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Notes On Democracy Kindle Edition
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Nevertheless, he feels it is his duty as a man of intellectual integrity to critique democracy in its own terms: it's defense of liberty and it's ability to EFFECTIVELY impose morality on it's own citizens.
Mencken was active during the prohibition era and the Scopes trial, to extremely plain failures of government to impose "Puritan" morality on the masses, and making a circus of it meanwhile.
This is why Mencken says that democracy is "the art of governing the circus form the monkey cage." This is something he genuinely believes, but as a social critic, enjoys as a source of material.
Mencken on many issues was what we refer to today as a libertarian or nineteenth-century liberal--he valued liberty and believed "that any invasion of it is immensely dangerous to the commonweal--especially when that invasion is alleged to have a moral purpose." Inherent, though, in freedom is the freedom to fail, and Mencken understood that most of his countrymen disagreed with him on the value of liberty--he thought that the average person valued security over liberty, was apt to see himself as a member of a group instead of seeing himself as an individual, and was "quite willing to exchange any of the boons of freedom for something he can use."
Whether or not the author agrees, democracy is the best form of governance yet invented, though like all earthly institutions it is not perfect. Mencken notes the pandering even in his day that politicians had to do to stay in office.
And in a democracy in any era, there will be poorly informed voters--to name perhaps the most pernicious myth extant in our era, think of the vast number of souls out there who think that our entitlements do not need to be reformed and that they could easily be shored up if we just taxed the rich more. Others simply lack the wisdom to know who would be a good elected official--Mencken made fun of the voters in the 1920 election who voted against the Democratic ticket because Cox was divorced and Wilson married "too soon" after the death of his first wife. One could draw a straight line to modern voters who were swayed because a candidate forcefully kissed his wife on the platform at his nominating convention or because a prospective candidate had a perfect crease on his pant leg.
As we enter another fall campaign, though, we have the opportunity to change course and should remember Mencken's observation that the people really are sovereign and really can get what they want at the ballot box if they want it badly enough. Let's hope that in 2012 people realize we have gone (much, much) too far in the direction of security at the expense of liberty, recall that Benjamin Franklin thought that excessive public debt was the chief threat to our keeping our republic, and vote for those who understand that economic liberty is indispensable to long-term prosperity and thus indispensable to military strength.