H.L. Mencken Quotes

Fine: a bribe paid by a rich man to escape the lawful penalty of his crime.

In the United States, alone among the great nations of history, there is a right way to think and a wrong way to think in everything…in the most trivial matters of everyday life.

Democracy is based upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even half-wits would argue it to pieces.

The ideal state for a philosopher, indeed, is celibacy tempered by polygamy.

Philosophy first constructs a scheme of happiness and then tries to fit the world to it…

School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.

The proof of an idea is not to be sought in the soundness of the man fathering it, but in the soundness of the idea itself. One asks of a pudding, not if the cook who offers it is a good woman, but if the pudding itself is good.

In brief, she assumed that, being a man, I was vain to the point of imbecility, and this assumption was correct, as it always is.

The basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.

It would surprise no independent 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.

One is always most bitter, not toward the author of one’s wrongs, but toward the victim of one’s wrongs.

The surest way to get on in politics in America is to play the leading part in a prosecution which attracts public notice.

Every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.

It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American law…that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts.

After all, the world is not our handiwork, and we are not responsible for what goes on in it, save within very narrow limits.

Good government is that which delivers the citizen from the risk of being done out of his life and property too arbitrarily and violently — one that relieves him sufficiently from the barbaric business of guarding them to enable him to engage in gentler, more dignified and more agreeable undertakings…

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?

Government under democracy is thus government by orgy, almost by orgasm.

The average man doesn’t want to be free. He wants to be safe.

Manifestly, it is impossible to put any such trust in a Puritan. With the best intentions in the world he cannot rid himself of the delusion that it is his duty to save us from our sins…

So long as theologians keep within their proper bounds, science has no quarrel with them, for it is no more able to prove that they are wrong then they themselves are able to prove that they are right. But human experience shows that they never keep within their proper bounds voluntarily; they are always bulging over the line, and making a great uproar over things that they know nothing about.

The fundamental purpose of education, in college as in the high-school and so on down to the kindergarten, is to set the young mind upon a track, and keep it running there in all decorum. The task of a pedagogue, in other words, is not to turn out anarchists, but to turn out correct and respectable citizens.

It is the invariable habit of bureaucracies, at all times and everywhere, to assume…that every citizen is a criminal.

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.

The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.

The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. …. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on “I am not too sure.”

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.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

Free speech is too dangerous to a democracy to be permitted.

Bachelors know more about women than married men; if they didn’t, they’d be married too.

Nobody ever went broke underestimating the American public

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

The danger in free speech does not lie in the menace of ideas, but in the menace of emotions. If words were merely logical devices no one would fear them. But when they impinge upon a moron they set off his hormones, and so they are justifyably feared. Complete free speech, under democracy, is possible only in a foreign language. Perhaps that is what we shall come to in the end. Anyone will be free to say what he pleases in Latin, but everything in English will be censored by prudent job holders.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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