Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review - The Fatal Conceit

The Fatal Conceit is one of Friedrich Hayek's most famous works, and after finally sitting down over the last few days and reading it with deliberation I see why it is so acclaimed. This book is phenomenal. I have read The Road to Serfdom and it was good, but it pales in comparison to The Fatal Conceit.

My impression had always been that in this book he laid out the case why the market, as an information gathering mechanism, is vastly superior to socialism and government planning of any stripe. This book, however, goes much further than that. It hacks away at the very philosophical roots of socialism and much of today's "Liberal" viewpoint. Revealing it to be a juvenile rebellion against human progress itself and a recidivist cycle of ignorance. After reading chapter 5, I literally put the book down and said, "Wow!" I was in awe of this man's brilliance.

A few pieces of advice on this book. First, this is not a beginner's guide to economics. I could not have appreciated the depth of this book without a basic understanding of philosophy, economics, and economic history. Not to say that it is out of the reach of a reasonably intelligent person, but you may have to reference Wikipedia about 100 times. Second, most books can usually give all you really need to know in the opening chapter, with the rest of the book being filled with back up material that reiterates the main point. This, for me, was not one of those kinds of books. Start reading on page one, and do not skip anything until at least chapter 6, as he purposefully builds his case. Overall, the book is pretty short, so it's a relatively quick read even though it often requires some thought.

This is also a book to be owned, and not just read. My copy is now filled with notes, underlines, and flagged corners. Go to Amazon. Buy this book.

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