Thursday, October 16, 2008

Notes on Democracy -- H. L. Mencken

Having just returned from Baltimore, home of H. L. Mencken, I thought I'd take a look at a new edition of H. L. Mencken's Notes on Democracy. Mencken was a pugnacious guy, and he wasn't politically correct. He liked to sting, and he never minded speaking his mind (or writing it). Here's one example: "Under the pressure of fanaticism, and with the mob complacently applauding the show, democratic law tends more and more to be grounded upon the maxim that every citizen is, by nature, a traitor, a libertine, and a scoundrel. In order to dissuade him from his evil-doing the police power is extended until it surpasses anything ever heard of in the oriental monarchies of antiquity."

That's what Mencken wrote back in 1926. The more things change, the more they stay the same, I guess. The book is divided into four sections, and Mencken had his fun with all of society's sacred cows, from religion to law enforcement to government to stupidity in general. Though he was writing more than 80 years ago, what he says is as generally up-to-date as your latest blog post.
I believe I wrote not long ago that I wished Mencken were around to write about the current political campaign. He'd have had a great time.

This new edition has a lengthy introduction and extensive notes. Check it out.


pattinase (abbott) said...

My husband spent a lot of time in the Pratt Library there looking at his work and trying to decipher his loathing for FDR. He had fun.

Anonymous said...

Having read Mencken extensively it is safe to say that he would be no fan of Obama.

Unknown said...

And probably not of anyone else.