Getting Hooked on Hayek

Michael Giberson

Streetwise Professor dubs F.A. Hayek’s Road to SerfdomAn Intellectual Gateway Drug.” Craig Pirrong writes: “Amazingly, Hayek’s 60+ year old Road to Serfdom is the subject of contemporary political discussion even though in many ways it is about a world that disappeared long ago–and in, fact, never really existed, though Hayek feared that such a world was impending.” He concludes:

For me, Road to Serfdom was like a gateway drug to Hayek.  It was sufficiently interesting and provocative and informative to me when I read it at age 21 or 22 to make me want to read Hayek’s non-polemical work.  And what a revelation that was.  RTS contains the kernel of the Hayek’s key ideas, and hence it is a good thing if more people read it and become familiar with those ideas.  But it is a pale imitation of the real thing.

I’ll confess openly here that I’ve never made it to far down the Road. I came to it relatively late in my economics eduction. It seemed unsubtle and polemical and I was used to, and much preferred, Hayek as a careful examiner and builder of ideas.  But then, I had already read a lot of Hayek before trying to read Road to Serfdom (and Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell’s Knowledge and Decisions and Don Lavoie’s National Economic Planning and James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock and The Incredible Bread Machine and more).

Hah! It has probably been years and years since I last thought about The Incredible Bread Machine. No doubt I’d find it sophomoric and unsubtle if I re-read it today. Like the Road for some people, I found Bread Machine to be  a bit of a mind-bending experience when I first encountered it.  If Road is helping to open some minds to the wider world, I’m all in favor.