Reading notes on The Road to Serfdom

2017-11-25 22:27:15
I have finished reading The Road to Serfdom for the first time a little over a month ago, yet what have I attained from this great book, I cannot conclude immediately.
So I tried to write a review on it, for, admittedly, it was with some really hard endeavor that I had come to an end of this book reading, where there were too much barriers which had so successfully prevented me from getting a clear and unbroken view of it, and which appeared in the form of a mass of long and complex sentences. I should make its reward clear as it deserves, at least, for myself to keep some valuable ideas in mind .
The road to serfdom was first published in March 1944 in Britain. As a epoch-making book, one after another came out its numerous editions, with which was added a foreword, a new preface by Hayek himself, and an introduction by Milton Friedman.
" This is a political book. " Hayek wrote in the preface to the original edition, "For the socialists of all parties", and “the beliefs set out in it are not determined by my personal interests. ” In fact, these views which are opposed by him in the book, he added, "are the very view which I held as a young man and which have led me to make the study of economics my profession."
Yet what had happened and what was happening in Europe around him gradually and inevitably changed his opinion. As Milton wrote in the introduction, " by moving from one country to another, one may sometimes twice watch similar phases of intellectual development.The senses have then become peculiarly acute.…They suggest, if not the necessity, at least the probability, that developments will take a similar course.… in the United States and England.…he has become increasingly convinced that at least some of the forces which have destroyed freedom in Germany are also at work here and that the character and the source of this danger are, if possible, even less understood than they were in Germany. "
 Such personal experiences and historical perspective induced Hayek, as an ecolomist, to think deeply about "a peculiar and serious feature of the discussions of problems of future economic policy at the present time, of which the public is scarcely sufficiently aware. "
 So the writing of this book was regarded by him as a duty. Accordingly, to read this book is a duty, either, as far as I am concerned. Seventy years has passed since its first publication, what was so throughly discussed and analyzed in this book is still fully unaware by the majority of us. So sad a fact.

Then what crucial point of Hayek's view are conveyed in this book?
The following arguments are listed in accordance with the order of the content of the book.
* The internal similarity and correlation between fascism and socialism, a processive tendency against individualist civilization
(Distilled from chapter 1 )
1、"The rise of fascism and naziism was not a reaction against the socialist trends of the preceding period but a necessary outcome of those tendencies. This is a truth which most people were unwilling to see even when the similarities of many of the repellent features of the internal regimes in communist Russia and National Socialist Germany were widely recognized. "
2、“The Nazi leader who described the National Socialist revolution as a counter-Renaissance spoke more truly than he probably knew. It was the decisive step in the destruction of that civilization which modern man had built up from the age of the Renaissance and which was, above all, an individualist civilization.”

*The definition of individualism. Where, when, how did it come out? How has it settled in the original foundation and successive development of Western civilization?
(Distilled from chapter 1)
3、 "The essential features of that individualism which, from elements provided by Christianity and the philosophy of classical antiquity, was first fully developed during the Renaissance and has since grown and spread into what we know as Western civilization—are the respect for the individual man qua man, that is, the recognition of his own views and tastes as supreme in his own sphere, however narrowly that may be circumscribed, and the belief that it is desirable that men should develop their own individual gifts and bents."
4、"The gradual transformation of a rigidly organized hierarchic system into one where men could at least attempt to shape their own life, where man gained the opportunity of knowing and choosing between different forms of life, is closely associated with the growth of commerce. "…"The subsequent elaboration of a consistent argument in favor of economic freedom was the outcome of a free growth of economic activity which had been the undesigned and unforeseen by-product of political freedom."
5、“Perhaps the greatest result of the unchaining of individual energies was the marvelous growth of science which followed the march of individual liberty from Italy to England and beyond…which in the last hundred and fifty years have changed the face of the world."

*Essential discussion upon democracy, socialism, collectivism
(Distilled from chapter 2 and chapter 3 )
6、"Nobody saw more clearly than Tocqueville that democracy as an essentially individualist institution stood in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism: 'Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom,' he said in 1848; 'socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.'”
7、Socialism " may mean, and is often used to describe, merely the ideals of social justice, greater equality, and security, which are the ultimate aims of socialism. But it means also the particular method by which most socialists hope to attain these ends and which many competent people regard as the only methods by which they can be fully and quickly attained." Many people " who value the ultimate ends of socialism no less than the socialists refuse to support socialism because of the dangers to other values they see in the methods proposed by the socialists. The dispute about socialism has thus become largely a dispute about means and not about ends."
8、Since the term “socialism” for many people stands for an ultimate ideal, "It is probably preferable to describe the methods which can be used for a great variety of ends as collectivism and to regard socialism as a species of that genus."

*The inevitable features of collectivism and the opposite
(Distilled from chapter 3~5 )
9、“The various kinds of collectivism, communism, fascism, etc., differ among themselves in the nature of the goal toward which they want to direct the efforts of society. But they all differ from liberalism and individualism in wanting to organize the whole of society and all its resources for this unitary end and in refusing to recognize autonomous spheres in which the ends of the individuals are supreme. In short, they are totalitarian in the true sense of this new word which we have adopted to describe the unexpected but nevertheless inseparable manifestations of what in theory we call collectivism."
10、"To direct all our activities according to a single plan presupposes that every one of our needs is given its rank in an order of values which must be complete enough to make it possible to decide among all the different courses which the planner has to choose. It presupposes, in short, the existence of a complete ethical code in which all the different human values are allotted their due place."…"Not only do we not possess such an all-inclusive scale of values: it would be impossible for any mind to comprehend the infinite variety of different needs of different people which compete for the available resources and to attach a definite weight to each."
11、“Up to the present the growth of civilization has been accompanied by a steady diminution of the sphere in which individual actions are bound by fixed rules. The rules of which our common moral code consists have progressively become fewer and more general in character. …The adoption of a common ethical code comprehensive enough to determine a unitary economic plan would mean a complete reversal of this tendency.”
12、"That planning creates a situation in which it is necessary for us to agree on a much larger number of topics than we have been used to, and that in a planned system we cannot confine collective action to the tasks on which we can agree but are forced to produce agreement on everything in order that any action can be taken at all, is one of the features which contributes more than most to determining the character of a planned system."
13、"It is the price of democracy that the possibilities of conscious control are restricted to the fields where true agreement exists and that in some fields things must be left to chance.…Democratic government has worked successfully where, and so long as, the functions of government were, by a widely accepted creed, restricted to fields where agreement among a majority could be achieved by free discussion; and it is the great merit of the liberal creed that it reduced the range of subjects on which agreement was necessary to one on which it was likely to exist in a society of free men."

* Stop making a fetish of democracy
(Distilled from chapter 5 )
14、"We have no intention, however, of making a fetish of democracy. It may well be true that our generation talks and thinks too much of democracy and too little of the values which it serves. …The clash between planning and democracy arises simply from the fact that the latter is an obstacle to the suppression of freedom which the direction of economic activity requires. But in so far as democracy ceases to be a guaranty of individual freedom, it may well persist in some form under a totalitarian regime. "
15、It is dangerous to derive assurance from the widely misleading and unfounded belief that, " so long as the power is the will of the majority", "so long as it is conferred by democratic procedure, it cannot be arbitrary." "If democracy resolves on a task which necessarily involves the use of power which cannot be guided by fixed rules, it must become arbitrary power."

*Planning and the rule of law
(Corresponding to chapter 6)
16、"Nothing distinguishes more clearly conditions in a free country from those in a country under arbitrary government than the observance in the former of the great principles known as the Rule of Law. Stripped of all technicalities, this means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand—rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one’s individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge."
"Economic planning of the collectivist kind necessarily involves the very opposite of this. The planning authority cannot confine itself to providing opportunities for unknown people to make whatever use of them they like. "
17、"It may even be said that for the Rule of Law to be effective it is more important that there should be a rule applied always without exceptions than what this rule is. Often the content of the rule is indeed of minor importance, provided the same rule is universally enforced. "…"The Rule of Law was consciously evolved only during the liberal age and is one of its greatest achievements, not only as a safeguard but as the legal embodiment of freedom. "
18、"The idea that there is no limit to the powers of the legislator is in part a result of popular sovereignty and democratic government. It has been strengthened by the belief that, so long as all actions of the state are duly authorized by legislation, the Rule of Law will be preserved. But this is completely to misconceive the meaning of the Rule of Law. "
19、"To say that in a planned society the Rule of Law cannot hold is, therefore, not to say that the actions of the government will not be legal or that such a society will necessarily be lawless. It means only that the use of the government’s coercive powers will no longer be limited and determined by pre-established rules. …By giving the government unlimited powers, the most arbitrary rule can be made legal; and in this way a democracy may set up the most complete despotism imaginable."
20、"The Rule of Law thus implies limits to the scope of legislation: it restricts it to the kind of general rules known as formal law and excludes legislation either directly aimed at particular people or at enabling anybody to use the coercive power of the state for the purpose of such discrimination. It means, not that everything is regulated by law, but, on the contrary, that the coercive power of the state can be used only in cases defined in advance by the law and in such a way that it can be foreseen how it will be used. A particular enactment can thus infringe the Rule of Law. "
21、"But it will readily be seen that, whatever form it(the rule of law) takes, any such recognized limitations of the powers of legislation imply the recognition of the inalienable right of the individual, inviolable rights of man."

* Money and freedom
(Corresponding to chapter 7&8)
22、There aren't any purely economic ends separate from the other ends of life. "If we strive for money, it is because it offers us the widest choice in enjoying the fruits of our efforts. …It would be much truer to say that money is one of the greatest instruments of freedom ever invented by man. It is money which in existing society opens an astounding range of choice to the poor man—a range greater than that which not many generations ago was open to the wealthy. "
23、"What our generation has forgotten is that the system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not. It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that nobody has complete power over us, that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves.…And who will deny that a world in which the wealthy are powerful is still a better world than one in which only the already powerful can acquire wealth?"

*Security and freedom
(Corresponding to chapter 9)
24、"Certainty of a given income can, however, not be given to all if any freedom in the choice of one’s occupation is to be allowed. And, if it is provided for some, it becomes a privilege at the expense of others whose security is thereby necessarily diminished. "
25、"There has never been a worse and more cruel exploitation of one class by another than that of the weaker or less fortunate members of a group of producers by the well-established which has been made possible by the 'regulation' of competition. Few catchwords have done so much harm as the ideal of a “stabilization” of particular prices (or wages), which, while securing the income of some, makes the position of the rest more and more precarious."
26、"Some security is essential if freedom is to be preserved, because most men are willing to bear the risk which freedom inevitably involves only so long as that risk is not too great. But while this is a truth of which we must never lose sight, nothing is more fatal than the present fashion among intellectual leaders of extolling security at the expense of freedom. "

*Why the worst get on top
(Corresponding to chapter 10)
27、Two misleading beliefs and the facts in the opposite
(1) Belief:
"Totalitarianism is a powerful system alike for good and evil, and the purpose for which it will be used depends entirely on the dictators." So it shall be possible "that the same sort of system, if it be necessary to achieve important ends, be run by decent people for the good of the community as a whole."
"That socialism can be put into practice only by methods which most socialists disapprove is, of course, a lesson learned by many social reformers in the past. "
Therefore as "the democratic statesman who sets out to plan economic life will soon be confronted with the alternative of either assuming dictatorial powers or abandoning his plans," "inhibited by their democratic ideals, they did not possess the ruthlessness required for the performance of their chosen task."
"It is for this reason that the unscrupulous and uninhibited are likely to be more successful in a society tending toward totalitarianism "when the totalitarian dictator would have to choose between disregard of ordinary morals and failure."
"It is characteristic that both in Germany and in Italy the success of fascism was preceded by the refusal of the socialist parties to take over the responsibilities of government. "
(2) Belief:
"Since the desire for a collectivist system springs from high moral motives, such a system must be the breeding-ground for the highest virtues."
"The principle that the end justifies the means is in individualist ethics regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves 'the good of the whole,' because the 'good of the whole' is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done. "
"Where there is one common all-overriding end, there is no room for any general morals or rules. "…"where a few specific ends dominate the whole of society, it is inevitable that occasionally cruelty may become a duty; that acts which revolt all our feeling, such as the shooting of hostages or the killing of the old or sick, should be treated as mere matters of expediency; that the compulsory uprooting and transportation of hundreds of thousand should become an instrument of policy approved by almost everybody except the victims; or that suggestions like that of a 'conscription of woman for breeding purposes' can be seriously contemplated. There is always in the eyes of the collectivist a greater goal which these acts serve and which to him justifies them because the pursuit of the common end of society can know no limits in any rights or values of any individual."
28、Idealistic socialists, reluctant to use force to realize their dreams, "still hoped for the miracle of a majority’s agreeing on a particular plan for the organization of the whole of society."
Yet "such a numerous and strong group with fairly homogeneous views is not likely to be formed by the best but rather by the worst elements of any society."
There are three main reasons:
(1) "If a numerous group is needed, strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated and developed tastes—it will be those who form the mass in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals."
(2) "It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party."
(3) It is "perhaps the most important negative element ", concerned with human nature that people are more readily to be knitted together a group for common action, "on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off, than on any positive task." So the enemy, whether he be internal, or external, is indispensable requisite. As such, "German anti-Semitism and anticapitalism spring from the same root."
29、Can collectivism exist in any form other than that of some kind of particularism, be it nationalism, racialism, or classism?
One can find answer in the following arguments:
(1) "Collectivism on a world scale seems to be unthinkable—except in the service of a small ruling élite." For there won't be any socialists who "seriously contemplate the equal division of existing capital resources among the people of the world. They all regard the capital as belonging not to humanity but to the nation—though even within the nation few would dare to advocate that the richer regions should be deprived of some of “their” capital equipment in order to help the poorer regions. "
(2) "Socialism so long as it remains theoretical is internationalist, while as soon as it is put into practice, whether in Russia or in Germany, it becomes violently nationalist."
"Collectivism has no room for the wide humanitarianism of liberalism but only for the narrow particularism of the totalitarian."
(3) "To act on behalf of a group seems to free people of many of the moral restraints which control their behavior as individuals within the group". To give their violent instinct a free range towards the outsider, tends to become "a further inducement for merging personality in that of the group."
(4) "The definitely antagonistic attitude which most planners take toward internationalism is further explained by the fact that in the existing world all outside contacts of a group are obstacles to their effectively planning the sphere in which they can attempt it. "
29、The road to centralize the power over men wielded by other men, and the contrary way
(1) "It is not only, as Russell has so well described, that the desire to organize social life according to a unitary plan itself springs largely from a desire for power. It is even more the outcome of the fact that, in order to achieve their end, collectivists must create power—power over men wielded by other men—of a magnitude never before known, and that their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve such power."
(2) "By concentrating power so that it can be used in the service of a single plan, it is not merely transferred but infinitely heightened; that, by uniting in the hands of some single body power formerly exercised independently by many, an amount of power is created infinitely greater than any that existed before, so much more far-reaching as almost to be different in kind. "
(3) "To split or decentralize power is necessarily to reduce the absolute amount of power, and the competitive system is the only system designed to minimize by decentralization the power exercised by man over man. "

*The end of truth
(Corresponding to chapter 11)
30、The nationalization of thoughts has proceeded everywhere in totalitarian countries, however, people there do not feel much oppressed because they have been successfully made to think as their governments want.
31、The point that needs to be stressed is that all propaganda serves the same goal in a totalitarian state. As a result, the minds of the people there cannot escape being molded by this unique power in any direction the propagandist chooses, so long as "they are long isolated from all other sources of information."
32、The moral consequences of totalitarian propaganda are of an even more profound kind, for they are destructive of all morals by "undermining one of the foundations of all morals: the sense of and the respect for truth."
33、"And while the planning authority will constantly have to decide issues on merits about which there exist no definite moral rules, it will have to justify its decisions to the people—or, at least, have somehow to make the people believe that they are the right decisions. …Thus a pseudoscientific theory becomes part of the official creed which to a greater or lesser degree directs everybody’s action", and which "must not be questioned."
34、The most efficient technique to confuse the superficial observers "is to use the old words but change their meaning." By this way "the ideals of the new regimes are expressed" and people are made to accept the validity of the values as those which they "have always held, but which were not properly understood or recognized before. "
"The worst sufferer in this respect is, of course, the word liberty."
"Wherever liberty as we understand it has been destroyed, this has almost always been done in the name of some new freedom promised to the people. "
35、"As the Webbs report of the position in every Russian enterprise: 'Whilst the work is in progress, any public expression of doubt, or even fear that the plan will not be successful, is an act of disloyalty and even of treachery because of its possible effects on the will and on the efforts of the rest of the staff.'"
"Facts and theories must thus become no less the object of an official doctrine than views about values. …This applies even to fields apparently most remote from any political interests and particularly to all the sciences, even the most abstract. "
36、"It is entirely in keeping with the whole spirit of totalitarianism that it condemns any human activity done for its own sake and without ulterior purpose. Science for science’s sake, art for art’s sake, are equally abhorrent to the Nazis, our socialist intellectuals, and the communists. Every activity must derive its justification from a conscious social purpose.…The principle extends even to games and amusements."
37、"The word 'truth' itself ceases to have its old meaning. It describes no longer something to be found, with the individual conscience as the sole arbiter of whether in any particular instance the evidence (or the standing of those proclaiming it) warrants a belief; it becomes something to be laid down by authority, something which has to be believed in the interest of the unity of the organized effort and which may have to be altered as the exigencies of this organized effort require it."
38、"Perhaps the most alarming fact is that contempt for intellectual liberty is not a thing which arises only once the totalitarian system is established but one which can be found everywhere among intellectuals who have embraced a collectivist faith and who are acclaimed as intellectual leaders even in countries still under a liberal regime."
39、"This interaction of individuals, possessing different knowledge and different views, is what constitutes the life of thought. The growth of reason is a social process based on the existence of such differences. It is of its essence that its results cannot be predicted, that we cannot know which views will assist this growth and which will not—in short, that this growth cannot be governed by any views which we now possess without at the same time limiting it."
40、By attempting to control the interpersonal process to which the growth of individual reason is due, "we are merely setting bounds to its development and must sooner or later produce a stagnation of thought and a decline of reason."
41、"The tragedy of collectivist thought is that, while it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends. …It may indeed be said that it is the paradox of all collectivist doctrine and its demand for conscious control or conscious planning that they necessarily lead to the demand that the mind of some individual should rule supreme—while only the individualist approach to social phenomena makes us recognize the superindividual forces which guide the growth of reason."

* Retrospect and prospect of international order (Distilled from chapter 12~15 )
42、"Claims of the individual are always an outcome of the commercial spirit. 'The ideas of 1789'—liberty, equality, fraternity—are characteristically commercial ideals which have no other purpose but to secure certain advantages to individuals.
  Before 1914 all the true German ideals of a heroic life were in deadly danger before the continuous advance of English commercial ideals, English comfort, and English sport. "
43、"The war between England and Germany is therefore really a conflict between two opposite principles. "
44、"The increasing veneration for the state, the admiration of power, and of bigness for bigness’ sake, the enthusiasm for organization of everything (we now call it planning), and that 'inability to leave anything to the simple power of organic growth,' which even von Treitschke deplored in the Germans sixty years ago, are all scarcely less marked in England now than they were in Germany."
45 、"Possibly we have not yet given enough attention to one feature of the intellectual development in Germany during the last hundred years which is now in an almost identical form making its appearance in the English-speaking countries: the scientists’ agitating for a scientific organization of society."
"The way in which, in the end, with few exceptions, her scholars and scientists put themselves readily at the service of the new rulers is one of the most depressing and shameful spectacles in the whole history of the rise of National Socialism."
46、"Private monopoly is scarcely ever complete and even more rarely of long duration or able to disregard potential competition. But a state monopoly is always a state-protected monopoly—protected against both potential competition and effective criticism.…The machinery of monopoly becomes identical with the machinery of the state, and the state itself becomes more and more identified with the interests of those who run things than with the interests of the people in general."
47、"There is no other possibility than either the order governed by the impersonal discipline of the market or that directed by the will of a few individuals; and those who are out to destroy the first are wittingly or unwittingly helping to create the second. "
48、"It was men’s submission to the impersonal forces of the market that in the past has made possible the growth of a civilization which without this could not have developed; it is by thus submitting that we are every day helping to build something that is greater than any one of us can fully comprehend."
49、"The need is for an international political authority which, without power to direct the different people what they must do, must be able to restrain them from action which will damage others."
50、"Federalism is, of course, nothing but the application to international affairs of democracy, the only method of peaceful change man has yet invented. But it is a democracy with definitely limited powers."
51、"An international authority which effectively limits the powers of the state over the individual will be one of the best safeguards of peace. The international Rule of Law must become a safeguard as much against the tyranny of the state over the individual as against the tyranny of the new superstate over the national communities."

"If in the first attempt to create a world of free men we have failed, we must try again. The guiding principle that a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy remains as true today as it was in the nineteenth century."




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