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Notes on Democracy 1st Edition

19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0977378814
ISBN-10: 0977378810
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) was America's greatest journalist and iconoclast. With his bristling, cynical humor, he mercilessly attacked war hysteria, jingoism, and censorship. He championed uniquely American writing, helping to free the nation s literature of its Anglophile fixation. Mencken covered many of the great stories of the 20th century s first half, including the Scopes Monkey trial and Prohibition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dissident Books; 1 edition (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977378810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977378814
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Non-Voter in California on October 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book--packed with personality and a surprising amount of helpful supplementary material. For example, in her introductory essay to Notes on Democracy: A New Edition, Marion Elizabeth Rodgers (author of Mencken: The American Iconoclast) describes the effect of Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) on first-time readers:

"[Mencken is] . . . still castigated as un-American, `anti-democractic,' even `a near anarchist.' His independent and realistic thought is sternly censured; in more liberated circles, it is simply regarded with unease. When every phrase must be examined for political correctness, many find it impossible to enjoy Mencken without apology."

For first-time readers, yes, Mencken is pugnacious. Yes, he adopted indefensible positions for their shock value, but he knew in his bones that thick heads need a good hard whack to break up the cobwebs. And when it came to words versus action, he followed the good advice that was once given to children: "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Today, our culture of hypocrisy and false-civility has completely reversed that bit of wisdom. On one hand, we enforce politically correct speech to avoid hurt feelings. On the other, we institutionalize the genuine victimization of our fellow citizens through idiotic laws, prohibitions, and progressive taxation. Even worse, we celebrate as heroism the slaughter of impoverished civilians in far-away locations by our military establishment--no matter how implausible the "threats" they pose.

As an antidote for our perverse zeitgeist, there is no better medicine than this readable and entertaining book by one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
With the US coming to the end of a Presidential election cycle, I decided to accept the opportunity to read Notes on Democracy by H. L. Mencken. This was originally written in 1926 by the prominent journalist, but it's rather unnerving in its ability to hit so close to home over 80 years later. I don't necessarily buy into all of his rather dark views on the failure of democracy, but I have to agree that much of what he says does ring true.

1 - Democratic Man: His Appearance in the World; Varieties of Homo Sapiens; The New Psychology; Politics Under Democracy; The Role of the Hormones; Envy as a Philosophy; Liberty and Democratic Man; The Effects Upon Progress; The Eternal Mob
2 - The Democratic State: The Two Kinds of Democracy; The Popular Will; Disproportional Representation; The Politician Under Democracy; Utopia; The Occasional Exception; The Maker of Laws; The Rewards of Virtue; Footnote on Lame Ducks
3 - Democracy and Liberty: The Will to Peace; The Democrat as Moralist; Where Puritanism Fails; Corruptions Under Democracy
4 - Coda: The Future of Democracy; Last Words
Annotations by Marion Elizabeth Rodgers; Afterword by Anthony Lewis

There's enough material in this rather short book to make for a multipage college paper, so it's a bit hard to condense it down to a short review. Mencken feels that democracy is really nothing more than mob rule. The uneducated masses are not looking for freedom and liberty, as those concepts are uncomfortable and laced with the very real possibility of failure. Instead, they want to be safe, well-fed, and entertained. In order to get those three items, they're willing to give up most of their civil liberties thinking that those who rule have superior power to make decisions.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Erin D. Sipes on December 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
Who is H.L. Mencken and why am I just now reading him!? This book is genius! I started highlighting passages I liked but then realized nearly every page was marked in florescent pink.

I'm not going to say this book is for everyone but it is definitely for those of us out there that watch the news and listen to certain groups or leaders thinking, "Seriously are there people out there buying this?" Then we come into contact with those who are in fact subscribing whole-heartily to an idiotic brainless existence. Left dumbfounded we trudge along wondering if there are any 'real' people left in the world.

The world was a completely different place in 1926 when Mencken originally wrote this but it doesn't' take long to realize despite our innovations and advancements nearly 100 years later we've made no real progress in terms of democracy. Mencken's insights serve as a reminder to that fact and while the organizations may have changed and the leaders all have new names they are in essence the same.

"Public policies are determined and laws are made by small minorities playing upon the fears and imbecilities of the mob-sometimes minorities of intelligent and honest men, but usually minorities of rogues." Hmmmm, rogues you say? Remind you of anyone?

If you are of a thinking mind I highly recommend this book but be warned it reads like a philosophy book so if you think you can just pick it up and read a few chapters you're wrong. It will have you thinking and a buzz with every paragraph so make sure you have a good sounding board to bounce ideas off of after reading.

(I received this book as part of a giveaway on [...] I was not in anyway encouraged to give a review that didn't reflect my genuine feelings towards the book.)
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