This classic book is a very well argued treatise on how central planning and big government will lead countries on the path toward totalitarianism. It is also a stubbornly pro-status quo book in the sense that it insists on the state being not only a necessity, but also on the state having a role to play in things that Hayek never bothers to argue or prove it really has a role to play in. In this sense, Hayek proves himself to be a typical “capitalist” statist whom casually dismissed the very possibility of a stateless society. Casually, because he assumes as a starting point the obviousness of the necessity of the state, and the idea of it not being necessary so irrational as to not even warrant any kind of argumentation to back up the belief that it is. Anarchists, therefore, need not even regard this book as something they could take entirely seriously either. Seeing as Hayek regards the state not only as necessary, but also sees a necessary role for government in things like social welfare, employment, infrastructure and even economic policy at least to a degree, it is quite clear Hayek cannot even justifiably be called a libertarian, and even calling him a classical liberal would be stretching the term. Hayek could more accurately be described as a neoliberal; that is, a statist with semi-capitalist beliefs.
Having said that, the book could, if it were capable of making a dent in the dogmatic beliefs of those on the left, be a very worthwhile one, by arguing how central planning must by definition eventually lead to tyranny. Hayek spends most of the book hammering this point across, and also makes the case that fascism and National Socialism come from the same lineage as socialism and communism, all of which are ideologies that are entirely based on central planning and control over the personal affairs of citizens. This should put to bed any notion that fascism and Nazism were “extreme right-wing” ideologies. Instead they were simply off shoots from socialism and communism, developed intellectually by people who recognized the “logical” flaws in the latter ideologies, and realizing simply that establishing socialism internationally was doomed to failure. As was the case with socialism and communism at any level, with fascism and National Socialism dealt brutally with anyone that was regarded as an enemy to the ends that the regime had in mind.
The problem with the book, ultimately, is that its effectiveness is dependent on how willing its intended audience is in accepting these facts as stated in the book. Seemingly targeted at left-leaning readers with proclivities toward more and more central planning, it was always going to be doubtful that the book was going to make any big changes, as the majority of the left are not driven by reason and facts, but by emotion and utopian ideals that counter human nature. Whilst it could be expected that its intended readership may respect its tone and intent (which is really moderate and reasonable), there never was any reason to expect many of them to agree with its content. And as we can clearly see from the actual state of affairs in our current times, no heed whatsoever has been paid to “The Road to Serfdom” by any status quo politician or their voting blocs, as both progressives and so-called “conservatives” have happily marched forward on this very road toward ever more central planning (see the EU as one shining example.)
As such, with no true originality for actual libertarians, and no real receptiveness with those on the left, the book has been claimed to be much more influential than it ever really was. It is a middle of the road, compromising affair that could do nothing but end up falling on deaf ears.
Well written, certainly with some interesting sections, but ultimately pointless.
Final Score: 7/10