Many interpret Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom as arguing for the inevitability of socialism in a world open to interventionism. In a previous post (“Hayek’s Road to Serfdom“), I shared Bruce Caldwell’s — Hayek’s biographer — thoughts. Here are Frank Chodorov’s,
For staunch defenders of liberty, Hayek’s neo-liberalism was of course far too soft on government. The positive program of The Road to Serfdom left the government in control of economic life. The economy was still to be a planned one, with the government in charge of all the planning. Hayek merely suggests that this planning be for competition rather than the detailed control of all market participants. This was a naïve approach from any realistic political point of view, and some thought it was indefensible from an intellectual point of view as well. Commenting on Hayek’s program, Frank Chodorov exlaimed: “How Silly!” and made it clear that he thought the program verged on intellectual cowardice.
— Jörg Guido Hülsmann, Mises: The Last Knight of Liberalism (Auburn: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007), p. 842.
At the end of the excerpted paragraph, there is a citation that reads: Frank Chodorov, “What This Country Needs is Guts,” Analysis 2, 3 (1946).
I’m not endorsing this particular take on Hayek’s 1944 book. Rather, I’m more interested in how some see it as too extreme and others — those who embody the extremism that “moderates” fear — think it wasn’t extreme enough. As it concerns the motivations of Hayek, I think the latter are more correct than the former (except, I’m not sure how defensible the charge is that The Road to Serfdom advocated central planning).
Interestingly, the way Hülsmann describes Mises’ reservations about the book, it seems as if they go in a completely different direction,
Mises was very happy about the success of the book. However, he too thought that Hayek had made his case in misleading terms. Hayek had singled out economic planning as the root cause of the various policies that threatened political and economic freedom. But there is no danger in planning per se. The real question is: who should do the planning, and how should the plans be applied?
— pp. 842–843.
Nevertheless, Mises wrote to Selma Fuller, “The positive program developed by Hayek matters little when compared with these virtues of his book. However, it is very comforting fact that your friends were shrewd enough to see the contradictions in this program” (p. 843, ftn. #10).