NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

F. A. Hayek's "Road To Serfdom" Still Influential

May 7, 1999

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Friedrich August von Hayek -- the Austrian-born economist whose enormously influential "The Road to Serfdom," published in 1944, started to turn of the tide against collectivism. Newspapers this morning have been recalling his accomplishments.

At a time when intellectuals were debating the relative merits of national socialism versus communism, Hayek asserted that central planning and individual freedom could not coexist. "The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion," he wrote, "makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government."

Such views led his enemies first to revile him and then -- when that didn't work -- ignore him.

  • In 1945, the Allies kept copies of "The Road to Serfdom" out of Berlin lest they offend the Soviets.
  • Mao's China banned his works, though the government did publish restricted, pirated editions to keep high-ranking cadres abreast of what he was saying -- which the government described as "full of poison."
  • In communist Czechoslovakia, the government ran a Department of Bourgeois Studies as part of an effort to inoculate its academics against the Hayek virus.

But lovers of freedom heeded his message and ran with it.

  • Speaking before a group of Tory researchers in the mid- 1970s, Margaret Thatcher produced a copy of Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" and asserted "this is what we believe."
  • A young Vaclav Klaus read Hayek and ended up guiding Czechoslovakia onto freedom's path as finance minister and later prime minister.
  • Only a year ago, a new Chinese translation of "The Constitution of Liberty" became a bestseller in Beijing -- followed by a conference attracting the cream of China's dissidents.
  • Hayek was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1974.

In addition to "The Road to Serfdom" and "The Constitution of Liberty, his major works include: "Prices and Production," "Individualism and Economic Order," "The Counter-Revolution of Science," "Capitalism and the Historians," "Law, Legislation and Liberty," and "The Fatal Conceit."

He died in 1992.

Sources: Editorial, "Hayek's Revolution," and Edwin J. Feulner Jr. (Heritage Foundation) "Freedom's Prophet," both in the Wall Street Journal; and Editorial, "Heeding Hayek," and Macroscope, "Happy Birthday, Mr. Hayek," both in Investor's Business Daily, May 7, 1999.


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