More from Mencken

Further wisdom from the Sage of Baltimore.

  • – 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.
  • – The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
  • – Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.
  • – Nature abhors a moron.
  • – Hanging one scoundrel, it appears, does not deter the next. Well, what of it? The first one is at least disposed of.
  • – A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.
  • – All government, of course, is against liberty.
  • – 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.
  • – An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
  • – Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.
  • – Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking.
  • – Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
  • – Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
  • – Don’t overestimate the decency of the human race.
  • – Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.
  • – Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.
  • – I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.
  • – I write in order to attain that feeling of tension relieved and function achieved which a cow enjoys on giving milk.
  • – Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what sting is justice.
  • – Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what sting is justice.
  • – Temptation is an irresistible force at work on a movable body.
  • – It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. That would be an extension of pragmatism beyond endurance. Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence. The defense of religion is full of such logical imbecilities.
  • – The common argument that crime is caused by poverty is a kind of slander on the poor.
  • – The only cure for contempt is counter-contempt.
  • – The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
  • – The ideal government of reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone.
  • – As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. 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.
  • – Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.
  • – It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
  • – A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.
  • – Truth would quickly cease to become stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
  • – A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.
  • – Firmness in decision is often merely a form of stupidity. It indicates an inability to think the same thing out twice.
  • – 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.
  • – Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband’s clothes… I advocate hanging on as long as possible.
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3 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    “Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.”

    Isn’t there a quote often attributed to Twain that says something like, “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt”? Or is this just a bastardized version of Mencken?

    “As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. 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.”

    And as we turn our gaze to the Oval Office…

    “A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.”

    This brings a certain prisms-loving thinker to mind.

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

    My favorite of the quotations listed.

    Kevin

    Posted September 22, 2007 at 3:57 am | Permalink
  2. peter says

    I object to Kevin’s implication that George Bush is a moron. It’s unfair to morons.

    Posted September 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    There are so many great ones here, and I only skimmed the cream. The man was extraordinary.

    Posted September 22, 2007 at 7:26 pm | Permalink