Saturday, August 07, 2010

Selected Quotes from H.L. Mencken

Henry Louis Mencken (12 September 1880 – 29 January 1956), better known as H. L. Mencken, was a twentieth-century journalist, satirist, social critic, cynic, and freethinker, known as the "Sage of Baltimore" and the "American Nietzsche". He is often regarded as one of the most influential American writers of the early 20th century.

Here are some of his quotes that are so applicable to today.

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 an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. (1918) [Like anthropogenic global warming?]

All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him...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. (1919) [Obamunism]

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. (1919) [Deniers of man-made global  warming?]


Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. (1919) [all modern administrations and candidates]

All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. 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. (1920)  [The election of Barack Obama?]

The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-bye to the Bill of Rights. (1920) [hmm...a new American revolution?]

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. (1930) [Lindsey Graham?]

If he 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. [Spoken of F.D.R., 1936] [Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi]

The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.  (1949)  [Man-made global warming?]

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. 

Government, like any other organism, refuses to acquiesce in its own extinction. This refusal, of course, involves the resistance to any effort to diminish its powers and prerogatives. There has been no organized effort to keep government down since Jefferson's day. Ever since then the American people have been bolstering up its powers and giving it more and more jurisdiction over their affairs. They pay for that folly in increased taxes and diminished liberties. No government as such is ever in favor of the freedom of the individual. It invariably seeks to limit that freedom, if not by overt denial, then by seeking constantly to widen its own functions.  [the Democratic Party today]

The only guarantee of the Bill of Rights which continues to have any force and effect is the one prohibiting quartering troops on citizens in time of peace. All the rest have been disposed of by judicial interpretation and legislative whittling. Probably the worst thing that has happened in America in my time is the decay of confidence in the courts. No one can be sure any more that in a given case they will uphold the plainest mandate of the Constitution. On the contrary, everyone begins to be more or less convinced in advance that they won't. Judges are chosen not because they know the Constitution and are in favor of it, but precisely because they appear to be against it. [activist judges, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Democrat appointments]

I found these quotes at Wikiquote, which has many more quotes if you are interested.





4 comments:

Stogie said...

very good

Stogie said...

"the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins"

Such as Saddam!  And now Iran!

Stogie said...

I always liked his "wink at a homely girl" line.

Stogie said...

Yes, he said:
<span>If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.</span>