Talk:H.L. Mencken

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The quote I added, by the way, was reportedly real. I found it used by one of the writers of Skeptic Magazine in describing a book. It was the December issue of 2009 I believe. — Unsigned, by: 71.7.245.53 / talk / contribs

"and libertarians have attempted to claim him as one of their own" In fact, in 1922, he explicitly described himself as a libertarian 78.147.106.106 (talk) 08:12, 11 January 2014 (UTC)

Rationalwiki and pathological lying[edit]

He praised Coolidge, hated unions, said the government spent too much, was enamored with Ayn Rand, and called himself "an extreme libertarian". One reason he probably associated himself with democrats is once upon a time, before Wilson and progressives of all parties, Democrats had been the party of small government in the late nineteenth century, ala Grover Cleveland. Hoover had already intervened quite a bit and some thought FDR would move away from that. It was one of the few things Mencken got wrong. The attempt to say that Mencken's affinity for the old small government democrats means he therefore wasn't a libertarian (when small government and stupid progressives were two of his favorites subjects) is an obvious fraud. Rationalwiki: Not just stupid but also liars. Burkean (talk) 10:23, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

And the citations you have to back up your assertions? 75.72.230.174 (talk) 11:00, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

Mencken on Coolidge: "There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He was not a nuisance." He also expressed the wish that Coolidge would've remained president. Don't believe me? Then look it up. Mencken on unions: "It cannot denounce one man for robbing the government and stand by silently when another man is robbed by the government". Don't believe me? Look it up. In 1933, Mencken reviewed Allen Nevins' book about Grover Cleveland for The American Mercury entitled 'A Study in Courage' in which he praises Cleveland as one of our greatest, and certainly one of our most underrated presidents. Many like to go on about the disparaging things that Mencken said about the south. In addition to that, he also said that it was the confederates who were fighting for self determination, not the north. Consider this quote:

"The Gettysburg speech was at once the most shortest and the most famous oration in American history...the highest emotion reduced to a few poetical phrases. Lincoln himself never even remotely approached it. It is genuinely stupendous. But let us not forget that it is poetry not logic; beauty, not sense. Think of the argument in it. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: That the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination. It was the confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves."

His view of the southern aristocracy: "men of delicate fancy, urbane instinct and aristocratic manner — in brief, superior men. It was there, above all, that some attention was given to the art of living — a certain noble spaciousness was in the ancient southern scheme of things.”

His view of reconstruction: “First the carpetbaggers ravaged the land, and then it fell into the hands of the native white trash, already so poor that war and Reconstruction could not make them any poorer.”

His view on what would've happened if the south had won the war: “My guess is that the two Republics would be getting on pretty amicably." "They would not now be in the clutch of the yankee mortgage shark."

What did Mencken think would've happened with slavery?: “No doubt the Confederates, victorious, would have abolished slavery by the middle of the 80s. They were headed that way before the war, and the more sagacious of them were all in favor of it. But they were in favor of it on sound economic grounds, and not on the brummagem moral grounds which persuaded the North.”

There were of course several reasons for all of this. One was that Mencken saw in much of reconstruction the same sanctimonious idealism he had seen in prohibition, which he took quite the personal loathing towards. Not to mention the fact that both schemes utterly failed. Also, while the southern gentlemen who believed in culture and things that Mencken valued were certainly not the aristocracy of merit that Mencken envisioned, they possessed many of the qualities (refinement, sophistication, culture, self discipline) which he did admire. Mencken certainly acknowledged that most of each army was composed of what he called the booboise, and that to defend slavery was a sign of weak character in a man. But he still admired much of the ethic which they represented. Again, actually quoting Mencken proves to be quite revealing:

“I am not arguing here, of course, that the whole Confederate army was composed of gentlemen; on the contrary, it was chiefly made up, like the Federal army, of innocent and unwashed peasants, and not a few of them got into its corps of officers. But the impulse behind it, as everyone knows, was essentially aristocratic, and that aristocratic impulse would have fashioned the Confederacy if the fortunes of war had run the other way.”

But enough of that. Let's get back to what Mencken said about big government, changes in the democratic party, Cleveland and so forth. Many if not all of the so called progressive reforms Mencken looked upon with contempt. Government intrusion into industries, government mandating of schooling, of pay, of working hours, blocking out competitors to protect monopolies so that government could get some of the profits. Mencken despised all this. He hated the TRs and the Wilsons of the world who thought themselves competent to remake the world. Of course, this also comes from the fact that Mencken believed the great mass of humanity was brutish and incapable of grasping freedom and liberty and so the idea that they could be mobilized was laughable. Hence, his utter distaste for democracy. He saw the contempt that these anointed ones had for the masses. The difference was Mencken was honest about it, and still believed in freedom, and did not believe in dishonestly hiding his contempt in order to use that ravel to gain power.

One great anecdote Mencken gave for the folly that positive things were achieved more often than not with collective action was folk music. It was not the community which made such songs but original individual artists who were not known to recorded time who works were passed on. It was the work of individuals, not the community. This also goes to the point that rationalwiki flat out lied when they acted as though libertarians falsely claimed him. Mencken said "I am an extreme libertarian". That's fairly unambiguous. But you don't even have to settle for that. Go on youtube and find an audio recording of an interview that he did later in his life. He's literally on tape saying he is a libertarian. Rationalwiki probably should've done some research first. For a little context, here's Mencken's take on the reforms taking place during the progressive era:

"What lies behind all this, I believe, is a deep sense of the fundamental antagonism between the government and the people it governs. It is apprehended, not as a committee of citizens chosen to carry on the communal business of the whole population, but as a separate and autonomous corporation, mainly devoted to exploiting the population for the benefit of its own members. Robbing it is thus an act almost devoid of infamy…. When a private citizen is robbed a worthy man is deprived of the fruits of his industry and thrift; when the government is robbed the worst that happens is that certain rogues and loafers have less money to play with than they had before. The notion that they have earned that money is never entertained; to most sensible men it would seem ludicrous. They are simply rascals who, by accidents of law, have a somewhat dubious right to a share in the earnings of their fellow men. When that share is diminished by private enterprise the business is, on the whole, far more laudable than not.

This gang is well-nigh immune to punishment. Its worst extortions, even when they are baldly for private profit, carry no certain penalties under our laws. Since the first days of the Republic, less than a dozen of its members have been impeached, and only a few obscure understrappers have ever been put into prison. The number of men sitting at Atlanta and Leavenworth for revolting against the extortions of government is always ten times as great as the number of government officials condemned for oppressing the taxpayers to their own gain…. There are no longer any citizens in the world; there are only subjects. They work day in and day out for their masters; they are bound to die for their masters at call…. On some bright tomorrow, a geological epoch or two hence, they will come to the end of their endurance…."

And there's this on the folks in government: "These men, in point of fact, are seldom if ever moved by anything rationally describable as public spirit; there is actually no more public spirit among them than among so many burglars or street-walkers. Their purpose, first, last and all the time, is to promote their private advantage, and to that end, and that end alone, they exercise all the vast powers that are in their hands…. Whatever it is they seek, whether security, greater ease, more money or more power, it has to come out of the common stock, and so it diminishes the shares of all other men. Putting a new job-holder to work decreases the wages of every wage-earner in the land… Giving a job-holder more power takes something away from the liberty of all of us…."

And here's Mencken on what he thinks government is for: "It is, perhaps, a fact provocative of sour mirth that the Bill of Rights was designed trustfully to prohibit forever two of the favorite crimes of all known governments: the seizure of private property without adequate compensation and the invasion of the citizen’s liberty without justifiable cause…. It is a fact provocative of mirth yet more sour that the execution of these prohibitions was put into the hands of courts, which is to say, into the hands of lawyers, which is to say, into the hands of men specifically educated to discover legal excuses for dishonest, dishonorable and anti-social acts."

And here's Mencken on being a classical liberal and how progressivism is/was ruining it: "If this is Liberalism, then all I can say is that Liberalism is not what it was when I was young"

Mencken on capitalism: "We owe to it almost everything that passes under the general name of civilization today. The extraordinary progress of the world since the Middle Ages has not been due to the mere expenditure of human energy, nor even to the flights of human genius, for men have worked hard since the remotest times, and some of them had been of surpassing intellect. No, it has been due to the accumulation of capital. That accumulation…provided the machinery that gradually diminished human drudgery, and liberated the spirit of the worker, who had formerly been almost indistinguishable from a mule"

Mencken compared the new deal to highway robbery (see correspondence with Hamilton Owens) and had this to say when Upton Sinclair made a similar claim to what rationalwikians frequently do when they claim government does it better:

"Your questions are easy. The government brings my magazine to you only unwillingly. It tried to ruin my business, [The American Mercury] and failed only by an inch. It charges too much for postal orders, and loses too many of them. A corporation of idiot Chinamen could do the thing better. Its machine for putting out fires is intolerably expensive and inefficient. It seldom, in fact, actually puts out a fire; they burn out…. The Army had nothing to do with the discovery of the cause of yellow fever. Its bureaucrats persecuted the men who did the work. They could have done it much more quickly if they had been outside the Army. It took years of effort to induce the government to fight mosquitoes, and it does the work very badly today"

Here's HL Mencken's take on libertarian Ernest Benn's book "Confessions of a Capitalist": "Benn devotes most of his book to proving what the majority of Americans regard as axiomatic: that the capitalistic system, whatever its defects, yet works better than any other system so far devised by man. The rest of his space he gives over to proofs that government is inevitably extravagant and wasteful – that nothing it does is ever done as cheaply and efficiently as the same thing might be done by private enterprise. I see nothing to object to here. Even the most precious functions of government – say, collecting taxes or hanging men – would be better done if the doing of them were farmed out to Ford".

The truth is, idiotic liberals who claimed to be his followers assumed that because he opposed protections from government to big business so they could use the state to eliminate competitors, or tariffs restricting trade to protect monopolies, that he was therefore a liberal like them. Which doesn't make any sense as those positions by Mencken are classic free market libertarianism. The truth was he hadn't changed but their perception of him had. As for perhaps Mencken changing his mind, he himself said that his views on life hadn't changed since he was five years old. He learned from his father that there were people who managed their affairs and those who did not. He referred to new dealers as dangerous fanatics, worse than the Rotarians. Look it up. Or if you're too lazy I'll find the exact quote if and when you should respond.

I guess liberals could cling to his religious skepticism and support for evolutionary teaching, but Mencken was actually an agnostic and thought atheism to be equally ridiculous, so there's another point this rational biography gets wrong. Moreover, much of his dislike of religion came not just from the superstitious element, but from the fact that many of the Methodist and other Christians who were pushing prohibition were also pushing for the progressive economic agenda, as they saw capitalism as sinful. And in both instances, they used the mob force of democracy (Jackals leading Jackasses as he put it), where politicians would whip up the fury and then use public sentiment to control the economy and what people drank. This is pretty much as libertarian as it gets.

Another quote perhaps: "The same mountebanks who get to Washington by promising to augment his [the farmer's] gains and make good his losses devote whatever time is left over from that enterprise to saddling the rest of us with oppressive and idiotic laws, all hatched on the farm. There, where the cows low through the still night, and the jug of Peruna stands behind the stove, and bathing begins, as at Biarritz, with the vernal equinox – there is the reservoir of all the non-sensical legislation which makes the United States a buffoon among the great nations. It was among country Methodists, practitioners of a theology degraded almost to the level of voodooism, that Prohibition was invented, and it was by country Methodists…that it was fastened upon the rest of us, to the damage of our bank accounts, our dignity and our viscera. What lay under it, and under all the other crazy enactments of its category, was no more and no less than the yokel’s congenital and incurable hatred of the city man – his simian rage against everyone who, as he sees it, is having a better time than he is"

Moreover the same people pushing for this type of control, were the same people who were also afraid of enterprise and initiative because as people worked hard and rose in society, they would exercise their will and use their wealth as they wished, and of course be greedy and decadent, like those who drank whiskey or visited brothels. So government must come in to control the economy so that we will live for each other, not be greedy please god blah blah blah. In truth, a way to magnify their own importance and power, which is what such notions also did for the government officials. If people did not live for themselves, they could be controlled by the churchmen or the state, looking to remake the world, whether the consequences were good or not, whether it violated people's freedom or not, in order to eradicate that which was a threat to them and that they did not understand.

Bottom line, the rational jackoffs who made this article are bunch of fucking liars when they act as though libertarians can't claim Mencken because he said he was a libertarian umpteen fucking times. He was only a democrat in youth. Their bogus claim that he was a democrat in the sense being talked about comes from an essay Mencken wrote in the 30s called the choice tomorrow, in which he mocks the democratic party, blasts the new deal, and said that people are voting for the democrats in the hope they will return to their small government roots. "I shall vote for the Hon. Mr. Landon tomorrow. To a lifelong Democrat, of course, it will be something of a wrench". This is where they get their claim that he supported Roosevelt. Read the rest of the essay and it proves that rationalwiki is lying their ass off on this one. The guy was free market, anti-interventionist, and live and let live on social issues. In other words, libertarian. Perhaps rationalwiki should remember another quote from Mencken:

"But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant" Burkean (talk) 22:27, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

Unfortunately Burkean is right about mencken, someone should change it.S.H. DeLong (talk) 20:08, 17 November 2015 (UTC)
The thing with Mencken is he hated almost everybody, certainly all politicians. But yes, he was not a "progressive." He hated FDR and the New Deal until the bitter end.---Mona- (talk) 20:17, 17 November 2015 (UTC)
If you can find the references that show what need to be changed, feel free, but not many people are going to do work you want. That user, when I have spoken with him, has a rather lengthy history of making things up. Especially when he's on a crusade against people who disagree with him. Look at his talk page where he's repeatedly made things up about conversations as I attempt to correct him or in Talk:Ron Paul. No one is going to take him at just his word even if it's correct. Like the boy who cried wolf. -EmeraldCityWanderer (talk) 20:20, 17 November 2015 (UTC)
Or you could try, you know, reading Mencken. As Levar would say, don't have to take my word for it. And the Ron Paul article fiasco was a disagreement about policy. I did not lie about Ron Paul. You claim I lie about what you said. I already said I was sorry if I distorted or misinterpreted your views. Why the hell do you keep trolling me? Misstating something you said is not the same as lying about information that pertains to the subject of the article. So, you're the liar. Burkean (talk) 23:40, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

Nice try...[edit]

After I provide numerous examples of his praise for the free market, rationaldipshitwiki manages to fine ONE quote where Mencken is critical of capitalism. Now, how do they plan to deal with the fact that he is on a recording calling himself an extreme libertarian? Burkean (talk) 07:54, 31 July 2014 (UTC)