For the first half of F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, I provided a list of suggested readings that may be helpful for those who are also taking on this economic classic. In the beginning of the book, Hayek focuses primarily on explaining the dangers of a planned economy to the reader. But the second half takes a slightly different tone.
While still keeping his focus on economics, Hayek also shows off his skills as a historian in the latter half of the book. Explaining how the situation in Europe reached a devastating point after the First World War and prior to the Second World War, he explains how totalitarians are able to rise to power and how we can avoid such a travesty in the future.
The following is a short list of suggested readings to help give additional context to those making their way through The Road to Serfdom.
Understanding a Universal Basic Income
As we read in chapter nine, Hayek tends to view the concept of a universal basic income more favorably than many present-day Austrian economists. As such, it is important to clarify why so many free marketeers worry about this type of welfare program. To gain a basic understanding of why a UBI would be problematic and incompatible with individualism, these three arguments might help paint a clearer picture.
Propaganda is one of the greatest tools used by burgeoning authoritarians. Whether through the media or the forced school systems, history’s most brutal dictators have used propaganda to turn public opinion in their favor, as discussed in chapter ten. But propaganda will always exist, which is why it is extremely important to understand how it is used to sway popular opinion and convince seemingly “good” people to support horrific policies.
For this reason that the book Propaganda by Edward Bernays is such an important read. To fight evil, we must understand it and this book helps the reader do just that.
The Role Education Plays in Totalitarianism
While Hayek’s warnings in chapter 11 may be catered specifically to Nazi Germany, the purpose of this book is to ensure that what happened in Europe never happens again. Knowing this, it is important to understand how the education system has been used and is currently used to sway popular opinion during a person’s most formative years.
When the Prussian model of education was adopted by the United States, it made our children more susceptible to indoctrination, much like it did during the rise of the Third Reich. To heed Hayek’s warnings, readers need to understand the role education plays in the state’s overall propaganda campaign. There is no greater way to do this than by reading John Taylor Gatto’s book, The Underground History of American Education: A School Teacher’s Intimate Investigation Into the Problem of Modern Schooling.
The Connection Between Nazism and Socialism
One of the many fascinating elements of The Road to Serfdom is Hayek’s chapter discussing the socialist roots of Nazism. This is a theme strewn throughout the last few chapters of his book. And while many would like to believe that Nazism and socialism have nothing in common, that is simply not the case.
Hayek identifies some of the main thinkers who helped lay the ideological foundation for the rise of the Nazism. It is no coincidence, as Hayek explains, that these thinkers aligned himself with Marxism and socialism prior to Hitler’s rise. Supplementing to the list of names Hayek provides, Jeffrey Tucker’s Right-Wing Collectivism will help paint a fuller picture to show that Nazism and socialism are one and the same and both should be avoided at all costs.