Some Selections from My Vast Harvest of Quotations
from Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's Works*
*(in English, 'cause that's all I read)
- LOE = Liberty or Equality (40th anniversary edition), 1993
- LR = Leftism Revisited, 1990
- M&W = "Monarchy and War," reprinted in The Costs of War, 2001.
- MH = The Menace of the Herd, 1943
- RA = "The Roots of Anticapitalism," The Freeman, Nov. 1972.
- TC = The Timeless Christian, 1969.
If you haven't seen it already, please also visit my page on Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's English-language books.
On American "progressives":
Neither are the progressivists, in present-day America, revolutionaries or enemies of the order. Being "radical" or "progressive" they merely want to continue with greater speed and determination along the established, wrong trail. (MH, 281)
When then is liberalism correctly understood? Liberalism is not an exclusvely political term. It can be applied to a prison reform, to an economic order, to a theology. Within the political framework, the question is not (as in a democracy) “Who should rule?” but “How should rule be exercised?” The reply is “Regardless of who rules—a monarch, an elite, a majority, or a benevolent dictator—governments should be exercised in such a way that each citizen enjoys the greatest amount of personal liberty.” The limit of liberty is obviously the common good. But, admittedly, the common good (material as well as immaterial) is not easily defined, for it rests on value judgments. Its definition is therefore always somewhat arbitrary. Speed limits curtail freedom in the interests of the common good. Is there a watertight case for forty, forty-five, or fifty miles an hour? Certainly not. ... Freedom is thus the only postulate of liberalism—of genuine liberalism. If, therefore, democracy is liberal, the life, the whims, the interests of the minority will be just as respected as those of the majority. Yet surely not only a democracy, but a monarchy (absolute or otherwise) or an aristocratic (elitist) regime can be liberal. In fact, the affinity between democracy and liberalism is not at all greater than that between, say, monarchy and liberalism or a mixed government and liberalism. (People under the Austrian monarchy, which was not only symbolic but an effective mixed government, were not less free than those in Canada, to name only one example.) (LR 21)
Are you looking for the saying "I is from God; we is from the Devil" that is sometimes attributed to K-L — including, until recently, on his Wikipedia page? Then please check out this new page of mine.
On freedom, dignity, and socialism:
The Christian insistence on freedom — the monastic vows are voluntary sacrifices of a select few — derives from the Christian concept that man must be free in order to act morally. (A sleeping, a chained and clubbed, a drugged person can neither be sinful nor virtuous.) Yet, the free world which is practically synonymous with the world of free enterprise alone provides a climate, a way of life compatible with the dignity of man who makes free decisions, enjoys privileges, assumes responsiblilties, and develops his talents as he sees fit. He is truly the steward of his family. He can buy, sell, save, invest, gamble, plan the future, build, retrench, acquire capital, make donations, take risks. In other words, he can be the master of his economic fate and act as a man instead of a sheep in a herd under a shepherd and his dogs. No doubt, free enterprise is a harsh system; it demands real men. But socialism, which appeals to envious people craving for security and afraid to decide for themselves, impairs human dignity and crushes man utterly. (RA)
On where the fault lies:
For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution. (LR 319)
On the most powerful force in modern politics:
In the last two hundred years the exploitation of envy—its mobilization among the masses—coupled with the denigration of individuals, but more frequently of classes, races, nations, or religious communities, has been the key to political success. (LR 6)
On Christianity and egalitarianism:
It is most amazing that one encounters fairly well-educated Christians who believe that "we are all equal before God." If Judas Iskariot were equal to John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, Christianity would have to close shop. Dominican R.L. Bruckburger said rightly that the New Testament is a message of human inequality. (Could one imagine that, at the Day of Judgment, all sentences could be equal? That God would not "discriminate" between saints and sinners?) (M&W, 7n)
On Christianity and "social justice":
Now, there is a genuine social justice which proceeds not from the principle of equality, but from the principle: Suum cuique — to each his own. It is true that to deprive the workman of his just wage is not only a sin, but a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. When one hinders social advance by putting barriers in the way of the diligent and the talented, one not only commits a personal injustice, but damages the common good of the whole nation, which always requires a genuine elite of ability and the contribution of extraordinary brainpower in every walk of life. And it would be socially unjust if a few individuals or certain groups had so much material wealth that, in consequence of this concentration of property and income, other classes had to live not only in povery, but in misery. Whoever lives in real abundance has a Christian duty to assist those living in wrechedness. Before we proceed, however, let us affirm that the notion of misery is different from that of poverty. Péguy has already drawn the distinction between pauvreté and misère. To live in misery means to suffer genuine physical privation: to know cold and hunger, to have no proper dwelling, to be dressed in rags, to be unable to secure medical attention. The poor, by contrast, have the necessities of life, but scarcely any more. They can borrow books, no doubt, but cannot buy them; they can hear music on the radio, but cannot afford a ticket to a concert; they cannot indulge in little extras of food and drink, but should, by self-discipline, be able to save a little. The poor have, therefore, the normal material preconditions for happiness — unless plagued by acquisitiveness or even envy, which has become a political force in the same measure as people have lost their faith. The fact that there are happy poor (alongside unhappy rich people) is beside the point. Demagogues know how to stir up terrible and murderous unrest even among the happy poor, as has been demonstrated clearly by the history of the left from Marat to Marx to Lenin to Hitler. (TC, 53-54)
On education and children:
Arbitrary compulsory education is after all a flagrant curtailment of parental rights and at least as "totalitarian" as conscription. Yet practically nobody dared to contradict the sacrifices made to the idol of "education" and few people sensed that compulsory elementary education was a great step in the direction of totalitarianism which in time intervened in every region of human existence. True, the father's right is not violated by compulsory education in so far as a certain degree of education is reasonably deemed necessary by the State for citizenship, to be administered in the school of the father's choice, provided that school is not subversive in its nature. But the supreme rule is that the child belongs to the parent and not to the State. (MH, 67n.)
Would you like more interesting, challenging, and inspirational quotations about freedom, politics, and related topics, including more references to the work of K-L? Then please visit my Freedom Quote of the Week page! Thanks.
On Roosevelts, he and she:
Mr. Hoover's presidency was drawing to a close and Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most dynamic grave diggers of the Western world, succeeded on a platform not dissimilar to that of his predecessor. Though Mr. Roosevelt belonged to the Democratic party, his social background indisposed him for a time to leftist policies, both national and international. But his wife (from another branch of the Roosevelt family) was more in tune with leftist ideas, undoubtedly the aftereffect of higher feminine education in the United States. Whereas Mr. Roosevelt played his politics by ear, his wife, who wielded considerable influence, was ideologically far more consistent. Mr. Roosevelt, moreover, had but the scantiest education for his task; he hardly knew Europe, and his knowledge of foreign languages was as modest as his acquaintance with the mentality of other nations. Largely ignorant himself, and profoundly anti-intellectual, he had no way of judging, evaluating, and coordinating expert opinion. Even worse, perhaps, his sense of objective truth was gravely impaired. His handicap was by no means primarily of a physical nature. (LR 230-231)
On patriotism versus nationalism:
Patriotism, not nationalism, should inspire the citizen. The ethnic nationalist who wants a linguistically and culturally uniform nation is akin to the racist who is intolerant toward those who look (and behave) differently. The patriot is a "diversitarian"; he is pleased, indeed proud of the variety within the borders of his country; he looks for loyalty from all citizens. And he looks up and down, not left and right. (LR 327)
On American exceptionalism:
But American nationalism has been conditioned, to a large extent, by the "indoctrination" of the children of immigrants, inevitably coupled with a certain denigration of the Old World. Any German, or Italian, or American gentleman will naturally defend his country against patently unjust accusations—loyalty demands this; but he will not try to convince others that his nation has the highest qualities in the world, the most gifted inventors, the most profound philosophers, the best writers, the finest painters, the fastest trains, the most beautiful women. (This uncouth boasting is reserved for the traveling salesman after a third drink, or the likes of a National Socialist or a Russian Communist.) (LR 199)
On American architecture and town planning:
Hardly is there anywhere in the United States a church possessing originality which has been built after 1840. The houses of God are usually misplaced gothic or romanesque imitations squeezed in between dismal railway stations or surging skyscrapers. It is even more shocking to see the abortive efforts of town planning, or the utopian habit of naming streets after mere numbers or letters. A cultured man cannot possibly live in room 6489 on the sixty-fourth floor of a house on the corner of 109th Street and 10th Avenue. This may be fitting for one of the unfortunate creatures in Huxley's Brave New World but not for man created in the image of God. (MH, 268-269)
On totalitarian democracies:
Even 51 per cent of a nation can establish a totalitarian and dictatorial règime, suppress minorities, and still remain democratic; there is, as we have said, little doubt that the American Congress and the French Chambre have a power over their respective nations which would rouse the envy of a Louis XIV or a George III were they alive today (LOE, 88)
On the use of the atomic bomb:
The dropping of the [atomic] bomb on a populated center was another totally superfluous crime. Even if callous arguments for the annihilation of Hiroshima could be made, there was no necessity for the slaughter in Nagasaki, cradle of Japanese Christianity. Within a split second the bomb wiped out one-eighth of Japan’s Catholic Christians. Here the argument resurfaces—Truman wanted to impress the Soviets, just as Churchill had with Dresden. But how could any butcher impress the arch-butcher from the Caucasus? Not even the late Adolf Hitler had succeeded." (LR 282).
On the successes and failures of Marxism:
Marx, although a man of broad knowledge, had one blind spot: he was ignorant of the true character of economics. He did not realize that economics can only be understood in close relationship to the other humanities (and certain sciences), and therefore should not be studied in vacuo. Ironically, this very weakness was largely instrumental in making Marxism successful. Marxist economics—yet another instance of a false but clear idea—can be explained to the merest child in a matter of minutes. (Conversely, to explain the workings of the free market economy to an adult would take weeks of hard work.) Because it was easily grasped, Marxism flooded the world within a few decades, as had other simplistic ideologies and religions, such as Islam and the Enlightenment; this same sort of simplicity gave rise to the French Revolution and national socialism. Christianity, on the other hand, took three centuries to triumph. (LR 337)
On political responsibility:
The monarch is a responsible person. The fact that a monarch is responsible "to God alone," rather than to an assembly or a popular majority, is rather shocking to an agnostic mind; but while God cannot be fooled, the masses can. While it is perhaps true that "one cannot fool all the people all the time," it seems one can fool millions for centuries. History abounds with such examples, especially the history of religions. In spite of the republican-democratic emphasis on "responsible government," subject to the sanction of not getting re-elected (and if being impeached only in the grossest cases of corruption), the demo-republican government nonetheless derives its authority from anonymous, secretly voting masses on a purely numerical basis. It is even impossible to trace the empowering individual; and thus we get what French authors call the "cult of irresponsibility." The electees, rejecting all responsibility, can easily blame the electors for their "mandates." Thus we get today the immoral idea of making whole nations responsible for the misdeeds of their rulers, regardless of whether these had majority support or not. This collective judgment of moral acts is one of the great maladies of the democratic age. (LOE 158)
On "loyalty" and "treason":
In the Middle Ages, people were born and baptized into the Church. But the Church was the corpus mysticum and it depended upon one's own free will whether one wanted to be a living or a dead member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The cry "traitor" was only raised against those who broke the solemn oath of allegiance, not those who chose to go ways different from their status of birth. The Connêtable Charles de Bourbon who served with Charles V, or Marshal Moritz of Saxony, the great general under Louis XV were hardly considered to be traitors. Soldiers picked out the countries they wanted to serve. Prospective monks chose their orders. There were no "traitors to the proletariat" or "traitors to democracy." Today we live in an age of increased predestination and decreased free will, where Calvin, Freud, Marx, Luther, Darwin, Dewey, and the host of racial biologists have laid down the inexorable laws of anthropological, religious, psychological, environmental, and sociological determinism with no hope for escape. We are merely exhorted to make a virtue out of necessity and to be loyal to our prison and prisoners. Every attempt from our side to escape the artificial shell or to use our dormant remainders of free will to destroy the chains is branded as treason and punished accordingly by State or Society or even by both. (MH, 133, emphasis in the original)
On the "power and wealth" of the Catholic Church, then and now:
Almost everywhere and at all times the saying of St. Augustine aptly described the situation: "et paupera et inops est ecclesia — the Church is poor and helpless." The Church was powerful only when the state wanted it to be so or when pious laymen had a burning desire to make it so. In the Middle Ages especially the Church was sedulously oppressed: Popes were frequently imprisoned, made the pawns of secular rulers, persecuted, ridiculed, besieged, plundered, exiled, imprisoned and insulted. What about Canossa? People forget how the story ended, and the words of Gregory VII on his death-bed in exile: "Dilexi iustitiam et odi iniquitatem, propterea morior in exilio [I loved justice and hated injustice, therefore I die in exile]." Finally there came the Babylonian Captivity at Avignon. It is true that all of this looks quite different in the elementary schools of Kazachstan, in McKinley High and to our intellectuals, whose grasp of history is almost nil.
The situation altered very little in the nineteenth century. Once again there was a prisoner in the Vatican, Pius IX, whose body the mob yelling "Al fiume la carogna!" wanted to throw into the Tiber. This brings us to the twentieth century: Mexico City, Moabit, Dachau, Plötzensee, Auschwitz, Struthof, Carcel Modelo, Andrássy-út 66, Sremska Mitrovica, Vorkuta, Karaganda, Magadan, Lubyanka, Ocnele Mare — these are the modern Stations of the Cross of our clergy. (TC, 128)