The Road To Serfdom is often referenced and probably like many such books rarely read. This link goes to a real life Readers Digest version, that seems to hit hard and capture well his central thesis, at least it seems so from the references to his writing.
Its certainly making me think of buying a version either at Half Price books or more likely for Nook.
From the Post Referenced above a few key pieces:
From the preamble:
At that time it was a political philosophy that stood for progress through preserving the Autonomy of the INDIVIDUAL, and the protection of the INDIVIDUAL’S civil liberty. Oddly enough, today “liberalism” equals “socialism.” Equally as odd, conservatism (and in many instances, libertarianism) champions the independence of the individual.
From the first section:
Yet is there a greater tragedy imaginable than that, in our endeavor consciously to shape our future in accordance with high ideals, we should in fact unwittingly produce the very opposite of what we have been striving for?
Planning and Power
In order to achieve their ends, the planners must create power – power over men wielded by other men – of a magnitude never before known. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires.
And despite the somewhat old fashioned and formal words this should have striking impact because it tells you exactly what is going on today and why so many fear it. It does not matter that we voted ‘the planners’ into place or that they are bureaucrats subject to dismissal. We are providing the keys to power and we are then likely to forget about them until they are far too entrenched to remove easily.
It is only because the control of the means of production is divided among many people acting independently that we as individuals can decide what to do with ourselves. When all the means of production are vested in a single hand, whether it be nominally that of “society” as a whole or that of a dictator, whoever exercises this control has complete power over us.
Now this sounds like Communism, Socialism or Fascism not the American way but the truth is that any major part of the social structure-economy in one groups hands creates a massive center of power, privilege and patronage, the 3P’s of tyranny writ small or large. The 3Ps lead to lawless, corrupt and ineffective organizations.
Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect of Christianity for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents. This philosophy, first fully developed during the Renaissance, grew and spread into what we know as Western civilization. The general direction of social development was one of freeing the individual from the ties which bound him in feudal society.
This is not a theologian’s statement it is a philosopher’s recognition of the Christian-European (unstated but clear) understanding of the centrality of the individual as the basis of societies. That societies are are the emergent organization of many individuals interacting with each other. And societies that provide ‘room’ for people to find their own level and best place in the social fabric are vastly more fair and kind than ones organized in rigid hierarchies and treat or form the person as an interchangeable cog.
From the post script a quote from Frédéric Bastiat.:
Individualism, in contrast to socialism and all other forms of totalitarianism, is based on the respect for the individual man and the belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents.