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

H. L. Mencken Quote

“The whole drift of our law is toward the absolute prohibition of all ideas that diverge in the slightest form from the accepted platitudes, and behind that drift of law there is a far more potent force of growing custom, and under that custom there is a natural philosophy which erects conformity into the noblest of virtues and the free functioning of personality into a capital crime against society.”

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

quoted in New York Times Magazine, 9 August 1964

Ratings and Comments

Stevie, STL

I find this true more for minorities and the impoverished than the majority & wealthy in the U.S.

E Archer, NYC

Liberty challenges the status quo. Free thought and independence are still radical ideas -- and as far as the State is concerned, criminal acts.

Tom Barbas, Redford, Michigan

Mencken is almost always right on.

Dick, Fort Worth

Mr. Barbas has it right. Mencken's observation is confirmed by Howard Zinn's statement, "...if you can control history, what people know about it, if you can decide what's in people's history and what's left out, you can order their thinking. You can order their values. You can in effect organize their brains by controlling their knowledge. The people who can do that, who can control the past, are the people who control the present...We should have a history that enhances human values, humane values, values of brotherhood, sisterhood, peace, justice and equality." If Americans really knew our history perhaps our crippling conformity would come to a halt.

Joe, Rochester, MI

That's it Rosenthal, keep believing our country is free ... and 2+2=5.

Richard Kerr, Morgantown, WV

This is the Libertarian's lament. All too true. Sadly, having schools in the hands of goverment cements the whole process together.

Mike, Norwalk

A few examples of conformity that squelches law, freedom, justice and rights is 1) compelled compliance - the government is no longer the representative of We The People but rather, the lords and masters. The concept if "I" the sheeple coward have to do it, you have to do it also. 2) License, derives from the concept that all rights derive from the government and that potent force of growing custom drives such patron's personality into conceptualizing inalienable rights (acting in and of one's self) to be next to a capital crime against society. 3) Larceny with impunity (property / income / insurance / life taxes, funny money, etc.) and the conformity thereto deadens that noble sense of being, the individual no longer comprehending sovereign status as heirs to eternity (rather obedient slaves to the carnal gods in their priesthood / despots in their government.

Ron w13, Or

Who is that shepherd that will stand before me ? Well said Mike, Archer and Dick. Behold he shall come up and fly as the Eagle. Wake up rise up and come to the battle. Gather ye together.

jim k, austin tx

I agree with Tom, Mencken is almost always right on target, especially about government.

jim k, austin tx

The "accepted platitudes" are almost always wrong.

Bobble, No. Ferrisburgh, VT

Not a student of Philosophy, but grew up and lived in a society that used his name from time to time. LOVING this quote: makes me realize why folks were so dedicated to his brain !


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