Quote of the day—Henry Louis Mencken

The fact that I have no remedy for all the sorrows of the world is no reason for my accepting yours. It simply supports the strong probability that yours is a fake.

Henry Louis Mencken
Minority Report, H. L. Mencken’s Notebooks [78], 1956
[I’ve seen this in engineering as well as politics. Someone who doesn’t really understand the problem has great enthusiasm for a simple solution that on the surface is very appealing. This enthusiasm and confidence can sometimes be very difficult to combat because it can take a great deal of effort to educate the people advocating the solution on the error of their ways. And in fact it may be impossible to educate them because they are too stupid to understand. Gun control is one such example.

This brings us to another Mencken quote, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

I have no idea how to deal with this in politics. I have enough trouble with it in engineering where most of the people are rational and reasonably smart. This is part of the reason that government powers should be severely constrained. Political decisions are frequently very complex issues with incomplete data sets. Even if you had rational people involved, which you frequently don’t, and they had the general populace’s best interests at heart, which they almost never do, getting a consensus on the solution that best fits the available data is nearly impossible. In politics data, if present, is cherry picked. Proper data analysis is completely absent.

It is far better to let the free market provide the “remedy for all the sorrows of the world” because the solutions attempted will be varied. The non-solutions will quickly end up in the dustbin. The partial solutions will be tweaked and retried. The true solutions will dominate and another “sorrow of the world” will be reduced or eliminated.—Joe]

3 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Henry Louis Mencken

  1. A long time ago, I tried to design a CPU-based radio. I wanted an 8048 (something used to power keyboards) to do the Digital Signal Processing needed to produced 144-148 MHz (2-meter-range) signals for amateur radio. My dad tried to deflate my enthusiasm, by saying it was impossible. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew someone who worked with DSP, and he understood just enough, to know that what I was attempting to do was ridiculous.

    It annoyed me that my Dad tried to tell me this, but it took a class in Digital Signal Processing a couple of years later for me to understand why my efforts were doomed to failure: I would have to do about 300 *million* multiplications and 300 *million* additions *per second* for this to work.

    *If* our modern processors today can do such work, they can only *just barely* do it.

    I just wish there were classes, equivalent to Digital Signal Processing, for our politicians to take. It would save the world a lot of heart-break…assuming that Politicians would take such classes, or even learn in them, of course!

Comments are closed.