Road to Serfdom was first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944, during World War II, and due to the book’s popularity during this time of paper rationing, Hayek jokingly called it “that unobtainable book” (Ebenstein, 2003). Consequently, the first British copy, as here pictured, is quite rare. The title for Road to Serfdom was inspired by the writings of the French classical liberal thinker Alexis de Tocqueville and his idea of the “road to servitude.” Hayek argues that Western democracies, including the U.K. and U.S.A, have “progressively abandoned that freedom in economic affairs without which personal and political freedom has never existed in the past.” Society has tried to ensure prosperity by centralized planning, a mistake, Hayek argues, that leads to totalitarianism. These ideas have had a significant impact on twentieth century conservative and libertarian economic and political discourse, and they serve as a lucid exposition of market libertarianism.
Road to Serfdom exemplifies the tenure of Hayek’s thought. He disagreed with the contemporary British academy that saw fascism as a capitalist reaction against socialism, arguing instead that fascism and socialism result from central economic planning and the power of the state over the individual. Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973) further develops these philosophical principles that Hayek also discusses in The Constitution of Liberty. It’s more abstract than Hayek’s earlier work, and it focuses on the conflicting views of society as either a design, a made order, or an emergent system. These ideas are connected to law proper and coincide with the traditional concept of natural law, an emergent property of social interaction. The consequences of these and the rest of Hayek’s corpus have had such import that Hayek can be seen as a counter-part of equal popularity to John Maynard Keynes.