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Thread: H.L. Mencken Quotes

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    H.L. Mencken Quotes

    For every problem, there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.

    A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.

    The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.

    People constantly speak of "the government" doing this or that, as they might speak of God doing it. But the government is really nothing but a group of men, and usually they are very inferior men. They may have some better man working for them, but they themselves are seldom worthy of any respect.

    We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

    No matter how happily a woman may be married, it always pleases her to discover that there is a nice man who wishes that she were not.

    The true function of art is to...edit nature and so make it coherent and lovely. The artist is a sort of impassioned proofreader, blue-penciling the bad spelling of God.

    The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's goodbye to the Bill of Rights.

    No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

    Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.

    Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule--and both commonly succeed, and are right.

    Say what you will about the ten commandments; you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

    The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace.

    The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth--that the error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it is cured on one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

    No one ever heard of the truth being enforced by law. Whenever the secular arm is called in to sustain an idea, whether new or old, it is always a bad idea, and not infrequently it is downright idiotic.

    Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all other philosophers are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.

    School-days, I believe, are the unhappiest in the whole span of human existence. They are full of dull, unintelligible tasks, new and unpleasant ordinances, brutal violations of common sense amd common decency. It doesn’t take a reasonably bright boy long to discover that most of what is rammed into him is nonsense, and that no one really cares very much whether he learns it or not.

    Any man who inflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.

    We suffer most when the White House busts with ideas.

    It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.

    Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.

    An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

    Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

    I never lecture, not because I am shy or a bad speaker, but simply because I detest the sort of people who go to lectures and don't want to meet them.

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    There is no way of adding to or commenting upon the ideas of H.L. Mencken. They are altogether too wise to admit of either.

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    Mencken Quotes


    Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. A frank admirer of German philosopher Nietzsche, he was not a proponent of
    representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.[2] During and after World War I, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British propaganda.[3] Mencken, through his wide criticism of actions taken by government, has had a strong impact on the American libertarian movement.[4]



    [D]emocracy gives [the beatification of mediocrity] a certain appearance of objective and demonstrable truth. The mob man, functioning as citizen, gets a feeling that he is really important to the world—that he is genuinely running things. Out of his maudlin herding after rogues and mountebanks there comes to him a sense of vast and mysterious power—which is what makes archbishops, police sergeants, and other such magnificoes happy. And out of it there comes, too, a conviction that he is somehow wise, that his views are taken seriously by his betters—which is what makes United States Senators, fortune tellers and Young Intellectuals happy. Finally, there comes out of it a glowing consciousness of a high duty triumphantly done which is what makes hangmen and husbands happy.



    The much vaunted libertarian journalist and commentator H.L. Mencken once wrote: “I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.”
    H.L. Mencken.


    Mencken was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors.


    “Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” - H. L. Mencken.


    All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him.
    If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are. - H.L. Mencken. The Smart Set (December 1919)


    The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty — and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies. - H. L. Mencken. Baltimore Evening Sun (12 February 1923)


    The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are. - H.L. Mencken. The Smart Set (December 1919).


    A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. - H.L. Mencken.


    Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. - H.L. Mencken.


    Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven. Henry Louis Mencken.


    "It is the invariable habit of bureaucracies, at all times and everywhere, to assume...that every citizen is a criminal. Their one apparent purpose, pursued with a relentless and furious diligence, is to convert the assumption into a fact. They hunt endlessly for proofs, and, when proofs are lacking, for mere suspicions. The moment they become aware of a definite citizen, John Doe, seeking what is his right under the law, they begin searching feverishly for an excuse for withholding it from him."
    H. L. Mencken,(1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic.


    The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.” - H.L. Mencken.


    ..."I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air--that progress made under the shadow of a policeman's club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave." - Henry Louis Mencken.


    Speaking about Woodrow Wilson’s duplicity on US involvement in WW1 he said Wilson was “the perfect model of the Christian cad” and that we “ought to dig up his bones and make dice of them.”


    "The Jews could be put down very plausibly as the most unpleasant race ever heard of. As commonly encountered they lack any of the qualities that mark the civilized man: courage, dignity, incorruptibility, ease, confidence. They have vanity without pride, voluptuousness without taste, and learning without wisdom. Their fortitude, such as it is, is wasted upon puerile objects, and their charity is mainly a form of display." - H.L. Mencken.


    I admit freely enough that, by careful breeding, supervision of environment and education, extending over many generations, it might be possible to make an appreciable improvement in the stock of the American negro, for example, but I must maintain that this enterprise would be a ridiculous waste of energy, for there is a high-caste white stock ready at hand, and it is inconceivable that the negro stock, however carefully it might be nurtured, could ever even remotely approach it. The educated negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a negro. He is, in brief, a low-caste man, to the manner born, and he will remain inert and inefficient until fifty generations of him have lived in civilization. And even then, the superior white race will be fifty generations ahead of him. - H. L. Mencken.


    Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent — the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free. Preface to the first edition of The American Credo : A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind (1920) - H.L. Mencken.


    The American of today, in fact, probably enjoys less personal liberty than any other man of Christendom, and even his political liberty is fast succumbing to the new dogma that certain theories of government are virtuous and lawful, and others abhorrent and felonious.
    Laws limiting the radius of his free activity multiply year by year: It is now practically impossible for him to exhibit anything describable as genuine individuality, either in action or in thought, without running afoul of some harsh and unintelligible penalty. It would surprise no impartial observer if the motto “In God we trust” were one day expunged from the coins of the republic by the Junkers at Washington, and the far more appropriate word, “verboten,” substituted. Nor would it astound any save the most romantic if, at the same time, the goddess of liberty were taken off the silver dollars to make room for a bas-relief of a policeman in a spiked helmet. - H.L. Mencken. The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind (1920)


    Moreover, this gradual (and, of late, rapidly progressive) decay of freedom goes almost without challenge; the American has grown so accustomed to the denial of his constitutional rights and to the minute regulation of his conduct by swarms of spies, letter-openers, informers and agents provocateurs that he no longer makes any serious protest.

    On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
    H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920.


    'Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats' - Henry Louis Mencken.


    "The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-by to the Bill of Rights." - H.L. Mencken.


    School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.
    - H.L. Mencken The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche(1908), pg. 217.



    The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. - H. L. Mencken.


    Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. - H. L. Mencken
    In Defense of Women (1918)


    Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it. - H. L. Mencken A Little Book in C Major 1916.



    Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. - H. L. Mencken.


    All government, of course, is against liberty. - H. L. Mencken.


    "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right." - H.L. Mencken.


    Democracy is also a form of religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses. - H. L. Mencken.


    I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time. - H. L. Mencken.


    A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier. - H. L. Mencken.


    "I feel sorry for the man who, after reading the daily newspaper, goes to bed believing he knows something of what's going on in the world."
    - Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956.)


    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. - H. L. Mencken.


    Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it. - H. L. Mencken.


    The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore. - H. L. Mencken.


    Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. - H. L. Mencken.


    I confess I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. - H. L. Mencken.


    It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office. - H. L. Mencken.


    I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone. - H. L. Mencken.


    The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.
    - H. L. Mencken.


    To sum up: 1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. 2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. 3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride. - H. L. Mencken. "Coda" from Smart Set (December 1920).


    We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine. - H. L. Mencken.


    The cynics are right nine times out of ten. - H. L. Mencken.


    Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good. - H. L. Mencken.


    Most people want security in this world, not liberty. - H. L. Mencken.


    Nevertheless, it is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man. - H. L. Mencken.


    The allurement that women hold out to men is precisely the allurement that Cape Hateras holds out to sailors: they are enormously dangerous and hence enormously fascinating. To the average man, doomed to some banal drudgery all his life long, they offer the only grand hazard that he ever encounters. Take them away and his existence would be as flat and secure as that of a moo-cow. Even to the unusual man, the adventurous man, the imaginative and the romantic man, they offer the adventure of adventures. Civilization tends to dilute and cheapen all other hazards. Even war has been largely reduced to caution and calculation; already, indeed, it employs almost as many press-agents, letter-openers, and generals as soldiers. But the duel of sex continues to be fought in the Berserker manner. Who so approaches women still faces the immemorial dangers. Civilization has not made them a bit more safe than they were in Solomon’s time; they are still inordinately menacing, and hence, inordinately provocative, and hence inordinately charming. -H L Mencken (1880-1956).


    The woman who has not had a child remains incomplete, ill at ease, and more than a little ridiculous. She is in the position of a man who has never stood in battle; she has missed the most colossal experience of her sex. Henry Louis Mencken .


    The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth. - H.L. Mencken.


    "I know of no nations that deserve to exist and few individuals." - H.L. Mencken.


    Morality: the theory is that every human act must either be right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong. - H.L. Mencken.


    "The woman who has not had a child remains incomplete, ill at ease, and more than a little ridiculous. She is in the position of a man who has never stood in battle; she has missed the most colossal experience of her sex." - H.L. Mencken.


    They warned that giving the vote to incompetent, despairing and envious people would breed demagogues to rouse and rally them, and that the whole democratic process would thus be converted into organized pillage and rapine. — H L Mencken (1880-1956).


    The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty — and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies. - H. L. Mencken. Baltimore Evening Sun (12 February 1923).


    Suppose two-thirds of the members of the national House of Representatives were dumped into the Washington garbage incinerator tomorrow, what would we lose to offset our gain of their salaries and the salaries of their parasites? - H. L. Mencken.


    Prejudices, Fourth Series (1924)

    I propose that it shall be no longer malum in se for a citizen to pummel, cowhide, kick, gouge, cut, wound, bruise, maim, burn, club, bastinado, flay, or even lynch a [government] jobholder, and that it shall be malum prohibitum only to the extent that the punishment exceeds the jobholder’s deserts. The amount of this excess, if any, may be determined very conveniently by a petit jury, as other questions of guilt are now determined. The flogged judge, or Congressman, or other jobholder, on being discharged from hospital — or his chief heir, in case he has perished — goes before a grand jury and makes a complaint, and, if a true bill is found, a petit jury is empaneled and all the evidence is put before it. If it decides that the jobholder deserves the punishment inflicted upon him, the citizen who inflicted it is acquitted with honor. If, on the contrary, it decides that this punishment was excessive, then the citizen is adjudged guilty of assault, mayhem, murder, or whatever it is, in a degree apportioned to the difference between what the jobholder deserved and what he got, and punishment for that excess follows in the usual course. - H. L. Mencken. "The Malevolent Jobholder," The American Mercury (June 1924), p. 156.


    Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming "dangerous," ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it. - H. L. Mencken. "Liberty and Democracy" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (13 April 1925).


    Here is tragedy—and here is America. For the curse of the country, as well of all democracies, is precisely the fact that it treats its best men as enemies. The aim of our society, if it may be said to have an aim, is to iron them out. The ideal American, in the public sense, is a respectable vacuum.
    - H. L. Mencken.
    "More Tips for Novelists" in the Chicago Tribune (2 May 1926).


    The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel. - H. L. Mencken. Chicago Tribune (23 May 1926).


    Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. - H. L. Mencken. 'Notes On Journalism' in the Chicago Tribune (19 September 1926)


    Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.
    It is the aim of the
    Bill of Rights, if it has any remaining aim at all, to curb such prehensile gentry. Its function is to set a limitation upon their power to harry and oppress us to their own private profit. The Fathers, in framing it, did not have powerful minorities in mind; what they sought to hobble was simply the majority. But that is a detail. The important thing is that the Bill of Rights sets forth, in the plainest of plain language, the limits beyond which even legislatures may not go. The Supreme Court, in Marbury v. Madison, decided that it was bound to execute that intent, and for a hundred years that doctrine remained the corner-stone of American constitutional law. - H. L. Mencken. The American Mercury (May 1930)


    One hears murmurs against Mussolini on the ground that he is a desperado: the real objection to him is that he is a politician. Indeed, he is probably the most perfect specimen of the genus politician on view in the world today. His career has been impeccably classical. Beginning life as a ranting Socialist of the worst type, he abjured Socialism the moment he saw better opportunities for himself on the other side, and ever since then he has devoted himself gaudily to clapping Socialists in jail, filling them with castor oil, sending blacklegs to burn down their houses, and otherwise roughing them. Modern politics has produced no more adept practitioner. - H. L. Mencken. "Mussolini" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (3 August 1931).


    If he (Roosevelt) became convinced tomorrow that coming out for cannibalism would get him the votes he needs so sorely, he would begin fattening a missionary in the White House yard come Wednesday. - H. L. Mencken. The American Mercury (March 1936) - referring to Franklin Delano Roosevelt


    Having lived all my life in a country swarming with messiahs, I have been mistaken, perhaps quite naturally, for one myself, especially by the others. It would be hard to imagine anything more preposterous. I am, in fact, the complete anti-Messiah, and detest converts almost as much as I detest missionaries. My writings, such as they are, have had only one purpose: to attain for H. L. Mencken that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk. Further than that, I have had no interest in the matter whatsoever. It has never given me any satisfaction to encounter one who said my notions had pleased him. My preference has always been for people with notions of their own. I have believed all my life in free thought and free speech—up to and including the utmost limits of the endurable
    . - H. L. Mencken. "For the Defense Written for the Associated Press, for use in my obituary" (20 November 1940).


    In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic. But I do not repine, for I am a subject of it only by force of arms. - H. L. Mencken.


    A professional politician is a professionally dishonorable man. In order to get anywhere near high office he has to make so many compromises and submit to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.
    - H. L. Mencken. As quoted in LIFE magazine, Vol. 21, No. 6, (5 August 1946),


    I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men. - H. L. Mencken.


    The great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom even ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man — that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense — has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.
    - H. L. Mencken. Prejudices, First Series (1919)


    The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can't get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods. - H. L. Mencken. Prejudices, First Series (1919).


    What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace: the peace of a trusty in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take–his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact.

    A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a) from his superiors, (b) from his equals, and (c) from himself. This last service, under democracy, is commonly the most esteemed of them all. In the United States, at least theoretically, it is the only thing that keeps ice-wagon drivers, Y.M.C.A. secretaries, insurance collectors and other such human camels from smoking opium, ruining themselves in the night clubs, and going to Palm Beach with Follies girls . . . Under the pressure of fanaticism, and with the mob complacently applauding the show, democratic law tends more and more to be grounded upon the maxim that every citizen is, by nature, a traitor, a libertine, and a scoundrel. In order to dissuade him from his evil-doing the police power is extended until it surpasses anything ever heard of in the oriental monarchies of antiquity. - H. L. Mencken. Notes on Democracy (1926).


    Democracy always seems bent upon killing the thing it theoretically loves. I have rehearsed some of its operations against liberty, the very cornerstone of its political metaphysic. It not only wars upon the thing itself; it even wars upon mere academic advocacy of it. I offer the spectacle of Americans jailed for reading the Bill of Rights as perhaps the most gaudily humorous ever witnessed in the modern world. Try to imagine monarchy jailing subjects for maintaining the divine right of Kings! Or Christianity damning a believer for arguing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God! This last, perhaps, has been done: anything is possible in that direction. But under democracy the remotest and most fantastic possibility is a common place of every day. All the axioms resolve themselves into thundering paradoxes, many amounting to downright contradictions in terms. The mob is competent to rule the rest of us—but it must be rigorously policed itself. There is a government, not of men, but of laws—but men are set upon benches to decide finally what the law is and may be. The highest function of the citizen is to serve the state—but the first assumption that meets him, when he essays to discharge it, is an assumption of his disingenuousness and dishonour. Is that assumption commonly sound? Then the farce only grows the more glorious.


    I confess, for my part, that it greatly delights me. I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself—that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can't make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of. How can any man be a democrat who is sincerely a democrat? - H. L. Mencken. Notes on Democracy (1926).


    Mankind has failed miserably in its effort to devise a rational system of government. [...] The art of government is the exclusive possession of quacks and frauds. It has been so since the earliest days, and it will probably remain so until the end of time. Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956).


    Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right...The United States has never developed an aristocracy really disinterested or an intelligentsia really intelligent. Its history is simply a record of vacillations between two gangs of frauds. Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956)


    My old suggestion that public offices be filled by drawing lots, as a jury box is filled, was probably more intelligent than I suspected. It has been criticized on the ground that selecting a man at random would probably produce some extremely bad State governors. [...] But I incline to believe that it would be best to choose members of the Legislature quite at random. No matter how stupid they were, they could not be more stupid than the average legislator under the present system. Certainly, they'd be measurably more honest, taking one with another. Finally, there would be the great advantage that all of them had got their jobs unwillingly, and were eager, not to spin out their sessions endlessly, but to get home as soon as possible. Minority Report : H.L. Mencken's Notebooks (1956).


    I was wise to quit writing for the Sun back in January, 1941, for it was obvious by then that Roosevelt would horn into the war soon or late, and I knew by bitter experience in the last war that I'd be throttled at once. Since then I have thought out many likely articles, but not one of them has been printable. In these days, indeed, my very vocabulary is prohibited. I couldn't so much as mention Roosevelt or Churchill or any of the other frauds without having to face a savage official onslaught, with all blows directed below the belt. The common notion that free speech prevails in the United States always makes me laugh. - H. L. Mencken. The Diary of H L Mencken 1989.


    The Sun editorial on Roosevelt this morning begins: "Franklin D. Roosevelt was a great man." ...The argument, in brief, is that all his skullduggeries and imbecilities were wiped out when "he took an inert and profoundly isolationist people and brought them to support a necessary war on a scale never before imagined." In other words, his greatest fraud was his greatest glory, and his sufficient excuse for all his other frauds. It seems to me to be very likely that Roosevelt will take a high place in American popular history -- maybe even alongside Washington and Lincoln... He had every quality that morons esteem in their heros. It will be to the interest of all his heirs and assigns to whoop him up, and they will probably succeed in swamping his critics. - H. L. Mencken. The Diary of H L Mencken 1989


    The course of the United States in World War II, I said, was dishonest, dishonorable, and ignominious, and the Sunpapers, by supporting Roosevelt's foreign policy, shared in this disgrace. - H. L. Mencken. The Diary of H L Mencken 1989.

    Source: Copy the quote and do a search.

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