Our Public Servants

I’ve been spending a few days in our seaside shack, reading a little H. L. Mencken. The collection I have in hand is The Vintage Mencken: Gathered by Alistair Cooke (at a mere $11.96, you should go right ahead and buy it).

In an essay entitled Mr. Justice Holmes, Mencken pauses briefly to assess our legislators:

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.

He also rates our jurists:

The average American judge as everyone knows, is a mere rabbinical automaton, with no more give and take in his mind that you will find in the mind of a terrier watching a rathole.

If you haven’t read any Mencken, your life is the poorer: he is one of America’s greatest writers and sharpest wits.

The great tragedy, and supreme irony, of Mencken’s life is that he spent his last eight years rendered aphasic by a cerebral thrombosis, unable to read or write.

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One Comment

  1. Ambrose Bierce defines a politician as “an eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.”

    Posted September 17, 2007 at 7:57 pm | Permalink