In 1944 Friedrich Hayek published The Road to Serfdom, a warning against the totalitarian dangers involved in central economic planning. Although out of step with the intellectual fashions of its time, it has gradually come to be recognised as a classic, and its arguments have won widespread acceptance among intellectuals and policymakers. Now, after more than half a century, Neil McInnes reviews the changing fortunes of Hayek’s book and the way in which his warning has been received over the years.
One of Hayek’s most controversial claims was that even small steps towards economic interventionism lead to a slippery-slope ending in totalitarianism. McInnes challenges this view, arguing that the loss of freedom is at least as likely to happen suddenly as gradually, and that Hayek has not shown why intermediate positions are not viable. He also explains the role that Hakey’s position played in subsequent debates, and the different ways it has been interpreted by his supporters.
As Chandran Kukathas says in his foreword, ‘The Road to Serfdom is a work whose reception is itself worthy of examination for what it tells us about the intellectual and political movements of our era.’ This Occasional Paper is ‘evidence of that work’s continued vitality, and is itself another part of the Hayek story.’