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Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (German: ['ky?n?lt l?'di?n], born July 31, 1909 in Tobelbad, Styria, Austria-Hungary; died May 26, 1999, in Lans, Tyrol), was an Austrian political scientist and journalist.
He opposed the French Revolution as well as communism and Nazism.
Describing himself as a "conservative arch-liberal" or "extreme liberal", Kuehnelt-Leddihn often argued that majority rule in democracies is a threat to individual liberties, and declared himself a monarchist and an enemy of all forms of totalitarianism, although he also supported what he defined as "non-democratic republics," such as Switzerland and the early United States.Described as "A Walking Book of Knowledge", Kuehnelt-Leddihn had an encyclopedic knowledge of the humanities and was a polyglot, able to speak eight languages and read seventeen others.
His early books The Menace of the Herd and Liberty or Equality were influential within the American conservative movement.
An associate of William F. Buckley Jr., his best-known writings appeared in National Review, where he was a columnist for 35 years.
Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn was born in Tobelbad, Styria, Austria-Hungary. At 16, he became the Vienna correspondent of The Spectator. From then on, he wrote for the rest of his life. He studied civil and canon law at the University of Vienna at 18. Then he went to the University of Budapest, from which he received an M.A. in economics and his doctorate in political science. Moving back to Vienna, he took up studies in theology. In 1935, Kuehnelt-Leddihn traveled to England to become a schoolmaster at Beaumont College, a Jesuit public school. Subsequently, he moved to the United States, where he taught at Georgetown University (1937–1938), Saint Peter's College, New Jersey (head of the History and Sociology Department, 1938–1943), Fordham University (Japanese, 1942–1943), and Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia (1943–1947).
In 1931, while in Hungary, Kuehnelt-Leddihn was said to have had a supernatural experience. While discussing deserted graveyards with a friend, the two men saw Satan appear before them. Kuehnelt-Leddihn recounts this experience as so:
In a 1939 letter to the editor of The New York Times, Kuehnelt-Leddihn critiqued the design of every American coin then in circulation except for the Washington quarter, which he allowed was "so far the most satisfactory coin" and judged the Mercury dime to be "the most deplorable."
After publishing books like Jesuiten, Spießer und Bolschewiken in 1933 (published in German by Pustet, Salzburg) and The Menace of the Herd in 1943, in which he criticised the National Socialists as well as the Socialists, he remained in the United States, as he could not return to the Austria that had been incorporated into the Third Reich.
After the Second World War, he resettled in Lans, where he lived until his death. He was an avid traveler: he had visited over seventy-five countries (including the Soviet Union in 1930–1931), as well as all fifty states in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote for a variety of publications, including Chronicles, Thought, the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Catholic World, and the Norwegian business magazine Farmand. He also worked with the Acton Institute, which declared him after his death "a great friend and supporter." He was an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. For much of his life, Kuehnelt was also a painter; he illustrated some of his own books.
Kuehnelt held friendships with many of the major conservative intellectuals and figures of the 20th century, including William F. Buckley Jr., Russell Kirk, Otto von Habsburg, Friedrich A. Hayek, Mel Bradford, Ludwig von Mises, Wilhelm Röpke, Ernst Jünger, and Joseph Ratzinger (who later became Pope Benedict XVI). According to Buckley, Kuehnelt-Leddihn was "the world's most fascinating man."
Kuehnelt-Leddihn was married to Countess Christiane Gräfin von Goess, with whom he had three children. At the time of his death in 1999, he was survived by all four of them, as well as seven grandchildren.