H. L. Mencken Quotes (displaying: 1 - 10 of 272 quotes)
It seems to be difficult if not impossible for human beings to avoid thinking of government as mystical entity with a nature and a history all its own. It constitutes for them a creature somehow interposed between themselves and the great flow of cosmic events, and they look to it to think for them and to protect them. In democratic countries it is theoretically their agent, but there seems to be a strong tendency to convert the presumably free citizen into its agent, or at all events, its client. This exalted view of its scope, character, powers and autonomy is fundamentally false. A government at bottom is nothing more than a group of men, and as a practical matter most of them are inferior me?. Yet these nonentities, by the intellectual laziness of men in general, have come to a degree of puissance in the world that is unchallenged by that of any other group. Their fiats, however preposterous, are generally obeyed as a matter of duty, they are assumed to have a kind of wisdom that is superior to ordinary wisdom, and the lives of multitudes are willingly sacrificed in their interest.
The state — or, to make matters more concrete, the government — consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting ‘A’ to satisfy ‘B’. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods.