H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken, (1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic

H. L. Mencken Quote

“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.”

H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken
~ H. L. Mencken

Ratings and Comments

Jim G., Raleigh, NC

Actually the rest of the quote is more important and is most often omitted: "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."

Mike, Norwalk

5 stars for H. L. Mencken and Jim's comments today. I believe one of the most sad aspects of current elections is the deception that voters are electing someone to represent them - then comes the reality of Jim's statement and Supreme Court decisions / legislators rules/ executive's orders and enforcement.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

And this is as it should me and is as it is meant to be. This is good.The government is us, we are the government. There is much truth to Jim G's addendum. Our history, probably like the history of all societies, does concern economics and the haves and the have nots. From Hamilton and his New York Mob of haves to Jackson and his Southern and Western Mob of have nots, to Grant etc and his Gilded Age of robber barons to Roosevelt's New Deal. The beauty of America has been in its pragmatism, but will we ever reach economic nirvana.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

The dichotomy seen in the philosophies of some on this site is due to a different understanding of human nature. The philosopy of Democracy recognises the humanity of people and the fact that they make mistakes. People are not perfect and neither is their government. A "Natural Law" approach or some other concrete set in stone philosophy like communism or fascism does not allow for mistakes. Strong men who espouse these set in stone philosphies of course are perfection and never err and their every word must be followed. As Churchill said, democracy stinks but not as bad as all the rest.

jim k, austin

H.L. ,as usual, hit the nail directly on the head. I don't see it improving in the near future.

Mike, Norwalk

(-; oops ;-) forgot to put my 5 stars. For those of us that realize the concrete - set in stone Natural Law (can not continue to spend more than you take in, can not tooerate murder, larceny, etc.) exists, no matter how many mistakes man makes in its administration, we accept freedom of choice and know that no matter what code, regulation, rule, or statute man passess, it is despotism, tyranny, etc. unless it is in harmony with said law. Strong men who espouse these set in stone philosphies of course are not perfect and do err and their every word is nothing more than their every word. It is for man to discover the concrete - set in stone law and pass codes, regulation, rules, statutes in harmony therewith. When man errs, it is for him to recognize such error and attempt to correct the code, regulation, rule, statute, etc. to further freedom and liberty. As for Churchill, the U.S. broke away from such incorrect philosophies.

E Archer, NYC

Mencken as usual is right on. Waffler as usual is trying to be all things to all people while agreeing with Mencken's condemnation and yet condoning and encouraging the practice. The only 'dichotomy' is in Waffler's double-think. We witness him daily try to resolve the unresolvable, justify the illogical, and legitimize the unlawful. No wonder all he sees is 'dichotomy.' There is no paradox, my friend, it is merely that you are ignoring that which is obvious to Mencken and to the rest of us who can clearly see through the 'dazzling brilliance' of horse manure. The 'dichotomy' is but your own 'hypocrisy.'

Goop, Gloucester

Thank you for the addendum, Jim. Waffler, that isn't what Churchill said. If you're going to quote someone at least be accurate. It shouldn't be too difficult to find the quote you paraphrased. Hmmm, maybe a website might have it?

Ken, Allyn, WA

I'll have to disagree with Mencken somewhat here. I would say that government and politicians in particular are only like "you and me" if you and I deserve to be sitting in lockup in the penitentiary for crimes committed. Their only particular talent is for not getting caught.

jim k, Austin

Exactly right.


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