Excerpts from Hayek's Road to Serfdom

submited by
Style Pass
2021-09-25 18:00:04

I'm reading the Road to Serfdom this week. The only thing by Hayek I've read before is his the Use of Knowledge in Society paper. It was written years after The Road to Serfdom was published and famously influenced Jimmy Wales' thinking about the development of Wikipedia. Here I collected some excerpts from the first half of the book that I particularly enjoyed.

The result of this growth surpassed all expectations. Wherever the barriers to the free execercise of human ingenuity were removed, man became rapidly able to satisfy ever widening ranges of desire. And while the rising standard soon led to the discovery of very dark spots in society, spots which men were no longer willing to tolerate, there was probably no class that did not substantially benefit from the general advance. We cannot do justice to this astonishing growth if we measure it by our present standards, which themselves result from this growth and now make many defects obvious. To appreciate what it meant to those who took part in it, we must measure by the hopes and wishes men held when it began: and there can be no doubt that its success surpassed man's wildest dreams, that by the beginning of the twentieth century the working-man in the Western world had reached a degreee of material comfort, security, and personal independence which a hundred years before had seemed scarcely possible.

What in the future will probably appear the most significant and far-reaching effect of this success is the new sense of power over their own fate, the belief in the unbounded possibilities of improving their own lot, which the success already achieved created among men. With the success grew ambition — and man had every right to be ambitious. What had been an inspiring promise seemed no longer enough, the rate of progress far too slow; and the principles which had made this progress possible in the past came to be regarded more as obstacles to speedier progress, impatiently to be brushed away, than as the conditions for the preservation and development of what had laready been achieved.

Leave a Comment