparable to religious movements, but their goals are often repellent to democratic values.
  • Those who aspire to leading positions in totalitarian states must be prepared to set aside all personal beliefs and principles, making them unprincipled and ruthless individuals.
  • Positions in a totalitarian society that require the practice of cruelty, deception, intimidation, and spying are numerous, offering opportunities for those who are unscrupulous.
  • Truthfulness is often sacrificed in totalitarian regimes as they prioritize maintaining the illusion of an ideal society over factual accuracy.
  • Totalitarianism denies the importance of individual happiness, instead focusing on the fulfillment of a higher societal purpose.
  • The selection of leaders in totalitarian societies is based on their unwavering commitment to the leader and their readiness to perform whatever tasks are necessary for the realization of the collective goal.
  • Those who hold moral beliefs that conflict with totalitarian ideals are unlikely to aspire to leading positions, while those who are ruthless and unscrupulous may find opportunities for advancement.


“In the first instance, it is probably true that in general the higher the education and intelligence of individuals becomes, the more their views and tastes are differentiated and the less likely they are to agree on a particular hierarchy of values. It is a corollary of this that if we wish to find a high degree of uniformity and similarity of outlook, we have to descend to the regions of lower moral and intellectual standards where the more primitive and "common" instincts and tastes prevail. This does not mean that the majority of people have low moral standards; it merely means that the largest group of people whose values are very similar are the people with low standards. It is, as it were, the lowest common denominator which unites the largest number of people. If a numerous group is needed, strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated and developed tastes -it will be those who form the "mass" in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals.”

“It is in connection with the deliberate effort of the skillful demagogue to weld together a closely coherent and homogeneous body of supporters that the third and perhaps most important negative element of selection enters. It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program — on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off — than on any positive task. The contrast between the "we" and the "they," the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. It is consequently always employed by those who seek, not merely support of a policy, but the unreserved allegiance of huge masses. From their point of view it has the great advantage of leaving them greater freedom of action than almost any positive program. The enemy, whether he be internal, like the "Jew" or the "kulak," or external, seems to be an indispensable requisite in the armory of a totalitarian leader.

That in Germany it was the Jew who became the enemy until his place was taken by the "plutocracies" was no less a result of the anticapitalist resentment on which the whole movement was based than the selection of the kulak in Russia. In Germany and Austria the Jew had come to be regarded as the representative of capitalism because a traditional dislike of large classes of the population for commercial pursuits had left these more readily accessible to a group that was practically excluded from the more highly esteemed occupations. It is the old story of the alien race's being admitted only to the less respected trades and then being hated still more for practicing them. The fact that German anti-Semitism and anticapitalism spring from the same root is of great importance for the understanding of what has happened there, but this is rarely grasped by foreign observers.”

“But what socialists seriously contemplate the equal division of existing capital resources among the people of the world?”

“To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behaviour as individuals within the group.”

“To split or decentralize power is necessarily to reduce the absolute amount of power, and the competitive system is the only system designed to minimize by decentralization the power exercised by man over man.”

“Once you admit that the individual is merely a means to serve the ends of the higher entity called society or the nation, most of those features of totalitarian regimes which horrify us follow of necessity. From the collectivist standpoint intolerance and brutal suppression of dissent, the complete disregard of the life and happiness of the individual, are essential and unavoidable consequences of this basic premise, and the collectivist can admit this and at the same time claim that his system is superior to one in which the "selfish" interests of the individual are allowed to obstruct the full realisation of the ends the community pursues.”

Eleven: The End of Truth


  • Collectivist thought argues that the growth of reason is a social process that can be consciously controlled and planned, but this leads to the demand for an individual or group to rule supremely over intellectual development.
  • This hubris ignores the interpersonal forces that drive intellectual progress and the fact that any attempt to control it sets bounds on its development, potentially leading to a stagnation of thought and decline of reason.
  • Individualism, in contrast, is an attitude of humility before this social process and tolerance towards other opinions, recognizing the superindividual forces that guide the growth of reason.
  • The Nazis used the term Gleichschaltung to coordinate all political, economic, cultural, and even recreational activities in support of the state. This involved the forced reorganization of disparate groups into a single labor front, as well as the seizure of land from non-Germans and the institution of the Hereditary Farm Law to preserve an exclusively German peasantry.
  • The idea that the human mind ought consciously control its own development confuses individual reason with the interpersonal process that drives intellectual growth, leading to demands for comprehensive direction of the social process, which ultimately destroys reason.
  • Intellectual freedom is essential for the interaction between individuals with different knowledge and views, driving the growth of thought and progress in society. The belief that the majority must follow the same lead undermines this process and threatens intellectual freedom.


“The most effective way of making people accept the validity of the values they are to serve is to persuade them that they are really the same as those which they, or at least the best among them, have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognised before.”

“at all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare,”

“It is not difficult to deprive the great majority of independent thought. But the minority who will retain an inclination to criticize must also be silenced....Public criticism or even expressions of doubt must be suppressed because they tend to weaken pubic support....When the doubt or fear expressed concerns not the success of a particular enterprise but of the whole social plan, it must be treated even more as sabotage.”

“Everything which might cause doubt about the wisdom of the government or create discontent will be kept from the people. The basis of unfavorable comparisons with elsewhere, the knowledge of possible alternatives to the course actually taken, information which might suggest failure on the part of the government to live up to its promises or to take advantage of opportunities to improve conditions--all will be suppressed. There is consequently no field where the systematic control of information will not be practiced and uniformity of views not enforced.”

“The word 'truth' itself ceases to have its old meaning. It describes no longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter of whether in any particular instance the evidence (or the standing of those proclaiming it) warrants a belief; it becomes something to be laid down by authority, something which has to believed in the interest of unity of the organized effort and which may have to be altered as the exigencies of this organized effort require it.”

“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.”

Twelve: The Socialist Roots of Naziism


  • The interwar period in Europe saw a resurgence of nationalism and imperialism, often combined with socialist ideals.
  • German intellectuals such as Sombart, Plenge, Naumann, Lensch, Spengler, Freyer, Jünger, and Schmitt sought to reconcile socialism with authoritarianism or fascism.
  • They criticized liberal parliamentary democracy, capitalism, and individualism, and called for a strong centralized state that would control the economy and society.
  • Some of these intellectuals saw themselves as continuing the traditions of Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche, while others rejected their ideas.
  • The German military victory in World War I created a sense of national pride and renewed confidence in Germany's ability to shape the world.
  • The socialist movement in Germany became increasingly nationalist and authoritarian, with figures such as Bebel and Hilferding advocating for militarization and state intervention in the economy.
  • The failure of the Weimar Republic and the economic instability of the 1920s created an environment in which these ideas gained popularity and influence.
  • The rise of fascist regimes in Europe, particularly Nazi Germany, can be seen as a culmination of these trends.


“from the point of view of fundamental human liberties there is little to choose between communism, socialism, and national socialism. They all are examples of the collectivist or totalitarian state ...”

Thirteen: The Totalitarians in Our Midst


  • Hayek criticized the trend towards planning and control in society, particularly in academia and politics, following World War II.
  • He noted that this trend was not unique to Germany but also present in other countries, including Britain.
  • Hayek argued that planning and control were particularly evident in the fields of economics and social sciences.
  • He criticized intellectuals for their role in promoting planning and control, citing Julien Benda's book "The Betrayal of the Intellectuals" as an example.
  • Hayek noted that even some socialists showed unexpected tenderness towards rentiers and monopolies, despite their opposition to profits.
  • He criticized Harold Laski's call for a planned economic democracy in Britain after the war.
  • Hayek argued that planning and control would inevitably lead to poverty, industrial inefficiency, and social inequality.
  • He called for the continuation of free competition and private property rights as the foundation for a just and prosperous economic order.


“What Tocqueville did not consider was how long such a government would remain in the hands of benevolent despots when it would be so much more easy for any group of ruffians to keep itself indefinitely in power by disregarding all the traditional decencies of political life.”

“The way in which, in the end, with few exceptions, her scholars and scientists put themselves readily at the service of the new rulers is one of the most depressing and shameful spectacles in the whole history of the rise of National Socialism.”

“It is one of the saddest spectacles of our time to see a great democratic movement support a policy which must lead to the destruction of democracy and which meanwhile can benefit only a minority of the masses who support it. Yet it is this support from the Left of the tendencies toward monopoly which make them so irresistible and the prospects of the future so dark.”

Fourteen: Material Conditions and Ideal Ends


  • Hayek argues that the differences between democratic and totalitarian ideologies cannot be bridged by concessions or compromises, but only by a clear defense of traditional democratic values.
  • The liberal tradition emphasizes individual freedom and responsibility, while totalitarianism seeks to impose collective will through central planning and control.
  • The belief in personal freedom and the rejection of state interference are essential to the democratic ideology, and these values must be defended unapologetically if democracies hope to win over the support of those in enemy countries who share similar values.
  • Milton's advocacy for individual freedoms and liberties is a cornerstone of the liberal tradition, which emphasizes the importance of protecting the rights of the individual while maintaining a strong sense of community and national identity.
  • The totalitarian ideology seeks to suppress individual initiative and freedom in the name of the collective good, but this ultimately leads to a stifling of creativity and innovation.
  • While some wartime restrictions on economic activity will be necessary during demobilization, the goal should be to create an economy that fosters individual freedom and responsibility while still ensuring social stability and progress.


“Only if we understand why and how certain kinds of economic controls tend to paralyze the driving forces of a free society, and which kinds of measures are particularly dangerous in this respect, can we hope that social experimentation will not lead us into situations none of us want.”

“Our hopes of avoiding the fate which threatens must...[be to make]adjustments that will be needed if we are to recover and surpass our former standards...and only if every one of us is ready to individually obey the necessities of readjustment shall we be able to get through a difficult period as free men who can choose their own way of life. Let a uniform minimum be secured to everybody by all means; but let us admit at the same time that with this assurance of a basic minimum all claims for a privileged security for particular classes must lapse....”

“Freedom to order our own conduct in the sphere where material circumstances force a choice upon us, and responsibility for the arrangement of our own life according to our own conscience, is the air in which alone moral sense grows and in which moral values are daily recreated in the free decision of the individual. Responsibility, not to a superior, but to one's own conscience, the awareness of a duty not exacted by compulsion, the necessity to decide which of the things one values are to be sacrificed to others, and to bear the consequences of one's own decision, are the very essence of any morals which deserve the name.”

“It is true that the virtues which are less esteemed and practiced now--independence, self-reliance, and the willingness to bear risks, the readiness to back one's own conviction against a majority, and the willingness to voluntary cooperation with one's neighbors--are essentially those on which an individualist society rests. Collectivism has nothing to put in their place, and in so far as it already has destroyed then it has left a void filled by nothing but the demand for obedience and the compulsion of the individual to what is collectively decided to be good.”

“The main cause of the ineffectiveness of British propaganda is that those directing it seem to have lost their own belief in the peculiar values of English civilization or to be completely ignorant of the main points on which it differs from that of other people. The Left intelligentsia indeed, have so long worshiped foreign gods that they seem to have become almost incapable of seeing any good in the characteristic English institutions and traditions. That the moral values on which most of them pride themselves are largely the product of the institutions they are out to destroy, these socialists cannot, of course, admit.”

Fifteen: The Prospects of International Order


  • Hayek believed that a federal organization of nations was an ultimate goal for international relations, but recognized that it was unrealistic in the near term due to the dominance of realpolitik.
  • Hayek argued that local self-government is essential for preserving democracy and fostering its growth. He believed that large centralized states stifled creativity and responsibility among individuals.
  • Hayek advocated for a true system of international law, with a powerful but limited supernational authority enforcing common rules while preventing tyranny over individuals or nations.
  • Hayek believed in the importance of regional federations as a first step towards a larger, more comprehensive international organization, and warned against trying to create an all-encompassing world organization that would likely be weak due to its scope.
  • Hayek saw the League of Nations as an example of an attempt to make international organization all-comprehensive and world-wide, which led to its weakness. He believed that a smaller, more powerful league could have been more effective in preserving peace.
  • Hayek believed that federalism was the most effective check on democracy and that it could be the solution to some of the world's most difficult problems if applied wisely. However, he also recognized that its application is a task of great difficulty and that ambitions should not exceed its capacity.
  • Hayek argued for reducing the risk of friction likely to lead to war as much as possible, but recognized that it may not be possible to create a permanent organization which makes all war in any part of the world entirely impossible.
  • Hayek believed that a closer association of countries with similar civilization, outlook, and standards was preferable to a loose association of "free nations," and that this could lead to a true community of nations of free men.
  • Hayek criticized those who advocated for central direction of economic activity on a world scale as being unrealistic, leading to dominance by the European races, and potentially worse than even war itself. He believed that attempts to create such a world organization could spoil chances of achieving success in a more limited sphere.
  • Hayek saw the experience of colonial development as evidence that even mild forms of planning involved imposing values and ideals on those being assisted, leading to dominance by the white man and resistance from other races. He believed that such plans were absurd due to their unrealistic nature.

Sixteen: Conclusion


  • Recognize that detailed blueprints for a desirable future society may not be useful or attainable at this stage.
  • Agree on principles and free ourselves from past errors to create conditions favorable to progress.
  • Be courageous enough to make a new start, even if it means taking a step back and reassessing our approach.
  • Avoid being swayed by those who preach a "New Order" that is merely a continuation of the recent past's tendencies.
  • Realize that we, the twentieth century, have made mistakes and must try again to create a world of free individuals.
  • Understand that the principle of individual freedom remains the only truly progressive policy.


“The young are right if they have little confidence in the ideas which rule most of their elders. But they are mistaken or misled when they believe that these are still the liberal ideas of the nineteenth century, which, in fact, the younger generation hardly knows. We have little right to feel in this respect superior to our grandfathers; and we should never forget that it is we, the twentieth century, and not they, who have made a mess of things.

If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century.”


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