Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on June 27, 2011

in Politics

… is from page 242 of what is perhaps the most indispensable volume on my bookshelves, A Mencken Chrestomathy; Mencken is here writing about T.R. Roosevelt – the paragon of a modern politician:

What ailed him was the fact that his lust for glory, when it came to a struggle, was always vastly more powerful than his lust for the eternal verities.  Tempted sufficiently, he would sacrifice anything and everything to get applause.

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{ 61 comments }

BonnieBlueFlag June 27, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Mencken is brilliant.

Greg Webb June 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm

H. L. Mencken wrote an excellent description of the typical politician.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 12:20 am

P.J. O’Rourke pulled a perfect definition for a politician out of a manual on Psychiatric disorders under the heading “Narcissistic Personality Disorder”.

Actually, I think TR was a hell of a lot better than most politicians. He genuinely wanted to improve the country and he kept his promise to step down after two terms (though he did sorely regret it). Plus, I have his autograph.

Scott June 28, 2011 at 1:19 am

I hold TR partly responsible for the way the republican party became america’s second party of big government progessivism.

Dan J June 28, 2011 at 3:30 am

You have his autograph? This site is in desperate need of some younger blood. Geezers. But, well read and wise geezers, you are. I fear the world when you guys are gone.

SheetWise June 28, 2011 at 10:20 am

It’s possible he did not acquire it personally from TR.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 6:19 pm

I guarantee I’m younger than most of the people on this site. It is a family heirloom.

Josh S June 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

Plus, his face was on a mountain. Admit it–if today’s progressives were gung-ho about carrying large-caliber rifles into the wilderness in order to shoot and skin massive mammals, America would be a better place.

Ken June 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

tdp,

“He genuinely wanted to improve the country”

I’m pretty sure this is true of most politicians, including ones like Obama, Frank, Rangel, Pelosi, etc. These people truly believe their ideas, once implemented, will make the country a better place. That’s one of the reason to favor small governments: people have outsized beliefs in what they can accomplish, if only they tell enough people what to do.

Regards,
Ken

jpm June 27, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Here is an interesting link:

http://theothermccain.com/2011/06/25/good-news-college-democrats-succeed-in-recruiting-stupid-ugly-losers-video/

It’s not related to the subject at hand, but is amusing.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 12:33 am

I agree with most of what he says except where he implies that Jesus wanted people to be Republicans and hate abortion. Having actually read the Bible before, I can tell you he said nothing about either politics or abortion.

Sam Grove June 28, 2011 at 1:30 am

In the Bible, Jesus did say something about politics. One was the “render unto Caesar…”, and the other was his explicit rejection of political power as offered to him by Satan.

vikingvista June 28, 2011 at 2:09 am

Wasn’t there also something about monarchy?

vidyohs June 28, 2011 at 6:16 am

Yes he did say that, Sam. But not many people note that Jesus very carefully avoided defining “that which is Caesar’s”.

So, what is Caesar’s?

SorenGuard June 28, 2011 at 7:05 am

I thought the way he defined it was by referring to Caesar’s face on the coinage, thus giving to Caesar what is his.

vidyohs June 28, 2011 at 7:46 am

I believe the subject was taxes, but the statement was open ended.

Do you give to Caesar all he demands, which could leave you with nothing.

Do you give to Caesar what you think he deserves, which also could be nothing.

Who does the deciding, Caesar or the individual, if Caesar has all the power than the people are slaves from whom Caesar can demand all. There is no such creature as a “part time slave” when the master has the power to decide the when, where, and how much.

In that little phrase “Render onto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s” is a multitude of questions to be answered, or at least people should see all the questions contained therein.

It is like the IRS saying, “All taxpayers”. The first question that should come to a person is, “Am I a taxpayer as defined by that law?” If you don’t take the time to educate yourself to the answer, you deserve to keep “what is not Caesar’s”.

Sam Grove June 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Caesar earned nothing.

David Johnson June 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm

What the property belonging to Caesar was undefined, that which belonged to God was very clear to his audience: everything belongs to God.

Also note the passage where Jesus had to pay a tax. The coin used to pay it was found in a fish.

vidyohs June 28, 2011 at 5:02 pm

@David Johnson,

Which was not earned, not a fruit of any one’s labor.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 12:25 am

Something else unrelated: on Carpe Diem muirgeo argues for going back to total hunter-gatherer collectivism because “that’s what allowed our ancestors to survive and pass on their altruistic genes to future generations.” Apparently, “those hominid species who set off on paths of rugged individualism are long since extinct”.

Kind of makes you miss the good old days when life expectancy was less than 20 years, people frequently starved, and there was no such thing as specialization, division of labor, technological sophistication (because of no individual property for experimentation), or trade, huh?

Dan J June 28, 2011 at 3:33 am

DAMN air conditioners making life a little more comfortable. Damn grocery stores and capitalism providing more food than we know what to do with.

Shidoshi June 28, 2011 at 8:55 am

I bursted out laughing at this.

Methinks1776 June 28, 2011 at 9:13 am

Great. Now Muirdiot has infected Carpe Diem.

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

“those hominid species who set off on paths of rugged individualism are long since extinct”. Me

There’s some belief that troglodyte and Neanderthal genes still persist in the modern Homo sapiens sapiens species the phenotypic expression being libertarianism.

MWG June 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm

“those hominid species who set off on paths of rugged individualism are long since extinct”

Yes, you’ve made similar comments to this in the past. Making the claim that libertarians see themselves as ‘rugged individualists’. It’s just as dumb now as it was all the other times you said it.

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 10:43 am

But seriously I did not argue to go back to the cave man days… that’s the libertarian argument because back then there WAS minimalist government. We advanced and as a species survived because of our altruistic collectivistic nature that was indeed genetic and selected for.

Capitalism is ultimately a result of humanism and the enlightenment and is ultimately most successful when collectively designed. Well organized capitalism will beat the crap out of any attempts at pushing the system towards the free market capitalism which is in reality an impossibility but which when attempted by societies results in economic inefficiency such as we see all around us today but denied by the modern libertarian ideologue.

Gordon Richens June 28, 2011 at 11:00 am

So if your version of “well organized capitalism” is better, why is it no longer prevalent?

Josh S June 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

You have to understand, progressives don’t believe in evolution when it’s inconvenient to their faith.

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

Because power and money have stole democracy and bought our politicians and because people like you keep voting for and defending more of the same.

I am confident it will return… but it’s going to be a long time and it could get revolutionary if democracy is squashed as it appears to be.

In 1776 the rich bastards had to be confronted with force,,, this is getting to look a lot like then.

Josh S June 28, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Yeah, we need to return to the wealth and prosperity we enjoyed under FDR during the good old days of the centrally planned 1930s.

colson June 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm

“Because power and money have stole democracy”

When the ultimate result of democracy is the expression of power, via the state (with respect to most systems of government in existence), there is nothing to steal. The system can’t steal itself. You can easily invert the statement for better reflection:

Democracy has stolen both power and money from the individual under the majority of, if not all, political systems leveraging democracy as chief component where the state is granted the monopoly use of force.

This isn’t inherent in democracies only. The pea under the thimble is power. So long as the state is the implied means of force, people (businesses, et. al) will seek it out and attempt to leverage it to their advantage or to mitigate damages incurred from the actions of the state.

Money itself isn’t a corrupting factor – it is power, the proverbial carrot, that lies at the end of the stick, and the system erected to glorify it, that is corrupt. Everything else is just a means to that end.

The easy solution to kneecapping the whole corruption issue is to limit the power of government – disincentivize the system. But the problem is that too many of the positions you take rely on the very same corruption you are railing against. You need the an authoritarian state to even reach most of your political ideals. Democracy doesn’t matter if the result is nothing but distributed authoritarianism.

YCHYCAEIT

muirgeo June 29, 2011 at 10:20 am

“Money itself isn’t a corrupting factor – it is power,”

No … it’s money. You think you are being deeply philosophical and you are not. You are being silly. Ban lobbying for hire, get rid of corporate person-hood, get rid of the idea that money is free speech and allow a maximum contribution to politicians of $100 dollars per campaign and most of the corruption of power and money goes away… but libertarians refuse to take these measures so they allow the wealthy to buy and hold power.

Gordon Richens June 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

“You think you are being deeply philosophical and you are not.”
A doctor who can read other people’s minds – you must be a whiz at history taking.

yet another Dave June 29, 2011 at 11:18 am

Ban lobbying for hire

vs.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Craig S June 28, 2011 at 12:25 pm

“ultimately most successful when collectively designed”

“I believe in Darwinian natural selection ”

Its a shame you don’t realize how contradictory these two statements are.

Free trade is nothing more than voluntary exchange and that has been a big part of human evolution. With out it, we’d be nothing but animals.

Your rabid, clearly jealous absession wiht the “rich” has blinded to the fact cooperation and exchange are part of capitalism. When force is used, as in socialism, its not really cooperation.

MWG June 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm

“Well organized capitalism will beat the crap out of any attempts at pushing the system towards the free market capitalism…”

It’s called a ‘mixed economy’ you idiot. You’re here arguing for things of which you don’t even know the proper terms?

MWG June 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm

BTW, it’s funny that you argue for a more ‘well organized economy’ while in your very next comment you decry cronyism.

The kind of ‘well organized economy’ of which you’ve argued for in the past is one based off many Western European countries. If you don’t think cronyism exists in France or Germany… you extremely dumb… but we already knew that, didn’t we?

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Here’s the problem or the difference in the way we see things. As a pediatrician and a father I tend to look at the rules from the perspective of a newborn baby. You guys are always thinking of the rules as they pertain to you.

To me ideally every baby is starting out as equally as we can make it. So if we have 100 babies and we tell them at some point 5 of you are going to be paying the top marginal tax rate they are all gonna be OK with it. Especially when I tell them that the roads, the schools , the water canals, their milk ect… that made them have a more equal opportunity were all funded in the same fashion. They’ll all say sure sounds good to me. Trust me … I know babies and that is what they would say. I don’t really give shit about the crowd… my own generation who benefited from previous high tax rates and now are getting a change in tax rules and are getting out of their obligations to put back into what helped them to be safe and successful.

You are the sons of bitches who think its ok to pass on trillions of dollars of debt to the next generations and steal from them … leaving the country and their opportunity much damaged. Most of the debt IS a result of decreased tax rates that WERE NOT there when you self centered crybaby jackasses came to the scene. Pay your god damn debt to society and stop asking for more tax cuts so our kids have to deal with it…. YOU ARE THE THIEVES…. and stealing from children no less.

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm

LIKE!

Ken June 28, 2011 at 7:56 pm

“You are the sons of bitches who think its ok to pass on trillions of dollars of debt to the next generations and steal from them”

Aren’t you the one that voted for Obama and supported Fannie Mae? Aren’t you the one refusing to countenance the tsunami of debt being created by medicare, social security, and medicaid? Aren’t you the one who favors unions? The same unions that forced GM into such bad shape that the politicians you voted for took money from the tax payers to give to GM to enrich the UAW leadership and GM executives?

“Most of the debt IS a result of decreased tax rates”

This is an outrageous lie. The tax rates haven’t changed in the last five years, but the debt has nearly doubled and the size of government has grown by over 30%, whereas GDP has decreased by around 5%.

“Pay your god damn debt to society”

I don’t owe a debt to society. And again, it sounds like you’re conflating government with society.

I don’t owe any government a debt either. I pay taxes to receive services such as police and fire fighters, as well as services I don’t receive like social security, medicare, medicaid, all educational “services” welfare, three foreign wars, etc. Every year on April 15, the government squares itself with me, since it insists on always withholding more taxes than I should have to pay, no matter how many exemption I claim.

I do have debts with three institutions, for two mortgages and a student loan. All of which I am paying and all of which are paid on time every month.

Regards,
Ken

cmprostreet June 28, 2011 at 8:17 pm

Whenever the government spends, it creates a tax burden. That burden can be paid now, or it can be paid later.

If the tax is paid later, it falls on the children you are concerned about.*

If the tax is paid immediately, there is less leftover to invest or save for the children, again leaving them worse off.*

So all of the people here arguing for less government spending are arguing on behalf of those children you claim to represent, while you insist on greater spending and thus greater burden on those children, as long as we make it look like someone else paid the bill. Every resource the government consumes is stolen from those children, and yet you champion more government spending while calling everyone else a thief.

*Note that even if you think the money spent by government is spent more effectively than it would have been otherwise, that just makes both situations above equally more appealing- it does nothing to distinguish between them from the viewpoint of the children.

Gordon Richens June 29, 2011 at 11:42 am

If you could really read a baby’s mind, she would say “stop projecting your ideas on me and stick to your pets.”

“You are the sons of bitches…”
Hey, was that a Freudian slip?

vidyohs June 28, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Thanks for muirpidity #61
#61
muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 10:43 am
“But seriously I did not argue to go back to the cave man days… that’s the libertarian argument because back then there WAS minimalist government. We advanced and as a species survived because of our altruistic collectivistic nature that was indeed genetic and selected for.
Capitalism is ultimately a result of humanism and the enlightenment and is ultimately most successful when collectively designed. Well organized capitalism will beat the crap out of any attempts at pushing the system towards the free market capitalism which is in reality an impossibility but which when attempted by societies results in economic inefficiency such as we see all around us today but denied by the modern libertarian ideologue”

Truer word than these were never spoken:
muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 7:13 pm
“I tend to look at the rules from the perspective of a newborn baby.”

Frankly no one here doubts that it is impossible for you to do anything else just gauging from the lack of intelligence in your posts.

It has been obvious to us all for a very very long time that even a one year old has a better grasp of business, capitalism, and human association than you.

SheetWise June 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

Being a far left wing-nut, it shouldn’t surprise you that he views eugenics as an eternal truth. It’s one reason Obamacare is so irresistible.

muirgeo June 28, 2011 at 11:31 am

I believe in Darwinian natural selection but I have no say in the outcome but for the results of my genetic code… which seems to be a bit more on the altruistic side… so I root and promote altruism and my altruistic genes. GO ALTURISM….GO GO GO RAHHHHH ALTURISM… I think we are going to win… I mean we have been up to now.

Craig S June 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm

“I believe in Darwinian natural selection but I have no say in the outcome but for the results of my genetic code… which seems to be a bit more on the altruistic side”

Typical, elitist snob. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.

“so I root and promote altruism and my altruistic genes. GO ALTURISM….GO GO GO RAHHHHH ALTURISM… I think we are going to win… I mean we have been up to now”

Its not a zero sum game. The choices are not forced alturism or zero alturism. Bastiat discussed this in the Law, just because government does not do something, does not mean it can’t exist. Humans can be both self interested and alturistic depending on the situation.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 6:20 pm

If people were altruistic we wouldn’t need government-enforced redistribution or any social programs provided by the government because we would all do that ourselves.

SheetWise June 29, 2011 at 6:59 am

“If people were altruistic we wouldn’t need government-enforced redistribution or any social programs provided by the government because we would all do that ourselves.”

Actually, we do. The government got involved because private charity actually discriminates. I, for example, am much less likely to provide my charity to an ex-felon crack addict than I am to an unemployed veteran — government observes no such distinctions.

Josh S June 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Wanting to steal things other people have in order to enrich yourself and people you feel sorry for is not altruism.

MWG June 28, 2011 at 1:42 pm

“I mean we have been [winning] up to now.”

I though libertarian ideologues had been winning? Aren’t they the ones at fault for this current economic mess? Pick an argument and stick with it you moron.

Dan H June 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Just because you’re an altruist doesn’t mean you’re not self-interested.

You believe altruism is in society’s best interest and therefore YOUR best interest.

It’s an irrational self-interest, but altruism is nonetheless just another form of self-interest. You wouldn’t believe in it if you didn’t think it somehow benefited you.

Gordon Richens June 28, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I believe Darwin recognized that tribes with individuals demonstrating greater altruism (at least toward others within the tribe) held a competitive advantage over other groups.

However I don’t believe that Darwin equated collectivism with altruism.

Ken June 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

It’s not altruism to take from one to give to yourself.

Regards,
Ken

SaulOhio June 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm

The muirthing should read David Kelley’s “Unrugged Individualism”.

Dan H June 28, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Like! A wonderful read that beautifully describes American Individualism.

? June 28, 2011 at 3:46 am

I have seen Mencken quoted here various times and on other blogs. Would this book be a great start for reading Mencken or would you suggest starting with another?

SheetWise June 28, 2011 at 10:55 am

Either this or Vintage Mencken — read one, then read the other — then read more. He was quite prolific, and had reasoned opinions about everything.

wapshott June 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Please note that my book Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Shaped Modern Economics is published by W.W.Norton in October.
Professor John B.Taylor of Stanford and the Hoover Institution says that: “Nicholas Wapshott brings the Keynes-Hayek fight of the 20th century back to life, making the clash both entertaining and highly relevant for understanding economic crises of the 21st century.”
Read an extract at: sites.google.com/site/wapshottkeyneshayek/
Nicholas Wapshott

Harmoniate June 28, 2011 at 5:28 pm

In keeping with Henry Louis’ last wishes, every day I take the time to forgive a sinner and to wink at and flirt with a homely girl.

It appears we have a scarcity of Menckenites and a crushing surplus of Platonists.

A Menckenite is someone who can expound based on first hand zestful living and not a Platonist blatherer of bromides which might be of some use to any asexual robots in his audience who don’t need to self-provide food, drink, shelter, and luxuries.

Teddy used to say: “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.” Talk is cheap though. The highest mark of character are one’s accomplishments, so I have no idea why Teddy is widely remembered since his contribution appears to be a lot of superfluous and confounding rhetoric.

Why is it, no one speaks of a John Galt type of man like of Karl Benz, who I would classify as an Archimedian. He saw all those natural resources piled up around him and chiseled away at whichever ones weren’t part of the automobile.

A Platonist will concoct some high sounding monicker like Gas Guzzler. He basically renames things that have already been named by their rightful creators or successor makers and only confuses and polemicizes the issue. GMC has moral title to call what they manufacture as Sport Utility Vehicles. Period.

A sensible man would ignore all ideal chatter from any and all Platonists of every stripe. After all, Plato drank Hemlock and can be considered the vilest Altruist Ayn Rand Villain of all time. (Apologizies for my own weak Platonic reasoning here)

Troll Code 404 – Connection to Boudreaux Post not found.

tdp June 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Socrates drank hemlock, not Plato.

SheetWise June 29, 2011 at 7:23 am

It was rhetorical, in every meaning of the word that I’m aware of.

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