editorial: Friedrich Hayek Crushes Karl Marx at Amazon.com

The Riverside Press-Enterprise:

Amazon.com provides some reassurance that capitalism still has substantial public support. Sales are surging for two iconic books advocating free markets. In this year of nationalization, Americans might want to read them as cautionary tales.

Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” a provocative philosophical novel published in 1957, is No. 30 in Amazon’s current sales rankings. At No. 290 is “The Road to Serfdom,” Nobel Prize winner Friedrich Hayek’s 1944 primer in free-market economics. Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto,” by contrast, remains mired at No. 40,869.

These are old books, but both have found new resonance at a time of economic crisis and government bank seizures. Rand tells a story of economic collapse, government takeovers of industry, and the refusal of the capitalist class to cooperate: John Galt and his followers retreat from society, content to let the government ruin what it has taken.

Rand’s apocalyptic vision has intoxicated generations, but Hayek offers more realistic economic advice. The Austrian economist was the philosophical counterweight to John Maynard Keynes, whose argument for central planning and government stimulus now seems ascendant.

Hayek explains that government control comes at the expense of market freedom. Official edicts limit consumer choices over what to buy and at what cost. And state control curtails business freedom to set pricing, production levels and salaries.

But Hayek says that central planners fail because they do not have the knowledge to substitute their judgment for the market’s. And with each economic failure, government usurps more freedom to retain control. The cycle ends in a Soviet-style society, with neither freedom nor wealth.

Rand and Hayek are needed antidotes to the clamor for government to “do something!” about the economy. A society that knows how the story of statism ends is more likely to place its trust in free markets than look to government for salvation.

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4 Responses to editorial: Friedrich Hayek Crushes Karl Marx at Amazon.com

  1. John V says:

    I’m happy to hear these things, but I’m confused about how Amazon ranks things. Each of these books has an advantage over the Manifesto (or Das Kapital, with which I’ve also seen them compared) because each is principally in one edition, whereas Marx stuff seems to be available in many more editions.

    I assume Amazon doesn’t keep track of multiple editions of books–their recommendation engine, at least, has no idea.

  2. Eric H says:

    Also wonder how skewed of an indicator this might be, given that there seem to be many more used copies of Marx floating around at used book stores (thus providing less incentive to buy online and pay shipping). In 2-3 years of actively searching, I’ve NEVER seen a used Hayek book on a shelf in a book store. Thus, all Hayek I own came from Amazon (whereas my Marx came from Goodwill for $.69 each).

  3. Greg Ransom says:

    I bought most of my Hayek used. There are hundreds of thousands of copies of The Road to Serfdom floating around.

  4. Eric H says:

    You’ve had better luck than I have then. Of course, I’ve only been looking for the past year and a half. I’ve found some used Mises (which I attribute to the fact that the book store I found them in is right next to Liberty Fund headquarters), but no Hayek so far.

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