Henry Louis Mencken,
1880 – 1956
Mencken is often cynical
and shallow, but sometimes amusing or interesting.
- No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating
the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.
Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
- Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere,
may be happy.
- Democracy is the theory that the common people know
what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
- The most dangerous man to any government is the man
who is able to think things out without regard to the
prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably
he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives
under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.
- The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the
populace alarmed (and hence clamourous to be led to
safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins,
all of them imaginary.
- It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I
am strongly in favour of common sense, common honesty,
and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible
for public office.
- An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell
better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make
- 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.
- It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid
pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is
still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.
(Comment on the Vatican’s
approval of ‘the rhythm method’ of contraception,
which widely became known as ‘Vatican roulette’.)
- Communism, like any other revealed religion, is largely
made up of prophecies.
- Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom
of individual ignorance.
- A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest
- For every complex problem there is an answer that
is clear, simple, and wrong.
- I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not
believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone.
- I go on working for the same reason that a hen goes
on laying eggs.
- If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents,
he would promise them missionaries for dinner.
- Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would
want to live in an institution?
- If women believed in their husbands they would be
a good deal happier and also a good deal more foolish.
- Temptation is a woman’s weapon and man’s
- It is even harder for the average ape to believe that
he has descended from man.
- But the right to freedom obviously includes the right
to be foolish. If what I say must be passed over for
its sagacity by censors, however wise and prudent, then
I have no free speech. And if what I may believe - about
gall-stones, the Constitution or God - is conditioned
by law, then I am not a free man.
from Christian Science,
- [The aim of public education is not] to fill the young
of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence.
... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim
... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible
to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized
citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That
is its aim in the United States... and that is its aim
everywhere else. The American
Mercury, April 1924
Thanx to Joe
Hutcheon for bringing this writer to my closer attention.