… is from page 233 of the 1997 Johns Hopkins University Press edition of H.L. Mencken’s indispensable 1956 collection, Minority Report:
Men in the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem, and the more idiotic it is the more eagerly they will embrace it. Nothing that is true ever convinces them. They demand illusion, and on the political plane they get it….
DBx: This quotation reads almost as if it were a blurb for my colleague Bryan Caplan’s great 2007 book, The Myth of the Rational Voter.
Mountains of legislation and bureaucratic diktats testify to the truth that central to the state’s business is satisfying the populace’s demand for illusions. Legislators proclaim that wages rise for all low-skilled workers when minimum-wage legislation is enacted. Jobs are saved and none are destroyed when tariffs are imposed. Terrorism is thwarted and nations built when more soldiers and bombs from ‘good-guy’ countries are unleashed abroad. The easy fix for gun violence is gun-control legislation. Seizing the earnings of the rich and giving this booty to the poor will “grow” the economy, engender domestic peace and harmony, and ensure that politicians are never again tempted into corruption or venality. Illusions all.