The Road to Serfdom

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I want to start in 1945. The guns had finally drawn silent in Western Europe. The bombs had stopped falling. The skies above were no longer filled with the scream of fighter planes. The invasions and battles were no more. The Allied forces had won, and World War II was over. But this was far from the end. Another, perhaps even more important war, was just beginning. Europe was decimated both politically and structurally and faced the daunting task of starting over from scratch.

America had just come off a Great Depression many believed was caused by the evil, greedy capitalist system. The question that loomed largest over many countries around the entire globe: What do we do from here? Should we risk another economic collapse, or should we let government control the economy?

The eventual deciding factor in the ‘war after the war’ came from a very unlikely source: A little known economist, originally from Vienna, named Friedrich A. Hayek. We are in a similar war today, but if you don’t know history, you probably aren’t even aware of it.

Starting in the early 1940′s, Hayek began writing a little book called "The Road to Serfdom." The book clearly and logically explained how any form of central government planning eventually leads to serfdom (or servitude) and extinguishes freedom. He didn’t think he would gain any notoriety or fortune from the book, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Material like this was banned in Germany and elsewhere. He was only writing it because he considered it "a duty which I must not evade." See, there was a real possibility that Europe and even America would move in that direction. After all, England had been in with the Fabian socialists.

Who were the Fabian socialists? People like George Bernard Shaw, who we showed you in our documentary, "The Revolutionary Holocaust." He was a Fabian socialist, give you a little taste of what they believed. Here he is:

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GEORGE BERNARD SHAW: I don’t want to punish anybody. But there are an extraordinary number of people whom i want to kill… but it must be evident to all of you… you must all know half a dozen people at least who are of no use in this world… who are more trouble than they are worth.

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Hayek couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t write what he was thinking. He initially wrote the book for the Brits, because he could see who they were in bed with. He could see the road they were traveling down. He had no earthly idea it would take off like it did. And boy, did it take off. After initially not being able to find a publisher, the first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. American publishers were skeptical. They didn’t think it’d work. Ironically, they tried to get progressive icon Walter Lippman to do the foreword for the book, noting that it’d sell thousands if he did, maybe 900 if he didn’t. Lippman wasn’t able to write it.

The book went through six impressions in the first 16 months, was translated into numerous foreign languages, and circulated both openly in the free world and underground in the emerging iron curtain. It absolutely took off after Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book in 1945. The Reader’s Digest had a circulation at the time of more the 5 million copies, and the little journal was provided to each American serviceman, at home and abroad.

What did people so love about this book? People understood it — Hayek’s claims such as: "Man does not and cannot know everything, and when he acts as if he does, disaster follows," make good, common sense. Hayek explained that capitalism is the only system of economics compatible with human dignity, prosperity, and liberty. He demonstrated that planned economies that tried to control the nature of man through administrative rules was impossible, and could only lead to one outcome: Serfdom.

And the message spread like a ripple on a pond. Soon, terms like "collectivism" were erased from political debate, and anyone defending government central planning was discredited.

This book was like a Mike Tyson (in his prime) right hook to socialism in Western Europe and in the United States. But its influence didn’t stop there. It has inspired political and economic leaders for decades since — most famously Ronald Reagan. Reagan often praised Hayek when he talked about people waking up to the dangers of big government. That brings us to today.

We were on the right track, but clearly we’ve fallen off the wagon. A few years ago I started asking, how’d we get here? How did this happen to us? No one had answers. I started reading history, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that we’d completely disconnected ourselves from history, making us incredibly vulnerable to repeating the mistakes of the past. And look at what we’re doing! We have a government car company, government banks, we’re talking about government oil companies, government is hiring all the workers. We are there, gang! And as Hayek so clearly demonstrated, this road only leads to one destination.

I have to admit, the first time I saw this book I made fun of it. I’ve read the roots of modern liberalism by Woodrow Wilson — that’s enough to want to make you hang yourself — I wasn’t about to put myself through the "Road to Serfdom." But there’s a reason this book was banned in places like Germany and the Soviet Union.

I’m about to talk to someone who lived this. He read this book at the risk of seven years in prison. If you were caught giving this book out you’d get 12 years hard labor — a certain death sentence. Why didn’t they want people to read it? They know if the people caught on to what these tyrants were doing, it’d be over.

Now, we’re not banning books and dishing out hard labor sentences, but I want to show you something we are doing that to me is pretty shocking. Here’s a publisher selling copies of the Constitution. But look at what comes along with it: "This book is a product of its time and does not reflect the same values as it would if it were written today…Parents might wish to discuss with their children how views on race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and interpersonal relations have changed since this book was written before allowing them to read this classic work."

There’s a war for the future of this country. It’s being waged right now. The questions of the future can always be answered with the information, glories, and mistakes of the past. Let’s give you the other option today — besides capitalism is bad, let’s go on to global governance and control through a giant progressive monolith. If you don’t learn the things no one is willing to teach today… there will be more than a disclaimer on the Constitution.

— Watch Glenn Beck weekdays at 5p & 2a ET on Fox News Channel