H. L. Mencken quotes

[Classic maxim] "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."-- H.L. Mencken (eg Infectious scares)

Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing. ---Mencken

"The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth."-H. L. Mencken

"Whenever I write anything that sets up controversy its meaning is distorted almost instantly. Even the editorial writers of newspapers seem to be unable to understand the plainest sentence."--- H.L. Mencken

“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”----H.L. Mencken

"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who loves his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."--- H.L. Mencken

"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

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself... Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable. - H. L. 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."---H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time. - H.L. Mencken 

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. 
- H.L. Mencken 

"Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping, and unintelligent. --H. L. Mencken

"Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under." -H. L. Mencken

Consider [the pedagogue] in his highest incarnation: the university professor. What is his function?  Simply to pass on to fresh generations of numskulls a body of so-called knowledge that is fragmentary, unimportant, and, in large part, untrue. His whole professional activity is circumscribed by the prejudices, vanities and avarices of his university trustees, i.e., a committee of soap-boilers, nail manufacturers, bank-directors and politicians. The moment he offends these vermin he is undone. He cannot so much as think aloud without running a risk of having them fan his pantaloons. http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/mencken.htm

The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics
is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there
is no limit to oppression.

A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn't know.
H. L. Mencken
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Cynicism]


A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Laws]


All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Lies]


All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.
H. L. Mencken


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


Criticism is prejudice made plausible.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Criticism] [Prejudice]


Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Democracy]


For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the-not-worth-knowing.
H. L. Mencken
- More quotations on: [Religion]