Mencken on Government
By David Henderson
Some of my Facebook friends are celebrating H.L. Mencken’s birthday with their favorite quotes from Mencken. One that pops up again and again is this one:
Democracy is the theory that the common man knows what he wants and deserves to get it, good and hard.
That’s my second-favorite Mencken quote on democracy. Here’s my favorite:
If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x X y is less than y.
Here is another favorite:
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.
In looking up quotes from Mencken, I was surprised to find this one, which I’m used to seeing on bumper stickers of cars driven by relatively left-wing people:
If you want peace, work for justice.
I like it even though I don’t totally agree with it. I think a better way of working for peace is to work for freedom. So here’s my quote, not from Mencken but from Henderson:
If you want peace, work for freedom.