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The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents - the Definitive Edition
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TOP 500 REZENSENTam 2. Juni 2014
Rund 200 Seiten zählt der eigentliche Text in dieser Ausgabe. Sie ist prägnant und mit unverhohlener Sympathie von Herausgeber Bruce Caldwell eingeleitet und eingeordnet. Hilfreich sind dessen zusätzliche erklärende Fußnoten im Text (wobei z.B. George Orwell zumindest Nicht-US-Amerikanern wohl bekannt sein dürfte). Der Haupttext schließt diverse lotsende Vorworte Hayeks ein. 20 Seiten bieten einen schlanken Dokumentenanhang (Briefe, M.-Friedman-Vorwort). Auch ein Index ist vorhanden. Der Text ist schön eng gesetzt, dadurch leichter im Reisegepäck und dünner im Regal. Ich wollte das Buch bewusst in der einflussreicheren englischen Fassung statt in der ersten deutschen lesen. Schönheitsfehler: Der Herausgeber eines ursprünglich deutschsprachigen Werks kann allen Ernstes offensichtlich kaum Deutsch _und der Verlag auch nicht, sonst wären die Tippfehler bei Deutschem nicht dermaßen Legion. Leider wurde auch die zugrundeliegende US-Ausgabe nicht wieder zurück ins Britische übertragen. ;-)

NB: Ich bewerte hier bewusst die Ausgabe, das Buch selbst kann zu sehr polarisieren. Für die einen hat "The Road to Serfdom" vielleicht den Rang einer "Freiheits"-Bibel, einer ultimativen Verdammungsschrift gegen den Sozialismus allerorten (wobei sich Hayek wohl nicht so einfach von FDP-Onkeln und Tories vereinnahmen ließe). Für andere wäre er der Gottseibeiuns, der übersehe, dass große Unternehmen natürlich viel mehr planen und eine "Freiheit" der Ökonomie andere Sphären massiv beeinträchtige (auch da beziehen sich mutmaßlich einige mit Kontra auf ihn, ohne das selbst geprüft zu haben). Wer eine Ausgabe wie diese findet, kann sich ja ein eigenes Urteil bilden. Zeit sollte man mitbringen, denn das ist noch ein gehaltvolles Buch.

Für die Ausgabengestaltung vier Sterne.

PS1: Etwas mehr zum Inhalt: Hayek widmet das Buch den "Sozialisten aller Parteien". Sozialismus - für ihn noch zentrale Planung und Vergesellschaftung der Produktionsmittel - drohe nämlich auch in Friedenszeiten von allen politischen Strömungen bejaht zu werden. Für England sieht er diese "deutsche" Gefahr besonders. Sozialismus werde aber nur mit Zwang funktionierend und eine Tendenz zur Totalisierung beinhalten. Hayek sieht - es sind die späten 1930er/ frühen 1940-er - die UdSSR und die faschistischen Staaten Italien und Deutschland als letztlich ähnlich und einen Liberalismus als Gegenspieler dazu an. Einen deutschen staats-sozialistischen Ansatz der Ökonomie möchte er erklären und verwerfen (Hayek kommt selbst aus der methodisch individualistischeren Österreichischen Schule). Es gebe Aufgaben des Staates, und Wettbewerb als überlegene, machtarme Organisationsform brauche auch Schutz, doch nicht viel mehr, bitte.

PS2: Hat er mich überzeugt (wie gesagt, bewusst nicht in die Sternchen eingeflossen)? Zunächst fand ich es interessant, den echten Hayek zu studieren und nicht nur das Abziehbildchen seiner Feinde oder Jünger. Sympathisch ist sein Streiten für abstrakte Regeln, die personen- und gefälligkeitsunabhängig sein sollen. Sein Streiten gegen eine platonische vereinfachte Pseudo-Wissenschaftlichkeit findet sich dann auch bei seinem späteren LSE-Kollegen und Mit-Wiener KarlPopper.

Sein Misstrauen gegenüber einer staatlichen Lenkung ist nachzuvollziehen. Oft ist sie gescheitert, und in der Tat besonders unfähige Personen saßen an den (politischen) Schalthebeln. Die Liste derart korrupt-kaputter Staaten ist lang. Gleichwohl hat in einigen Ländern zeitweilige Planung offenbar funktioniert (gerade in aufholenden): Taiwan, Singapur, Japan, Deutsches Reich, Nachkriegsfrankreich, Roosevelts USA. Auch in Kriegszeiten konnte so plötzlich die Produktion massiv gesteigert werden. Auch kann ökonomisch wie sozial sinnvolle Umverteilung (Taiwans Bodenreform) so einfacher gestaltet werden. Als dann in den 1970-ern die "liberalen" Rezepte ausgepackt wurden (und auch die USA die Kosten ihres Kriegs abwälzten), ging es damit tief in die Rezession. Wobei Hayeks gewünschte "Entfesselung" (vgl. Obelix) auch noch offenlässt, wie spätere Generationen, die ja jetzt nicht mitwettbewerben, zu einer fairen ökologischen Überlebenschance kommen sollen. Das hat man in den 1940-ern aber wohl zumeist noch nicht gesehen.

So eindeutig überzeugend finde ich Hayeks Position auch in Hinblick auf Freiheit nicht. Mit welchem Recht dürfte sich ausgerechnet die ökonomische Sphäre als unabhängig deklarieren, wie es übrigens früher nur die religiöse tat? Freiheit ist nicht nur die der starken Kapitalbesitzer, sondern auch ideell, politisch, solidarisch etc. Im Chile der Chicago-Boys und Pinochets war nicht gut leben. Wenn der Status einer Person wieder größtenteils von dem ihrer Eltern abhängt, wären wir wieder im Mittelalter. Also müsste Hayek eigentlich viel stärker für eine sensenscharfe Erbschaftssteuer plädieren. Ein heutiger Hayek sollte sich auch die Rolle der großen Unternehmens-Organisationen ansehen, die ja bewusst den Wettbewerb intern wie extern ausknipsen möchten.
Mein Fazit zum Buch: nicht 100% proselytenmachend, doch ein Ansatz zum Auseinandersetzen.
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am 1. Juni 2000
Hayek's classic book is a dissertation on why political freedom is, and can only be, inextricably linked to economic freedom. Originally published in 1944, his specific examples of socialist planning gone wrong are (were) Italy, the USSR, and most prominently, Germany. He primarily uses the British for comparison and contrast purposes, and directs many of his remarks toward Western European nations who were flirting with their own versions of socialist economic planning. He felt that these nations were ultimately going down the same road that the Germans had already traveled two or three generations earlier.
Hayek's central thesis is that individual liberty (economic and political) and collectivism are mutually exclusive, and that even the most well-intentioned socialist society will ultimately evolve into a totalitarian state. Hayek elaborates upon the following key arguments (and others): (1) Collectivism represents the undoing of liberalism (in the classic sense). (2) Socialism necessitates that the efforts of the populace be directed towards a common goal, often called something like "the common good." The economic system must be centrally planned in order to achieve this goal. Such planning amounts to coercion, and individual liberty is sacrificed for the degree of security a socialist state provides. (3) A free society operates according to the Rule of Law, where the rules are known beforehand. The economy of a free society consists of the net sum of individual decisions made within the known legal framework. By contrast, a centrally planned society relies upon government decisions that must be made on the basis of current necessity, what Hayek calls "arbitrary government." (4) Money promotes economic liberty, acting as the medium to provide the individual with the freedom to use his compensation in whatever manner he chooses, rather than being dependent upon a compensation whose specific nature is determined by others. (5) Socialism is inherently nationalistic or ethnocentric, because the leading party often must rally the populace to focus against a threatening group in order to effectively promote its own agenda. A "one-world" socialism that unites across peoples, nations, and ethnic backgrounds is not workable. (6) True believers in a socialist society must hold the interests of the State as higher than their own. Those who will move up the ranks in a socialist society are often prepared to do anything on behalf of the state, no matter how much this opposes one's own moral principles. Those who are amoral are thus more likely to "succeed" in a socialist hierarchy. Hayek holds out little hope that a socialist utopia will work if only "good people" are put in charge.
Contrary to some of the negative reviews below, I must argue that Hayek's book is certainly not "vicious propaganda," (and, I might add, that I sincerely doubt that Hayek's own lips were "lice-ridden.") Nowhere in the book does Hayek celebrate wealth. There is not one sentence in the book extolling the virtues of material riches. He DOES celebrate individual liberty and the superiority of a free market economy. To intelligently oppose Hayek, one must provide a literate argument against the points Hayek actually argues. In addition, one would be compelled in this debate to explain how a rigid socialist system would NOT degenerate into Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or Stalinist Russia (or, for that matter, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Castro's Cuba, Communist China, etc.)
That said, Hayek's book is not free from criticism. He takes a few swipes at the Germans -- Hayek all but proclaims that because of their general ethnic personality the Germans as a people were an ideal setup for Naziism and ruthless obedience to Hitler. Not surprisingly, some readers may take offense to this. Hayek also concedes that in a prosperous economy a basic minimum standard of living should be guaranteed everyone, although he makes no mention of how it could be guaranteed in a manner consistent with his overall free market vision. There is not a single statistic in the entire book (some may find this a GOOD thing), nor is there mention of any specific historical event, except the ongoing war at the time. Hayek's arguments are essentially based upon logical deductions, relying upon assumptions of human nature - as individuals, large groups, or those in authority. I suppose some will find Hayek's logic dubious, although arguably the history of the fifty-plus years since Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom would back him up quite well.
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am 12. Oktober 1999
This book well deserves the acclaim and recognition it garners.I find it striking that it was written in 1944, yet it still is a bestseller, and is widely quoted today. I had to read it because I kept running into so many other sources that quote it, in the course of my research. I am certainly glad I took the opportunity to see first hand why Hayek is so well regarded. Hayek went against the intellectual current back in 1944, and it was really interesting to see his insights into what was going on in Europe and America at that time, and his predictions of the future that have mostly come true. This book must be read by any student of history, liberal democracy, or economics. Do not think a "command economy" will bring about what you are trying to achieve, he says, to those those well meaning but misguided statists who seek an egalitarian utopia through government regulation. In a centrally planned economy, you get a two-tiered society--the commanders and the commanded, the dictators and the slaves. The more regulation, the farther down the Road to Serfdom societies go, until they get to the "perfect" totalitarian state. Even liberals ("New Democrats" at least) have come to see that the free market must be able to operate, or we end up degraded and destitute, like the former Soviet Union. Now if we could only apply these same free market principles to our ailing centrally planned institution, the public schools, we would really be wise.
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am 4. Mai 2000
I was introduced to Friedrich von Hayek through reading Thomas Sowell. And I decided to read this book because it was a highly recommended read in the Freedom's Nest Website Reading List.
As soon as I started reading this book, I developed a warm feeling toward the author. In his original introduction, Hayek started with: "When a professional student of social affairs writes a political book, his first duty is plainly to say so. This is a political book...." His candor and his confidence were so befitting with his great intellect.
Noting that Hayek was an Austrian, I was impressed by his mastery of the English language and I enjoyed his writing style. With mild language and in simple terms, Hayek made very sweeping predictions and patiently explained his reasoning with convincing arguments based on economic and human behavioral theories.
Hayek's thesis was that central economic planning will inevitably lead to governmental control of every facet of its citizen's life, and hence toward a totalitarian state. Hayek's other insightful observations: Nazism, Fascism and communism all have the same roots. In a totalitarian state, it is always the ruthless and the unsophisticated who ascend to the top. Extensive governmental control harms the society not just in delivering dismal economic results, but, more seriously, it produces a psychological change, an alteration in the character of the people.
One must not forget that when Hayek wrote this book, his was very much a voice in the wilderness; he was ridiculed and denounced by his contemporaries. But his ideas stood the test of time! And blessedly, he lived to see that - to see first the building and eventually the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This little book was said to have had definitive influence on such giants as Churchill, Thatcher, Reagan and many others. Perhaps the book's influence was best attested to by its being banned in the USSR, China and many other totalitarian countries.
This book belongs on your book shelf.
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am 1. Januar 2008
Hayek's masterpiece has appreciated in value since its first publication some 60 to 70 years ago. In fact, it is scary how much further down the path to serfdom we have gone over the past decades.

So, what is it all about?
In an intellectual but easily readable way Hayek explains that any sort of "planning" or "government intervention" is necessarily arbitrary by nature and a clear threat to democracy, liberty and individualism. The world we have been heading to is a collectivist authocracy, which always will be ruled by the worst characters amongst us.

Having written the book in the 30s of this century, Hayek does provide sufficient evidence that the emergence of collectivist tyrannies in Russia and Germany does not have their roots in the "bad genes of their peoples", but was a necessary by-product of their collectivist economic policies. Being an Austrian he nevertheless also traces back the roots of German National Socialism to both Germany's militarist history and the fathers of socialism, i.e. Marx, Engels, Bebel, Sombart, etal.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. No matter what your current perspective on the issues discussed, the book will give you new insight and foster a flow of new debates.
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am 13. August 1999
Fifty years ago, "Road to Serfdom" provided the foundations of the intellectual counterrevolution that resulted in the recent demise of socialism. From Latin America to Eastern Europe, this book opened millions of minds to the (now obvious) moral and material superiority of open societies and free-markets over all types of socialisms and fascisms. Of course, that is the single and simple reason why many resentful socialists still hate Hayek and this book so deeply. For example, the "reader from Birmingham" (prior review) calls the author (inter alia) a "fascist" despite the fact that Hayek had to escape fascism to save his life and that this book is one of the most compelling attacks on fascism ever written. Reading a book before "reviewing" it should be mandatory, but living and suffering in this capitalist world should not. A few socialist paradises built by inspired opponents of Hayek's ideas are still available around the globe (try North Korea - - be happy).
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am 13. November 1998
This book is a must read for anyone interested in the workings of civilization. He takes the view, which I believe is correct, that our belief that we can plan a society is the best evidence of our lack of understanding of human nature. If there is an important book in political economics that is accessible to the layman this is it. Hayek was subject to much unfounded criticism in his day, and in this day too. His argument is for the rights of people to choose for themselves, and against the idea that others can make the right choices for the individual. In these days of corporate hatred and tobbaco taxes Road to Serfdom should be read. It should be read so that we realize that laws against corporations and industries are simply laws against the people who work in them. The chapter on Planning and the Rule of Law is the single best work that I have read on any subject. Enjoy!
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am 3. Februar 1999
Hayek's classic demonstrates the profound dangers of the collectivist vision of a controlled society, whether it be communist, fascist, socialist, regulatory, redistributionist, or another interventionist variation. He persuasively argues that the role of government should be sharply limited to ensuring basic rules of law that maximize individual liberty and opportunity. Free persons not subject to government interference and control will self-organize market economies and social arrangements most consistent with economic advancement, human progress and freedom. A brilliant, inspiring, and extremely important contribution to understanding the essential elements of a free society.
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am 27. April 1999
I have been waiting for a book like this for a long time and I didn't know there would be one that was already written for half a century. Mr. Hayek dedicated this book "to The Socialists of All Parties". He couldn't have described it better. In "The Road to Serfdom" he demonstrates in detail the great utopia of the socialist thought. He thoroughly describes every flaw in the collectivist thoughts and shows how only individualism can achieve the goals stated by collectivists. In the other way, he proves that a socialist government will always promise "the road to freedom" but can only deliver "the road to serfdom". A must read!
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am 17. Juni 2000
I was a pimply and feckless youth attending college in DC when I think I might have read parts of "The Road to Serfdom." I say "parts" because in those days I never read anything completely, suffering as I did from a profound aversion to any effort to instill an education into my head. Only two phenomena interested me then (food and sex) and I viewed with dismal contempt anything that would distract or interfere with the satisfaction of those simple but base instincts.
I found a recent reading of the book refreshing and enlightening. The 50th anniversary edition, in paperback, contains the prefaces of the 1944 (first) edition, those to the 1957 and 1976 editions, and an introduction by Milton Friedman, dated 1994. Friedrich Hayek is now dead (1899-1992), but he received a well deserved Nobel Prize in economics in 1974. This book was the key to that prize. This edition contains the original bibliography (nothing before 1944) and a fair index.
Hayek's book is one of the fundamental building blocks of libertarian thinking. In a careful and relentless analysis he points out that the growth of collectivism (socialism), and the expansion of government that such growth fosters, leads inevitably to the horrors of a totalitarian state. It is no coincidence that the only remaining endorsers of unrestrained communism (Cuba and North Korea) are ruthless dictatorships and not worker's paradises. This book tell you how come.
I can't say this is a "fun" book. But one should, from time to time, attempt to remedy the excesses of youthful self-indulgence from one's college days. This is a good book with which to do penance and gain wisdom, all at once.
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