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Notes on Democracy Notes on Democracy by H.L. Mencken
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“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance. No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“Public opinion, in its raw state, gushes out in the immemorial form of the mob's fear. It is piped into central factories, and there it is flavored and colored, and put into cans.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“It takes advantage of every passing craze and delusion of the mob to dispose of those who oppose it, and it maintains a complex and highly effective machine for launching such crazes and delusions when the supply of them lags.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“An intelligent man is one who is capable of taking in knowledge until the natural limits of the species are reached.. A stupid man is one whose progress is arrested at some specific time and place before then. There thus appears in psychology - and the next instant in politics - the concept of the unteachable. Some men can learn almost indefinitely; their capacity goes on increasing until their bodies begin to wear out. Others stop in childhood, even in infancy. They reach, say , the mental age of ten or twelve, and then they develop no more. Physically, they become men, and sprout beards, political delusions, and the desire to propagate their kind. But mentally they remain on the level of schoolboys.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“His condition had plainly improved. Once a slave , he was now only a serf. Once condemned to silence, he was now free to criticize his masters, and even to flout them, and the ordinances of God with them..”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“It remains impossible, as it was in the eighteenth century, to separate the democratic idea from the theory that there is a mystical merit, an esoteric and ineradicable rectitude, in the man at the bottom of the scale – that inferiority, by some strange magic, becomes a sort of superiority – nay, the superiority of superiorities. Everywhere on earth, save where the enlightenment of the modern age is confessedly in transient eclipse, the movement is toward the completer and more enamoured enfranchisement of the lower orders. Down there, one hears, lies a deep, illimitable reservoir of righteousness and wisdom, unpolluted by the corruption of privilege.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“. . .under democracy” he writes “. . .Two branches reveal themselves. There is the art of the demagogue, and there is the art of what may be called…the demaslave. . .The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots. The demaslave is one who listens to what these idiots have to say and then pretends that he believes it himself. Every man who seeks elective office under democracy has to be either the one thing or the other, and most men have to be both . . .No educated man, stating plainly the elementary notions that every educated man holds about the matters that principally concern government, could be elected to office in a democratic state, save perhaps by a miracle.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“Politics under democracy consists almost wholly of the discovery, chase and scotching of bugaboos.The statesman becomes, in the last analysis, a mere witch-hunter, a glorified smeller and snooper, eternally chanting 'Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum!”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“It is a tragic but inescapable fact that most of the finest fruits of human progress, like all of the nobler virtues of man, are the exclusive possession of small minorities, chiefly unpopular and disreputable.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“It was of the essence of the courtier's art and mystery that he flattered his employer in order to victimize him, yielded to him in order to rule him. The politician under democracy does precisely the same thing. His business is never what it pretends to be. Ostensibly he is anal truist devoted whole-heartedly to the service of his fellow-men, and so abjectly public-spirited that his private interest is nothing to him. Actually he is a sturdy rogue whose principal, and often sole aim in life is to butter his parsnips.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy
“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.”
H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy