Quote of the day—H. L. Mencken

I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.

H. L. Mencken
[I find it interesting that liberty was such a novel invention, such a fantastic success, and yet under such an unrelenting attack. It is as if people refuse to believe data. They prefer to believe in their imaginary world of the benevolent mother/nanny government despite all the data to the contrary. I can only conclude that rational thought is but a thin veneer over the true essence of human nature.—Joe]


9 thoughts on “Quote of the day—H. L. Mencken

  1. Is liberty really an invention? Or is it the natural state?

    “It is as if people refuse to believe data.”

    What data?

  2. Outstanding quote Joe. Mencken is one of the better sources of thought on the subject of liberty, freedom and tyranny. I do beleive this one gets added to the permanent quote file.

  3. Data? These people only believe their own appetite. They mistake the fact that it feels good to boss people around with it is good to boss people around. Then there are the “natural slaves” who just want to be ruled.

  4. Since reason is a learned behavior and trust in an other is innate, your surmise that reason is but a thing veneer would be correct. If one never loses the trust in the first person trusted they have little reason to learn reason.

    They would color all trust relations on the experience of the first and who among us does not trust our mother for our best interest to be fulfilled.

    To trust the nanny state is the line of least resistance and many of use never resist.

    On a personal note, my life has been a continous struggle, I know more have larger struggles and we all have our own burden to bear, but at this point in my life I find it extremely hard to trust the motives of anyone.

    But then I am reminded of the line he who cannot trust cannot be trusted. Not sure where that one comes from and I wonder to its provience.

    Interesting line of thought.

  5. ubu52,

    It was an invention, not a natural state, for a government to be founding on the principle of protecting liberty.

    The data is the condition of the people living under repressive governments compared to relatively free governments. Think North Korea, Communist China, USSR, Cuba, etc. versus the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe.

  6. Ubu, here’s some data to consider:

    “More Guns, Less Crime” by John Lott.

    “The Black Book of Communism” — a book that attempts to catalog Communist genocide.

    “The Black Book” — a catalog of Nazi war crimes.

    The first book tries to explain, via statistics, what happens when people are free to defend themselves; the second two books explain what happen when people depend on Authority to create a Social Order, and attempt to usher in Utopia.

    Oh, and I would add: in one sense, liberty is a natural state–and no government can change that. We are free to decide what to do, and what not to do. The invention is in a government that respects your liberty–that is, one that doesn’t try to imprison you because you think, speak, act in self defense, haggle over prices, et. cetera.

  7. “What data?”

    Exactly. See; you have to crack open a history book or two, before you can understand that the default state of Man is slavery, brutality, and a deadly contest to decide who’s in charge– who gets to be at the top of the heap– who gets to be the ruler, sucking off of the efforts of the ruled. The radical idea of the United States was to transform government from rule and military expansion (gang rule) to that of protector of rights. To the limited extent that that goal was achieved, it has created the most advanced and prosperous civilization in all of history, by far, and THAT is precisely why some people hate it with such a burning passion.

    But you knew most of that already, I expect, and you’re being coy. You come here as the devil’s advocate. Bully for you. You’ve managed to waste a couple minutes of my time, speaking as it were to an attention-starved child, and that is your best achievement.

  8. Alpheus,
    I suggest you add “Bloodlands” by Timothy D. Snyder, published in 2010, to your list.

    The book is a history of Northern Europe, between Berlin and Moscow during the years 1935 to 1945. At this time and in this place, the dream (“no guns in private hands, j the government.”) of many was real. It documents the lives of the unfortunate people who were caught in the clutches of Stalin, Hitler, or worse, both. About 20 million people lost their lives (not including those deaths solely attributable to combat).

    As I read it, I could not help but think — What if there had been a significant number of firearms in private hands there? People were shot in their homes, herded to pits and shot, loaded into transports and then gassed, worked to death or starved, and so on. In some places nearly all food stores were stolen by police and politically favored groups, leaving residents to starve. It is really difficult for me to imagine that these atrocities could have been carried out if a large segment of the population had been armed.

    It fits in nicely with the others you listed.

  9. ubu52,

    You are either extraordinarily ignorant or mundanely stupid. However since you are reading Joe Huffman’s blog that leads to a third option “deliberately ignorant” which is the basest of all evils, a dogmatic person willing to enslave others based on their own faith and nothing more. Compare and contrast China and Taiwan.

    In 1948 the Maoist revolution took mainland China under Communist rule. Chang Kai Sheck fled to Taiwan where the “Revolution” never happened. From 1948 forward we can see the difference in the ideology of freedom verses the ideology of oppression. By the year 2000 the standard of living for the average Taiwanese citizens was over ten times the standard of living for the average mainland Chinese.

    An identical people genetically and culturally, the only difference being political ideology. One succeeded, and the other had mass starvations before it figured out that capitalism is a pretty good idea.

Comments are closed.