25 April 2012

Enlightened Author, April Edition

I'm planning on highlighting the work of various authors who have changed the way people write, interact, and think about the world around us in a positive way.  Sort of a geneaological look at the thinkers who have advanced the cause of the Effective Tribe since the time of Adam Smith and John Locke. 

This month's subject is a man who excoriated idiots in the first half of the twentieth century, H.L. Mencken.  Mencken is one of the few who foresaw the terrible results of the New Deal reforms, the creation of the Fed, and the beginning of the egalitarian larceny that we have suffered under since before WWII.  Below is a very good look at the life and work of this member of the effective tribe, written by Murray Rothbard in 1962.

Here's an excerpt from Rothbard's article that explains a good deal of the man's character:

"Any man who is an individualist and a libertarian in this day and age has a difficult row to hoe. He finds himself in a world marked, if not dominated, by folly, fraud, and tyranny. He has, if he is a reflecting man, three possible courses of action open to him: (1) he may retire from the social and political world into his private occupation: in the case of Mencken's early partner, George Jean Nathan, he can retire into a world of purely esthetic contemplation; (2) he can set about to try to change the world for the better, or at least to formulate and propagate his views with such an ultimate hope in mind; or, (3) he can stay in the world, enjoying himself immensely at this spectacle of folly. To take this third route requires a special type of personality with a special type of judgment about the world. He must, on the one hand, be an individualist with a serene and unquenchable sense of self-confidence; he must be supremely "inner-directed" with no inner shame or quaking at going against the judgment of the herd. He must, secondly, have a supreme zest for enjoying life and the spectacle it affords; he must be an individualist who cares deeply about liberty and individual excellence, but who can – from that same dedication to truth and liberty – enjoy and lampoon a society that has turned its back on the best that it can achieve. And he must, thirdly, be deeply pessimistic about any possibility of changing and reforming the ideas and actions of the vast majority of his fellow-men. He must believe that boobus Americanus is doomed to be boobus Americanus forevermore. Put these qualities together, and we are a long way toward explaining the route taken by Henry Louis Mencken."

Some Mencken quotes:

-"A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there. "

-"A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin. "

-"A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. "

-"A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers. "

-"A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them. "

-"A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married. "

-"A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in. "

-"A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier. "

-"A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground. "

H. L. Mencken

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