Quote of the Day

by on October 29, 2016 at 11:26 am in Current Affairs, Political Science | Permalink

Mencken of course:

I enjoy democracy immensely. It is incomparably idiotic, and hence incomparably amusing. Does it exalt dunderheads, cowards, trimmers, frauds, cads? Then the pain of seeing them go up is balanced and obliterated by the joy of seeing them come down. Is it inordinately wasteful, extravagant, dishonest? Then so is every other form of government: all alike are enemies to laborious and virtuous men. Is rascality at the very heart of it? Well, we have borne that rascality since 1776, and continue to survive. In the long run, it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself – that civilization, at bottom, is nothing but a colossal swindle. I do not know: I report only that when the suckers are running well the spectacle is infinitely exhilarating. But I am, it may be, a somewhat malicious man: my sympathies, when it comes to suckers, tend to be coy. What I can’t make out is how any man can believe in democracy who feels for and with them, and is pained when they are debauched and made a show of.

1 anon October 29, 2016 at 11:36 am

That is a fun quote. I think the answer to the closing question is that the balance between idealists/rascals and citizens/suckers is very important. When it goes badly out of balance societies fall into traps. Venezuela and Kansas are actually in similar traps. They have rascals, they are suckers, they refuse to wise up.

2 Dmitri Helios October 29, 2016 at 11:57 am

Lol I live in Kansas and life is great here. I enjoy great local government and my kids go to good public schools and they don’t run out of toilet paper at my local Wal-Mart. Unlike Venezuela. The left is so hilarious in their exaggerations. Go live in Venezuela you liberal fag.

3 anon October 29, 2016 at 11:59 am

I am a center-left ex-Republican, who follows the news:

Kansas Ends Bad Economic News by Not Reporting It

Sorry, from the outside that stuff seems full on Hugo Chavez. Enjoy.

4 anon October 29, 2016 at 12:08 pm

“center-left” .. heh, my fingers did that. lol.

5 Jason Bayz October 29, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Or a Freudian slip from a concern troll.

6 Anon October 29, 2016 at 5:21 pm

Haha exposed

7 anon October 29, 2016 at 5:28 pm

It is funny. But to address this “concern troll” thing, it is a particular weirdnesses of these times that being right, and especially compassionate, publicly, is a bad thing.

How odd. It must really come from people who know they have a weak or uncompassionate, position to argue.

8 Anon7 October 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Sanctimoniously proclaiming one’s alleged superior compassion (contrasted with the mean-spirited, greedy, etc.) is the tedious meme of the left these days.

9 anon October 29, 2016 at 8:21 pm

I would think that if you do have a good, moral, position you can frame it as compassion. Free markets are good because they give everyone a chance, etc. It is harder to argue, say, that a reduction in public health spending is compassionate. It might just be hard and greedy (depending on levels and needs).

10 Urso October 29, 2016 at 6:13 pm

Why stop at a Chavez comparison when Hitler, Mao, and Judas Iscariot are also available?

11 MikeP October 30, 2016 at 12:47 am

Unemployment is below the national average. Lefties need to look for a new example.

12 Just Saying October 29, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Do you live in Westboro?

13 HL October 29, 2016 at 6:36 pm

Kansas has turned into a punching bag for libs who are too good to move there even if they did pass the policies they wanted. Life there is good, unemployment is low and the cost of living is one of the lowest in the country. There are a handful of rural (and therefore subsidized by the state) schools that have needed to adjust their budget or cut the school year by a couple days. There would never be enough government spending for libs but Kansas spends as much per student as California does. Both are middle of the pack in terms of spending.

Kansas is often boring and generally wholesome, cultural anathema to the left. If it becomes Venezuela it will be due to the influx of migrants, not because of tax policy.

14 Sam the Sham October 29, 2016 at 7:56 pm

Kansan here. It’s horrible, Every night it’s a coin toss if I should crack open my neighbor’s skull and feast on the goo inside. Whatever you do, stay away, especially if you’re a progressive… please. This penance is ours alone to bear.

In all seriousness, there’s a very large population of hispanics, so illegal immigration is an issue. Our budget issues stem partly from low oil prices and agricultural misfortune. Brownback’s tax cuts do not appear to have brought enough jobs to offset the loss in revenue, and he is robbing the highway fund to paper over our budget problems… and yeah, there are attempts to media-blackout it.

We have a balanced budget amendment, so we don’t have a huge debt from prior years sandbagging us down. We haven’t reached IOU status, which the proud state of California has done before. I’m still more worried about water than our budget, and also more worried about media blackouts or election shenanigans than the budget (while I’m 100% on board with voter ID laws, Kobach has done some underhanded stuff with ballots before).

15 anon October 29, 2016 at 8:16 pm

The commonality is that when your politics lead to poor outcomes, which is more important, political purity or the outcome?

Per the link, Kansas is underperforming relative to its region. Do you ask for better outcomes? Or do you cancel financial reporting and maintain political purity?

That is what doomed Venezuela. They never abandoned their idea of purity.

16 Urso October 30, 2016 at 10:57 am

A strict demand for ideological purity leads to absurd results, like comparing a 20% decrease in the top marginal income tax rates to total government takeover of the economic system.

17 HL October 30, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Total Real GDP is down relative to the surrounding area:

Personal income is not nearly as bad, but not great:

Unemployment is pretty good.

Comparing it to Venezuela or calling the Kansas economy a catastrophe, as is common, is trumplike hyperbole. Kansans don’t live in a post apocalyptic hell hole, life is basically pretty good.

Kansas is still spending roughly as much per student as California and many many other states. Poor outcomes is relative. If the State of Kansas is spending “more efficiently” on education and less funds are being taken by the state, for small government conservative voters this is the proper outcome. Democracy in action.

18 anon October 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm

I was not trying to say Venezuela and Kansas are equal, I was just trying for right and left examples of the same mistake, the classic “keep doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Keep on with political purity and expecting a different economic results.

Or why else cancel that economic reporting?

They clearly are not using it to tune for a better result.

19 HL October 31, 2016 at 12:45 pm

The economic reporting was a gathering of publicly available statistics, generally from federal sources similar to what I posted before. This is an example of the report from February.


Do other states create a report like this?

Is there anything stopping the Journal or the Star from updating this report and publishing it for benefit of the public?

The lesson to be learned is that cutting taxes for a growth of revenues seems to be silly, but it doesn’t mean that cutting taxes isn’t a goal in and of itself. The small government conservative voters of Kansas are getting what they want regardless of the relative lack of growth. Consider an alternative, would *higher* taxes have grown the economy?

20 Zach October 31, 2016 at 4:40 pm

What’s your beef with Kansas? It’s prosperous, well governed, low tax but good services.

Speaking as a resident of both cities, if Kansas City were located next to San Francisco in the manner of KCK and KCMo, no one would ever go to San Francisco by choice.

21 rayward October 29, 2016 at 11:51 am

The first three paragraphs are better than the last (reproduced here by Tabarrok). The Christianists among us often say we are a Christian nation. Mencken observed, accurately at the time, that democracy and Christianity intersect with the shared belief that “the lowly shall inherit the earth”. Mencken was from a era long ago, which means he never met a prosperity gospel preacher. Or a manager of a hedge fund. Or Ayn Rand’s disciples. No, the lowly shall not inherit the earth. Not unless they win the lottery. Or the next best thing, which is to do the bidding of billionaires.

22 Thiago Ribeiro October 29, 2016 at 12:02 pm

“The meek shall inherit the Earth, but not its mineral rights.” – J. Paul Getty

23 Daniel in VA October 29, 2016 at 5:15 pm

I, too, have played Civilization 5.

24 Thiago Ribeiro October 29, 2016 at 6:22 pm

I haven’t yet.

25 Daniel in VA October 29, 2016 at 7:55 pm


26 Sam the Sham October 29, 2016 at 7:57 pm

I hear mixed/buggy things about Civ 6, wait for a sale unless you’re a diehard fanatic.

27 Anon October 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm

I read it is a “manger of a hedge fund”.Oops.

28 chuck martel October 29, 2016 at 12:33 pm

The meek have inherited the earth in the sense that prior to their inheritance instead of having 3 bedroom homes, flat-screen TVs, air conditioners, Corollas, bass boats and Keurig coffee makers they lived in mud huts without windows, slept with their chickens, and missed lots of meals in the winter.

29 Thiago Ribeiro October 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm

All they have inherited is the scraps that fall from their masters’ table. Smericans must rise against their oppressors.

30 msgkings October 29, 2016 at 1:00 pm

America Shmerica

31 Thiago Ribeiro October 29, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Indeed. I would say the very nature of the American regime makes sure the oppression of 99% of its popularion a historical inevitability. The American state is a conspiration against the American citizen. As it was said about an Empire not unlike America itself:
“The wild beasts of Italy have their caves to retire to, but the brave men who spill their blood in her cause have nothing left but air and light. Without houses, without settled habitations, they wander from place to place with their wives and children; and their generals do but mock them when, at the head of their armies, they exhort their men to fight for their sepulchers and the gods of their hearths, for among such numbers perhaps there is not one Roman who has an altar that has belonged to his ancestors or a sepulcher in which their ashes rest. The private soldiers fight and die to advance the wealth and luxury of the great, and they are called masters of the world without having a sod to call their own.”

32 Art Deco October 29, 2016 at 2:57 pm

He was a dipso bachelor with a facility for aphorisms. He was lowlier than he imagined.

33 carlolspln October 29, 2016 at 8:02 pm

‘He was a dipso bachelor with a facility for aphorisms. He was lowlier than he imagined”

Art Deco, come on down!!

34 msgkings October 29, 2016 at 11:06 pm

+1 LOL

35 Thor October 30, 2016 at 12:32 am

When a paragraph starts, as Thiago’s does, by using the word “regime” to describe America, one has wonder about the quality of the insights that follow.

36 Art Deco October 29, 2016 at 12:28 pm

What a pompous windbag.

37 Oh the irony October 29, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Game knows game

38 msgkings October 29, 2016 at 1:57 pm

If I’d been out and about in 1925, I’d have chased him around like Margaret Mary Ray stalking David Letterman.

39 Jeff R. October 29, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Maybe we need a Pigovian tax on suckers or some sort of Coasean bargain, then, because skimming the headlines this time of year doesn’t feel like ample compensation for the damage, financial and otherwise, that our two major parties and their assorted flunkies are poised to inflict upon us these next four years.

40 derek October 29, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Tar and feathers would be adequate.

Question: Does using tar for this purpose increase or decrease global warming?

41 Troll me October 29, 2016 at 1:17 pm

It would increase global warming by reducing the albedo. More light would be absorbed and less reflected.

42 Adrian Ratnpala October 30, 2016 at 2:49 am

Ahh, but that’s what the feather s are for.

43 Troll me November 1, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Good point 🙂

44 Solus October 29, 2016 at 1:11 pm

democracy would be wonderful, if the people were informed, alert, and if their representatives were competent persons of high personal integrity.

the fatal flaw is human nature… if there is an opportunity for corruption, corruption will manifest itself. Government provides the perfect opportunity & mechanism for corruption (Bill & Hillary discovered that fact very quickly)

The harm that can be done by a single corrupt private individual is trivial compared to that which can be done by a Congressman, President, or Supreme Court judge.

good government should merely require good people. There are lots of those, but, rightly, they avoid participation in government, where power always corrupts…

45 uair01 October 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

I respectfully disagree. I liked this idea (forgot from where it came) that says that government should be constructed in such a way that it will function satisfactorily when staffed with mediocre personnel. Because that’s all we will ever get from reality.

46 Thomas Wilson October 29, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Well, up until the point where we can use an AI to rule over us…er I mean make decisions for us.

47 Easter Island Sally October 29, 2016 at 5:32 pm

Sorry, but good people are what we have to fear the most. Sing it for us, Clive—

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

48 The Other Jim October 29, 2016 at 1:12 pm


49 reed E Hundt October 29, 2016 at 1:30 pm

for whom are you voting Alex? Tyler? and why….

50 Art Deco October 29, 2016 at 1:59 pm

It’s status lowering to feign interest.

51 Li Zhi October 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm

The problem with economics and government is the false reality people operate in. I should have been old enough to know how the world works, but the Second Gulf War (Iraq) taught me that Maslows pyramid was wrong. Viewing Safety as less fundamental than food, air, water, and shelter was just simply wrong. It is equally important…although it is more diffuse a concept than food or water or air (consider Beijing’s air or water in the worst Buenos Aires’ barrio). People will starve to death instead of seeking nourishment, if the danger is acute. Ignoring Safety and the related response, fear, in discussing government is simply delusional and yet it is often ignored as a fundamental priority of government – I’m pretty sure our founding fathers knew this, it’s less obvious that Mencken did.

52 Li Zhi October 29, 2016 at 2:08 pm

My point is, and I didn’t make it above, sorry, is that when people evaluate what government gives and what government costs/takes, we often ignore things such as safety because they’re not perceived as part of its positive contributions. I see my tax bill, I don’t see the guy deciding that he won’t take what I have because I’m protected.

53 Psmith October 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm

>mfw all these snarky anti-democracy posts pop up juuuuust when Trump’s chances improve

54 MattW October 29, 2016 at 4:24 pm

“it may turn out that rascality is necessary to human government, and even to civilization itself”

That’s the brutishness of men that Tyler mentioned a few months ago. And I agree with both, that quality that makes men the worst of civilization is also the quality that makes men the builders of civilization.

55 Thiago Ribeiro October 29, 2016 at 4:54 pm

I say, arise, arise!

56 chuck martel October 29, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Mencken, an expert on the English language and the premier journalist in the US during his lifetime, graduated from no school of journalism or other institution of higher learning, having worked his way up through the business from the very bottom. Too bad lesser lights like Nick Kristoff, Tom Friedman, Charles Blow, David Brooks, Ruth Marcus and E.J. Dionne Jr. can’t say the same thing.

57 Art Deco October 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

Mencken had a full complement of secondary schooling, something quite atypical for the 1880 cohort.

58 chuck martel October 29, 2016 at 11:23 pm

Yeah, in 1880 urban Baltimore hardly anybody gathered in a high school diploma. Lincoln Steffens, of the same era, attended Cal, Ida Tarbell went to Allegheny College. The most famous American journalist of the early twentieth century was, of course Will Rogers, who never got further than the tenth grade.

59 chuck martel October 29, 2016 at 11:34 pm

The great William Cowper Brann was another uneducated but erudite journalist whose works so irritated his most hypocritical readers that one felt forced to send a metal pellet .45 inches in diameter through his body, with fatal results. Hard to imagine E. J. Dionne in a gunfight with some alt-right duck hunter but that’s progress.

60 Urso October 29, 2016 at 6:15 pm

I agree with Mencken – it’s everyone *else* that’s the sucker.

61 Ivy October 30, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Mencken wrote about the Booboisie, a word that would likely trigger various claims of micro-aggression today.

62 jorod October 30, 2016 at 3:47 pm

I’ll take term limits and geometrically similar voting districts.

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