This is a most unusual book. It is informative, perplexing, provocative. It has influenced my thinking more than any other book.
There are mainly two juxtapositions the author uses to distinguish liberty from equality: Catholicism with Protestantism and democracy with monarchy. In discussing religion and politics, Kuehnelt-Leddihn appeals to European and America history. The religious-history discussion focuses on Luther while the political-history discussion offers a rare and undoubtedly romanticized glimpse of life under Renaissance and Baroque-period monarchies. The political-history discussion continues through the French Revolution and culminates in the rise of Nazism.
This is not a history book, though. K-L goes far beyond his historical sketches with an ongoing and much deeper philosophical consideration of his two juxtapositions. And if his historical insights are great, K-L's philosophy is simply astonishing. He shows the American man-on-the-street's understanding of such things as Canon Law, majority rule, and education is woefully inadequate. He challenges the common understanding of Catholicism as "strict", the near-universal faith in democracy, and the widely-held belief that education must be provided to all. This constant opposition to conventional wisdom sets up an important theme late in the book: good governance is lost among the amateur voters and rulers that comprise a democracy. Skillful ruling and diplomacy is the hallmark of monarchy.
Many who read this book will undoubtedly come away with new political considerations. But for me, there is also the even more powerful new consideration of religion. Of course, the two may very well be inseparable for K-L readers anyway, since he is so deeply skeptical of the church-state separation.Read more ›