A little more than seventy years ago, on March 10, 1944, there appeared in Great Britain one of the most amazing and influential political books of the twentieth century, The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek, which forewarned of socialist trends in Britain and America that ran the danger of leading to tyranny if taken to their logical conclusions.
Written during the Second World War, Hayek’s main and crucial thesis was that many of the ideological and economic trends that had culminated in the triumph and tragedy of German Nazism could be seen developing and taking hold in Great Britain, where Hayek was then living, and also in the United States.
Hayek did not argue that either Great Britain or America were inevitably and irretrievably heading for a totalitarian state exactly like the National Socialist regime then existing in Hitler’s Germany, and against which the combined economic and military strength of Great Britain and the United States were at that moment in mortal combat.
But as I shall try to explain, the threat against which Hayek was warning was that there were certain underlying political philosophical and economic policy currents at work in these two bulwarks of Western civilization that if continued ran the risk of moving these countries further away from being societies of freedom.
Great Britain and the United States, Hayek argued, were increasingly becoming politically controlled and managed states in which the individual human being faced the danger of being reduced to a cog in the machine of governmental planning. Individual liberty would be lost in societies of socialist paternalism and centralized economic direction of human affairs.