About fifteen years ago, I read the Road to Serfdom. My exact reasons for picking it up are unclear, except to say that it had a compelling title. I also knew the reputation of the book and its author, Friedrich Hayek, to be stellar. One day something inspired me to order it online, and I remember that it was a challenging read. Of course it was written by an economist about economics, but I also remember there wasn’t any complicated economic theory or math. Instead, the book was about life writ large. And this was long before I read Ludwig von Mises proud assertion: “Economics is life.”
In the years that followed, I never had the opportunity to discuss it with anyone I knew personally or professionally. Among friends and family, one may have heard of the Road to Serfdom, but certainly none had read it, let alone have a clue about its place in 20th century history. Among colleagues, it just never came up. The only economics anyone cared about in the financial services industry were the latest GDP forecasts, the Fed, and trade deficits. Of course, that was centered on the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes, never Hayek or the business cycle theory of the Austrian School of economics.
The Need for Classics Made Simple
About 8 or 10 years ago, I heard Rush Limbaugh mention the Road to Serfdom on his radio broadcast. He asked a caller “Are you telling me that you’ve actually read the Road to Serfdom? I’ve never met anyone who has read it!” The point is that Rush understood that the book is a classic, and that its ideas are the backbone of free and prosperous societies. He knew the book to be an essential source of knowledge, that this knowledge breeds confidence, and it’s the kind of knowledge that is essential to fight back against the dominant collectivist agenda of the American media/education complex.
So how can the Road to Serfdom be made more accessible? Maybe if its language were more understandable (it was written by an Austrian-Brit in 1943), more people will read it. And if its ideas could be made relevant to people with little interest in economics, they would be armed with this knowledge. And what about the millennial generation – entrepreneurially inclined, knowledge oriented, and technologically savvy; what if they had access to a broader platform of ideas for human flourishing?
This is precisely what Brittany Hunter has done with her new e-book: A New Perspective On The Road to Serfdom. In its foreword, she plainly states her mission, and the daunting challenge she has taken on – to promote the universal morality of individualism.
My political science department was dominated by contemporary liberals and far-leftists convinced that collectivism was the only answer to the problems facing our country. But in the midst of this leftist agenda, I managed to find one professor who challenged this viewpoint. Reading passages from Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, I was floored at how this point of view had never been presented in any of my previous courses. I believed it was extremely important to present a modern, millennial approach to a book with a timeless message.
Economic Freedom Breeds Political Freedom
The ideas I still remember from reading The Road to Serfdom are the link between economic and political freedom (Chapter 7), the evolution of 20th century European socialism (Chapter 12), and the pathology of those who seek to dominate others (Chapter 10). There were also a couple of ideas in Hayek’s book that contradicted what I believed, such as universal basic income (Chapter 9). Brittany addresses all of them with greater insight than I was able to muster at the time, and she does it for a younger and larger audience.
For example, universal basic income is a hot political topic that resonates with today’s democratic socialism crowd. Yet we see in Brittany’s e-book that this idea is not new, and we learn that Hayek’s treatment of it is not widely admired by today’s free market advocates. As she explains, “while economic security may be appealing to many and ease our minds, it does not come without a cost, and, in most instances, it is a loss of not only our economic freedom but freedom in general.”
A New Perspective explains why free people who are busy focusing on family, careers, and health also need to be aware of economics. After all, we are constantly engaged in economics, much like we are constantly engaged in breathing.
Integrating New Perspectives
The most revealing experience for me as I read A New Perspective, was to realize the powerful impact Hayek continued to have on me, and my ability to frame ideas. For example, I had totally forgotten about Chapter 11 – Hayek’s warning’s about state-controlled education. At the time, it validated my decision to enroll our young children in a Montessori program, and over the years it subconsciously became my knowledge base about public education.
Another important aspect is the last chapter in A New Perspective titled Postface: Five Lessons Learned from the Road to Serfdom.
The greatest enemy of individualism has always been and will always be collectivism, which is why Hayek touches on this theme over and over again in his writing. True equality comes from the individual’s ability to live, work, and function without a constant fear of state oppression. This equal access to happiness and fulfillment is the truest form of equality in existence.
When a literary milestone is transformed into a feature film, it is always best to read the original before viewing the movie. It leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of the film version. However, in the case of A New Perspective, Brittany reverses the direction. Her e-book is the prologue to reading and fully appreciating the original achievement that is Friedrich Hayek’s the Road to Serfdom.