These cynical but witty H.L. Mencken quotes will give you an alternative perspective of American politics, philosophy, and events from the early 20th century.
H.L. Mencken was a scholar, journalist, essayist, and commentator on American affairs.
He followed the philosophy of German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and was outspoken against organized religion and representative democracy.
Mencken was also critical of economics and alternative medicines like chiropractic, though he supported scientific progress.
His commentary on the political affairs of his time was usually very cynical and satiric, though not without wit.
Mencken earned himself national notoriety as a correspondent for the Baltimore Sun.
Don’t forget to also check out these Friedrich Nietzsche quotes on life and love.
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H.L. Mencken quotes criticizing politics
1. “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.” — H.L. Mencken
2. “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.” — H.L. Mencken
3. “Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.” — H.L. Mencken
4. “A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.” — H.L. Mencken
5. “Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.” — H.L. Mencken
6. “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” — H.L. Mencken
7. “If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.” — H.L. Mencken
8. “In the United States, doing good has come to be, like patriotism, a favorite device of persons with something to sell.” — H.L. Mencken
9. “The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic.” — H.L. Mencken
10. “The ideal Government of all reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone – one which barely escapes being no government at all.” — H.L. Mencken
11. “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.” — H.L. Mencken
12. “When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that the old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had one before.” — H.L. Mencken
13. “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.” — H.L. Mencken
14. “It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men.” — H.L. Mencken
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H.L. Mencken quotes criticizing democracy
15. “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” — H.L. Mencken
16. “Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.” — H.L. Mencken
17. “Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.” — H.L. Mencken
18. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H.L. Mencken
19. “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.” — H.L. Mencken
20. “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.” — H.L. Mencken
H.L. Mencken quotes commentating on humanity
21. “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” — H.L. Mencken
22. “The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.” — H.L. Mencken
23. “Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong.” — H.L. Mencken
24. “The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice, and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely.” — H.L. Mencken
25. “The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line. The objection to it is not that it is predominantly painful, but that it is lacking in sense.” — H.L. Mencken
What did you learn from these H.L. Mencken quotes?
H.L. Mencken is considered one of the most influential journalists of the 20th century.
Because of the controversial stance that his writing took, his essays and correspondences offered a unique perspective that went against the opinions of the majority of the population.
Mencken’s satirical approach offered humorous criticism no matter what current event was taking place.
His writings on prohibition offered the same dry humor as his writings on the Great Depression.
Mencken is also known for publishing The American Language, a book that looked at idioms and expressions that were unique to American English as opposed to European English.
At the time of his death in 1956, Mencken was the leading authority on the language of the American people.
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