6. The Road to Serfdom by F.A. Hayek.
I remain unconvinced. Hayeks central thesis seems to be that central planning of any kind; be that the relatively benign desire to reduce poverty or the desire to create a classless society will inevitably create a totalitarian society, as planned societies and programmes naturally cannot be reconciled with the principal of competition, which creates the individualism and the system that best allocates resources within a free society. (Long sentance, I know) Also, since all those dispirate groups who want to 'plan' naturally hold differing views of what they should plan, the chaos resulting from this would prohibit competition further, which is supposedly the best means through which individuals can realise their potential.
Its probably important to note that this was written during the Second World War, and that Hayek wasn't alive to see the postwar Welfare State in Europe.
Hayek talks about the liberal tradition and the socialist tradition as if they are two irreconcilable foes. The reality is that the Postwar political consensus combined liberalism and socialism; it divided the economic sphere (Heavy State involvement) and the personal sphere (Little State involvement) On this count, Hayek is fundamentally flawed. Who knows, history may yet prove him right. The last 65 years may have been a collective illusion. Maybe the next generation of Hitlers and Stalins will emerge from our benign system. I doubt it, frankly.
For all that, it was a riveting book. I found myself agreeing with many of his core assumptions, even if I didn't buy into the logical follow on from that. Its Glenn Beckian in some places (If you believe that some sort of centrally directed control of the economy can reduce inequality and reduce poverty it doesn't necessarily follow that you want a Nazi or communist regime; or even that one of those ideologies would reign supreme as a result of our good intentions) But overall, a decent defence of 19th century liberalism.
One little section stuck in my mind as admirable; we are still left with the same curse today in the form of pinkos:
'Many a university teacher... has seen english and American students return from the Continent, uncertain whether they were communists or nazis and certain only that they hated western civilisation' p. 30
If he was writing today, I wonder would he himself revise some of his arguments? He seems like a likable fellow, and I do like the way his brain works (And his writing style is accessible - no meaningless jargon here)