Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and ‘Leftism’ – An Appreciation
By Andy Duncan, Vice-Chairman of Mises UK
As John the Baptist to the Jesus Christ of Hans-Hermann Hope, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn forms an essential reading component of any modern Miseo-Rothbardo-Hoppeian. As a Renaissance gentleman swimming in a sea of kleptocratic fools – perhaps whilst holding his head aloft and smoking a fine Cuban cigar – Kuehnelt-Leddihn successfully negotiated these seas and serially and routinely speared and devoured our enemies, the hate-filled envious class warriors of ‘social justice’.
Although an Austrian nobleman by birth, he never became a full true ‘Austrian’ in the sense of Ludwig von Mises. However, rising up from the water, he definitely flew within the ambit of angels, describing himself as an ‘extreme conservative arch-liberal’. In one sense of the word, I would personally regard myself as completely ‘apolitical’. I simply wish that everyone else in the world would leave me alone, so long as I abstain from infringing upon their rights of property and freedom. However, if someone compelled me to bear a political label, then I would hold myself happy to concur with this description.
So, if you’ve never read Kuehnelt-Leddihn before, where do you begin? Should you start with Liberty or Equality, The Menace of the Herd, or Leftism? (To my mind, these three immense works rise up clearly as the triumvirate pinnacle of his many books.) Well, as a labour of love I’ve already read all three for you, along with most of the rest, and for me the clear winner stands out as Leftism. It’s historical, it’s complete, and it stands alone by itself. If there existed only one of his books in the vaults of history, it sums up his thinking best of all. Fortunately, it’s also freely available to download and read via Mises.org at the link here! Quickly, before all stocks go!
As Kuehnelt-Leddihn formed the model of a pure gentleman, an erudite scholar, and a beautiful stylist, if one glorious magnificent day I ever reach the point where I can write German as well as he could write English, then I will get rightly hailed as a philosophical and poetic genius of our time. Yes, my friends, he really achieved such magisterial greatness within his literary output.
(I have the strongest feeling he probably played the piano brilliantly too, as well as chess, tennis, polo, and backgammon. And I bet he attracted the eye of more than a few fine ladies. So yes, I am a little bit jealous of him too, in case you doubted it!)
Here’s just one of his many delicious quotes from ‘Leftism’:
“The demand for equality and identity arises precisely in order to avoid that fear, that feeling of inferiority. Nobody is better, nobody is superior, nobody feels challenged, everybody is ‘safe.’ Furthermore, if identity, if sameness has been achieved, then the other person’s actions and reactions can be forecast. With no (disagreeable) surprises, a warm herd feeling of brotherhood emerges. These sentiments – this rejection of quality (which ineluctably differs from person to person) – explain much concerning the spirit of the mass movements of the last two hundred years. Simone Weil has told us that the ‘I’ comes from the flesh, but ‘we’ comes from the devil.”
If you really need to know where Hoppe came from, you mostly ought to read Menger, Böhm von Bawerk, Mises, and Rothbard. However, for the complete pre-Hoppeian classical education, you also need to read Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn too. You have thus been advised. My work is complete.