The Road to Serfdom

book by Friedrich von Hayek

The Road to Serfdom is a book written by the Austrian-born economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992) between 1940 and 1943.

The Road to Serfdom
cover, 1944
AuthorFriedrich Hayek
CountryUnited Kingdom
Media typePrint
338.9 20
LC ClassHD82 .H38 1994

In the book he warned of the danger of tyranny which comes from "government control of economic decision-making by central planning".[1] He means the way fascist, communist and socialist governments try to control every aspect of the economy.

The rights and wishes of the individual are important, and the state should not interfere too much. When the state controls too much, that leads to a loss of freedom, an oppressive society, and eventually the tyranny of a dictator. The individual citizen becomes a serf. Hayek argued that fascism and socialism had roots in central economic planning and giving the state power over the individual.

After its publication in 1944, The Road to Serfdom became a popular account of market libertarianism. It has sold over two million copies.[2][3]

The Road to Serfdom was to be a popular edition of the second volume of Hayek’s The Abuse and Decline of Reason.[4] The title was inspired by the writings of the 19th century French classical liberal Alexis de Tocqueville on the "road to servitude".[4]p116 The book was first published in Britain by Routledge in March 1944, during World War II, and was quite popular. Hayek called it "that unobtainable book", due to wartime paper rationing.[4]p128

It was published in the United States by the University of Chicago Press in September 1944 and became popular. The American magazine Reader's Digest published an abridged version of 20 pages in April 1945.[5] Several milliion copies of this edition were printed. A 95-page abridged version was also published in 1945 and 1946.[6] In February 1945, a picture-book version was published in Look magazine, later made into a pamphlet and distributed by General Motors.[7]

This got The Road to Serfdom to a wider group of readers than before. The book had a big impact on twentieth-century conservative and libertarian economic and political thinking. It is often cited today by commentators.[4]


  1. Ebeling, Richard M. (May 1999). "Friedrich A. Hayek: a centenary appreciation". The Freeman. 49 (5).
  2. On June 9, 2010, the book became the #1 book sold at, becoming a best-seller.Paul Ormerod (December 16, 2006). "The fading of Friedman". Prospect (magazine). Archived from the original on 2011-10-11. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
  3. "Bestsellers in Books". Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ebenstein, Alan O. 2003. Friedrich Hayek: a biography. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-18150-9
  5. OCLC 76656715
  6. OCLC 802584460 and 13355651
  7. von Hayek, Friedrich A. (9 July 2006). The Road to Serfdom, by F. A. Hayek – why the continual expansion of the state endangers liberty. ISBN 978-1500345600. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)