H.L. Mencken Quotes

97+ H.L. Mencken Quotes

H.L. Mencken was a prominent American journalist, cultural critic, and satirist known for his acerbic wit and unapologetic opinions.

His quotes reflect his unique perspective and style, and some of their characteristics include:

  • Bluntness: Mencken was known for his frank and direct approach, and his quotes often reflect this characteristic. He didn’t mince words or shy away from controversial topics.
  • Wit: Mencken’s quotes often display a sharp sense of humor and clever wordplay. He was a master of the one-liner and was able to pack a lot of meaning into a short sentence.
  • Irony: Mencken’s quotes often contain a sense of irony or sarcasm, as he used humor to skewer the conventions and hypocrisies of American society.
  • Critical of American society and politics: Mencken was a fierce critic of American society and politics. His quotes often target the social and political issues of his time, and his criticisms are often still relevant today. Many applied some of Mencken’s criticisms from the 1920s to American politics of the 2010s and 2020s (e.g., Donald Trump era).
  • Contrarian: Mencken was not afraid to go against the popular opinion of his time, and his quotes often express views that are outside the mainstream.

Overall, H.L. Mencken’s quotes are characterized by their wit, bluntness, and critical perspective, making them thought-provoking and memorable.

We have many to share in this article.

Let’s take a look.

H.L. Mencken Quotes

H.L. Mencken Quotes

Here are some notable H.L. Mencken quotes:

  1. “The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself.”
  2. “A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.”
  3. “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”
  4. “A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
  5. “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”
  6. “A man always remembers his first love with special tenderness, but after that he begins to bunch them.”
  7. “The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true.”
  8. “There is always a well-known solution to every human problem–neat, plausible, and wrong.”
  9. “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
  10. “Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another.”
  11. “In war, the human factor counts more than the hardware.”
  12. “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels.”
  13. “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
  14. “The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth.”
  15. “Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.”
  16. “The only way to deal with a world that’s gone mad is to become crazier than it.”
  17. “A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”
  18. “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”
  19. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
  20. “The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.”
  21. “The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.”
  22. “I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty.”
  23. “A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.”
  24. “The one permanent emotion of the inferior man is fear – fear of the unknown, the complex, the inexplicable. What he wants above everything else is safety.”
  25. “The most interesting man in the world is not the one who has had the most adventures, but the one who has recounted them most interestingly.”
  26. “A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers.”
  27. “The theory seems to be that as long as a man is a failure he is one of God’s children, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil.”
  28. “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”
  29. “The men the American public admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
  30. “The most important thing in life is to make money. The second most important thing in life is to keep the money you make.” (Sounds like Warren Buffett to us.)
  31. “It is inaccurate to say that I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office.”
  32. “A celebrity is one who is known to many persons he is glad he doesn’t know.”
  33. “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.”
  34. “A man’s women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity.”
  35. “There is no more dangerous notion in all of human psychology than that the rich are somehow better than the poor.”
  36. “The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.”
  37. “The older I grow the less I care about what others think of me, and the more I care about what I think of myself.”
  38. “The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore. It is not so much a war as an endless standing in line.”
  39. “There is no sin so great as ignorance. Remember this.”
  40. “The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.”
  41. “The most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice.”
  42. “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
  43. “It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull.”
  44. “A man may be a pessimistic determinist before lunch and an optimistic believer in the will’s freedom after it.”
  45. “The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
  46. “The kind of man who demands that government enforce his ideas is always the kind whose ideas are idiotic.”
  47. “A great artist is always before his time or behind it.”
  48. “All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it.”
  49. “Whenever a man’s friends begin to compliment him about looking young, he may be sure that they think he is growing old.”
  50. “An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.”
  51. “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”
  52. “To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.”
  53. “The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”
  54. “The average man does not know what to do with his life, yet wants another one which will last forever.”
  55. “To be able to criticize one’s self is the mark of an educated man.”
  56. “All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door.”
  57. “The universe is a big place, perhaps the biggest.”
  58. “The older I get, the more I realize that the ultimate luxury is time.”
  59. “The more a man loves the poorer he is.”
  60. “Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.”
  61. “It is not so much that the world has grown so much worse but that news coverage has grown so much better.”
  62. “A man who boasts that he is a self-made man spares his admirers the truth.”
  63. “The difference between a politician and a snail is that the snail leaves its slime behind.”
  64. “It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.”
  65. “The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”
  66. “The human race is faced with a cruel choice: work or daytime television.”
  67. “The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos.”
  68. “One of the most important things to remember about infantile people is that they regard themselves as giants, and they are terrified beyond all reason of being discovered to be insignificant.”
  69. “The best way to judge a man’s character is to see how he treats people he does not have to treat well.”
  70. “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.”
  71. “The average man, whatever his faults, likes to believe that the world is orderly and sane, and that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.”
  72. “Love is like war, easy to begin but very hard to stop.”
  73. “There is no such thing as a good tax.”
  74. “A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier.”
  75. “The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.”
  76. “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”
  77. “An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.”
  78. “The best way to preserve your dignity is to lower your expectations.”
  79. “The only way to avoid being miserable is not to have enough leisure to wonder whether you are happy or not.”
  80. “The most common characteristic of civilization is a low boredom threshold.”
  81. “Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.”
  82. “The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.”
  83. “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
  84. “The art of newspaper paragraphing is to stroke a platitude until it purrs like an epigram.”
  85. “A man’s home may be his castle on the outside; inside, it is more often his nursery.”
  86. “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
  87. “I am suspicious of all the things that the average people believe.”
  88. “The most beautiful woman in the world is the one who compliments you.”
  89. “Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”
  90. “An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.”
  91. “Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.”
  92. “The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top, there is no limit to oppression.”
  93. “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
  94. “The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s goodbye to the Bill of Rights.”
  95. “The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.”
  96. “Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.”
  97. “The older I get, the less I listen to what people say and the more I look at what they do.”
  98. “The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty–and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.”

H.L. Mencken Quotes

Conclusion – H.L. Mencken Quotes

H.L. Mencken was a highly influential American journalist and critic whose quotes continue to be popular and relevant today.

His acerbic wit, bluntness, and critical perspective set him apart from other writers of his time, and his commentary on politics, society, and culture remains highly regarded.

Whether through his biting criticisms of the government, or his humorous observations on human nature, Mencken’s quotes have endured and continue to provoke thought and reflection.

Through his work, Mencken has left an indelible mark on American culture and his quotes will continue to be studied and appreciated for many years to come.

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