Reading The Road to Serfdom while simultaneously liveblogging my thoughts has been far more intellectually grueling than expected. However, taxing as it has been, I am pleased to say that I have finally made it to the halfway point of my Hayekian liveblogging journey.
Looking back on the first half of the book, there is a lot of reading I wish I had done beforehand. And as many have expressed that they have been reading the book along me, I thought it might be useful to provide some helpful reading suggestions.
Individualism: True and False
Understanding the role individualism plays in the economy is one of the most important concepts to grasp before diving into The Road to Serfdom. But for those who may not want to dive headfirst into Hayek’s essay Individualism: True and False before beginning this classic, here are ten essential takeaways.
Before digging into the heart of free market economics with The Road to Serfdom, it is important to understand the foundation of the classical liberal tradition. The reoccurring themes of natural law, government restraint, and ominous warnings of socialism found throughout Hayek’s work can all be traced back to Bastiat’s The Law. Though as you will see later, Bastiat was hardly the first to write of such things.
This timeless body of work is still so extraordinary today largely because it managed to articulate in 75 pages, what took many philosophers thousands of pages to explain. The Law is essential to understanding these basic principles that are the basis for much of Hayek’s beliefs.
The Second Treatise on Government
Without John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, The Law may well have never existed. What Bastiat’s sums up, Locke traces in absolute detail. From natural rights to contract theory, Locke took from philosophers throughout history and laid out what he believed to be the most civilized society capable in a world of individual choice.
His work continues to be the staple for any belief that government should be restrained for the sake of individual liberty.
Know Your History
It is important to understand the political and economic climate in which Hayek conceived The Road to Serfdom.
The very real threat of state totalitarianism was fresh in the minds of every single person around the globe. These warnings are not hyperbolic by any means. The individuals alive in the world during its time were tired of war and were desperate to prevent this same global devastation from ever occurring again.
Perhaps the greatest and most easily digestible books on this matter that I could suggest come from a series called, Uncle Eric written by Richard Maybury. The series, while aimed at young adults, offers the most compelling and well-summed up histories on the topics of both WWI and WII. They will give you a very clear picture of the time this book was written and the economic factors involved.
The Curse of Machinery
There is a common thread you will see throughout Hayek’s work and my own corresponding liveblogs: A very real fear of technology and its impacts on economic policy. To understand the commonality of this problem, Henry Hazlitt’s chapter “The Curse of the Machinery” in his classic Economics in One Lesson is an essential read.
Hazlitt uses history to explain the myth that this technological progress is bad for workers. This is most helpful to understanding our current climate where fear of innovation is used to justify policies like the universal basic income.