Posted on | June 17, 2010 | 154 Comments
On June 8, Beck devoted an entire episode of his talk show on Fox News to The Road to Serfdom, a work of political theory written in the immediate aftermath of World War II by Friedrich von Hayek, an Austrian émigré to the U.K. and the 1974 recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics . . .
The Road to Serfdom is a treatise on libertarianism, well-known only in academic circles or among political theory wonks stalwart enough to wade through the 60-page introduction and chapters on “Planning and the Rule of Law” and “The Prospects of International Order.”
Ha. Ha. Haha. BWAAAAA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!
Just a few points:
- The term “libertarian” in its present meaning was not commonly used until the 1970s.
- Far from being known only to “wonks,” The Road to Serfdom was a best-seller in 1944 and ’45, going through multiple printings, and was originally popularized through a condensed version published by Reader’s Digest.
- It was not “a work of political theory,” but an attempt to explain the rise of Nazism and fascism — 1944? hint, hint — as one consequence of the prevalence of socialist ideas. It was a very practical book, warning leaders in England and America that the tendency toward the “planned economy” could produce similar results even in Western democracies.
- The book obviously wasn’t written in the “aftermath of World War II,” but during the war.
- As to being “stalwart enough to wade through the 60-page introduction,” my own copy (50th anniversary edition, 1994) includes an 11-page introduction by Milton Friedman and a couple of prefaces to previous editions. The most interesting chapters, to my mind, are Chapter 8 (“Who, Whom?”), Chapter 10 (“Why the Worst Get on Top”) and especially Chapter 12 (“The Socialist Roots of Nazism”), which has never ceased to provoke howls from the Left, who refuse to admit that National Socialism was socialism at all.
Next assignment for Isia Jasiewicz? “The Bible, a theological treatise well-known only in religious circles or among clergy stalwart enough to wade through several pages of ‘begats’ and the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.”
ADDENDUM: Whatever happened to young journalists learning their craft as reporters before trying their hand at punditry or criticism? I suppose it would be slumming for a Princeton grad to take a job as a staff writer for a newspaper, covering school-board meetings and such. But am I the only reader who resents being lectured to by 22-year-olds? I don’t care what your SAT score was, sweetheart. You’re not that precocious.
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Remember that Professor Reynolds is a Yale Law grad, so the humiliation of Princetonians and Harvardians (e.g., Andrew Sullivan) warms the cockles of his heart.
UPDATE II: As I remarked last week, it is unfortunate that most people who read The Road to Serfdom stop there and don’t pursue Austrian economics or Hayekian philosophy further. One of the finest treatises Hayek ever wrote was The Mirage of Social Justice – which goes in-depth on a key theme briefly explored in Road — and yet it gets short shrift. Hayek famously described the errors of socialism in The Fatal Conceit.
UPDATE III: Linked by Greg Ransom at the Hayek Center. Wouldn’t it be nice if the center were Hayekian?
UPDATE IV: E-mail from a reader:
I’m a former editor at the [Reader's] Digest. Actually, RD didn’t just do a condensed version of Road to Serfdom, they published the condensed version in the magazine, which at the time was one of, if not the most, widely read magazines in the country. One of the reasons it is so well known by a certain generation, is that it was read by millions of people who other wise might not have been aware of it.
No need to mention me, just the fact, which reinforces that this guy’s a moron. Cheers.