Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken

Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken is a famous classic of American political criticism. Mencken today is usually known as a social critic with an acid tongue. His quips are frequently quoted by PJ O'Rourke and Paul Fussell. This slim book contains Mencken's views on the politics of the 1920s. He is particularly scathing where it comes to the mob, how they are stupid, superstitious and ignorant. Politicians must either whip up the mob as demagogues or be populists who follow the mobs every will. He has no real solution for this except the creation of a disinterested elite but there are no real explanations of how this would be accomplished. Mencken is somewhat a libertarian however he also criticizes the judiciary as being more interested in political expediency than the Constitution.

This new edition contains extensive endnotes that give short biographies and explanations of Latin and Greek terms. An introduction tries to put the work in context as well as giving biographical notes. I would've preferred that the explanatory notes had been footnotes at the bottom of the page instead of endnotes in the back.. Very thought provoking particularly in our post-9/11 world.

Highly recommended!

Note: this book was provided by the publisher for review.

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