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ANYTHING PEACEFUL

Is the Road to Serfdom Cyclical?

MAY 30, 2012 by NICHOLAS SNOW

F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was one of the most influential works of the twentieth century. Libertarians and classical liberals have used the book in the classroom since it was first published, and the book has not only reached politicians such as Churchill, Thatcher, and Reagan but also countless students. With the current crisis it even reached the top of the Amazon.com bestseller list. Clearly, there are many important ideas in the book that deserve study—and commitment to memory.


F. A. “Baldy” Harper

F. A. “Baldy” Harper, an early FEE staff member before founding the Institute for Humane Studies, unsurprisingly was a big fan of the book–so much so that he decided to leave his position at Cornell University when he was told to stop using the book in class. Still, in this September 26, 1944 letter (pdf) to Henry Hazlitt, Harper raised an interesting question: Is the rise of collectivism, which Hayek warned about in The Road to Serfdom, a trend or a cycle?

How relevant is Harper’s question today?

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Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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