The Words of the Prophets

Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (EvKL)

Introduction

From the description of the book at the Mises Institute site:

[Kuehnelt-Leddihn] marshals the strongest possible case that democratic equality is the very basis not of liberty, as is commonly believed, but the total state…. He further argues the old notion of government by law is upheld in old monarchies, restrained by a noble elite. Aristocracy, not democracy, gave us liberty.

I will review here the first chapter: Democracy and Totalitarianism: The Prophets.  To properly capture the meaning of the title of EvKL’s book, consider that democracy is the most appropriate, if not only, proper political expression for a society comprised of “equals.”  So, you could consider instead: Liberty or Democracy.

History

The notion that tyranny evolves naturally from democracy can be traced back to the earliest political theorists…

Aristotle offers a glimpse; Plato’s Republic offers “an almost perfectly accurate facsimile….”  EvKL does not rely solely on such ancient sources; he focusses on those from the one or two centuries prior to the totalitarian twentieth century – those who saw the direction that the West was taking since the Enlightenment and could see where this path would lead.

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The long gap in examples between Plato and the Enlightenment was because democracy during this intervening time was relatively unknown except for the case of certain city governments. This changed with the American and French Revolutions.  Some observers saw this movement toward democracy as one which would provide…

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