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September 2, 2012
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H.L. Mencken on Taxes by BlameThe1st H.L. Mencken on Taxes by BlameThe1st
"The intelligent man, when he pays taxes, certainly does not believe that he is making a prudent and productive investment of his money; on the contrary, he feels that he is being mulcted in an excessive amount for services that, in the main, are useless to him, and that, in substantial part, are downright inimical to him. He may be convinced that a police force, say, is necessary for the protection of his life and property, and that an army and navy safeguard him from being reduced to slavery by some vague foreign Kaiser, but even so he views these things as extravagantly expensive-he sees in even the most essential of them an agency for making it easier for the exploiters constituting the government to rob him. In those exploiters themselves he has no confidence whatever. He sees them as purely predatory and useless; he believes that he gets no more net benefit from their vast and costly operations than he gets from the money he lends to his wife's brother. They constitute a power that stands over him constantly, ever alert for new chances to squeeze him. If they could do so safely they would strip him to his hide. If they leave him anything at all, it is simply prudentially, as a farmer leaves a hen some of her eggs."

- excerpt from "More Of The Same" by H.L. Mencken
American Mercury, 1925


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About the author (from Wikipedia):

Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (September 12, 1880 - January 29, 1956), was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, critic of American life and culture, and a scholar of American English. Known as the "Sage of Baltimore", he is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the twentieth century. Many of his books still remain in print.

Mencken is known for writing The American Language, a multi-volume study of how the English language is spoken in the United States, and for his satirical reporting on the Scopes trial, which he dubbed the "Monkey Trial". He commented widely on the social scene, literature, music, prominent politicians, pseudo-experts, the temperance movement, and uplifters. A keen cheerleader of scientific progress, he was very skeptical of economic theories and particularly critical of anti-intellectualism, bigotry, populism, Fundamentalist Christianity, creationism, organized religion, the existence of God, and osteopathic/chiropractic medicine.

In addition to his literary accomplishments, Mencken was known for his controversial ideas. A frank admirer of Nietzsche, he was not a proponent of representative democracy, which he believed was a system in which inferior men dominated their superiors. During and after World War One, he was sympathetic to the Germans, and was very distrustful of British "propaganda." However, he overcame his inclination to embrace all things Bavarian, referring to Hitler and his followers as "ignorant thugs."

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Image from Leadership Freak.
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:iconmenapia:
menapia Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014
Great poster and choice of H. L. Mencken, ever read his "Declaration of Independence in American"? brilliant stuff
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No, but I should. Link?
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:iconmenapia:
menapia Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014
I'm afraid I came across it in an old book from the 1920's but it's great:D (Big Grin) , imagine the Declaration of Independence done by a New York Cabbie who explains why the ideals behind it are so important in plain English. It's inspiring and guaranteed to make you smile at the same time.

I think I saw a copy on a website called the Library of Liberty, I've lost the link but it's easy to find online, the website contains historical documents and publications that explain how our civil liberties originated so you've got things like an English translation of Magna Carta which states "we shall sell or deny justice to no man" and the promise of how you're supposed to be judged by a court of your peers. 

I found it educational when we did constitutional law during our first year since all of our rights in Ireland derive from English Common Law.

It also has the story of John Harrington who wrote a book called "The Commonwealth of Oceana" back in the 1600's, this book describes every civil right we now habitually enjoy, but Harrington was dragged from his home in the middle of the night in secrecy without a court order or warrant (as a law student this really made my blood boil) and secretly and illegally locked up in the dungeon of Dover Castle & denied access to either legal counsel or his family for years.

At no point was he ever formally accused of any crime or brought before a judge, eventually his family paid a bribe to King Charles II after John went insane from ill treatment and he died shortly after being released.
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:iconzeonista:
Zeonista Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014
Mencken was a bitter cynical fellow with little love of his fellow man. However, he understood that some things should be criticized frequently & often to keep the discussion focused on limits. :)
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
He was the George Carlin of his day! :D
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:iconzeonista:
Zeonista Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2014
Those two do share a certain ethos of cynical satire. :)  Mencken though was trying to prod his audience into critical thinking, while Carlin was more of a passive commentator.
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:iconimperator-zor:
Imperator-Zor Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2013
Every tax, however, is to the person who pays it a badge, not of slavery but of liberty. It denotes that he is a subject to government, indeed, but that, as he has some property, he cannot himself be the property of a master." -Adam Smith
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Because obviously I'm in control of my own tax dollars, which is why the government is spending it on drone strikes, drug raids, and corporate boondoggles.
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:iconimperator-zor:
Imperator-Zor Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2013
And also a vast number of things that benefit you every day, from an educated population to roads to safety standards to police.

Adam Smith understood the truth, some things are useful (indeed necessary) for society to have and can be provided best by non profit organizations.
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:iconsame-side:
Same-side Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2012   Writer
The US tax system is janked. It's all about "fairness," when it should be about promoting economic growth: [link]
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Oct 17, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Agreed.
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:iconhaze3p0:
Haze3P0 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Right now, I only pay payroll taxes, which goes to Medicare, Disability, Social Security, etc. I don't mind my taxes going to welfare programs (except to those who abuse it), paying for roads, bridges, etc. I don't like it going to corporate subsidies, war, etc.
I'm not an anti-tax guy. I just want the wealthy to pay more, get rid of loopholes that allows the wealthy to pay less, that sort of stuff.
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Well, I oppose corporate subsidies and welfare as well. But as for higher taxes, well, the effective tax rates as mentioned by the Congressional Budget Office and Tax Policy Center will clear that up for me.
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:icongryphon2001:
Gryphon2001 Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012
"The intelligent man, when he pays taxes, ..."
That isn't an 'intelligent' man, that is a sheeple who does what the Corporate.gov Demands of him...
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Indeed. I’m not exactly making an intelligent decision if I’m coerced into making it. It’s like a robber putting a gun to my head and demanding that I pay him or else he shoots my brain out. What “choice” do I have in the matter?
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:icongryphon2001:
Gryphon2001 Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012
Pay your Taxes, or Go to Jail, Sheeple...
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:iconsquirrels-are-evil:
squirrels-are-evil Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm sure that "intelligent" man never took the bus to the local library, or never walked back at night under the streetlights

So much we take for granted when become comfortably numb
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
And yet the majority of our taxes doesn’t go to that stuff. Instead, it goes to drone strikes and drug raids and corporate boondoggles and other forms of cronyism and waste. The lion’s share of our national budget goes to defense spending alone—which isn’t really “defense” spending because our military hasn’t actually been used for defense.
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:iconsquirrels-are-evil:
squirrels-are-evil Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I won't disagree with you there
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
At least we agree on something.
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:iconnerudan18:
Nerudan18 Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Penn and Teller couldn't have said it better. If the gov't finds out you picked up a dime from the street, they'd probably try and tax that, too. No source of income is safe from their intrusiveness.
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:iconkajm:
Kajm Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
That's why I very much appreciate being able to sell things over the internet, thru several venues. It is ALL $$ under the table.
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:iconnerudan18:
Nerudan18 Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:D
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Exactly. When we live in a country where Al Capone can get away with murder but get busted on his taxes, you know our government has messed-up priorities.
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:icongryphon2001:
Gryphon2001 Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012
"If the gov't finds out you picked up a dime from the street, they'd probably try and tax that, too."
Yes, they Do. look up about Shipwreck Salvagers who 'find' lots of Gold and Silver Coins in INTERNATIONAL WATERS, You will see that the .gov DEMANDS ITS TITHE OF $HEKEL$ No Matter what the situation is...
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:iconjeysie:
Jeysie Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Well, if by "useless" he meant, "keeps a first world conditions economy going", then sure.

Just because you personally don't directly use it, doesn't mean it doesn't indirectly keep the economy you benefit from going by directly benefiting someone else's corner of said economy. We tend to have an extremely myopic view of things, where we assume wrongly that if we don't directly see something, it never affects us in any way.

For instance, if you never get a lick of welfare directly, you might assume it's useless. But, welfare keeps millions of people as participating members of the economy, either by being able to afford to be customers, or being able to afford to be workers. (For instance, any retail worker you've ever been waited on by that was over the age of 25 or so, chances are very very high they need government support to be able to survive on their paychecks.) So removal or reduction of welfare would end up hurting you as well, since it would be a major hit on the money circulating through the economy.

As such, it's kind of hilarious to presume that individual Americans would actually be smarter in investing their money, when they're not even smart enough to realize how necessary most of the public services they pay for via taxes are to their way of living.
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
How much of our taxpayer money do you honestly believe fund things that benefit our best interests?
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:iconjeysie:
Jeysie Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Most of it, actually.

Is there corruption? Yep. Is there waste? Yep. Is it where the right-wing likes to say it is? Nope.
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
So the huge chunk of our national budget that goes to defense spending? Is that in our best interest? Does that benefit us? Can we even claim that defense spending is even used for “defense”?
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:iconjeysie:
Jeysie Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
See, that's the ironic thing. That's the one big area of spending we actually could reduce significantly without hurting the country greatly... but it's also the one area the Republicans refuse to touch.
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
It’s also one the Democrats won’t touch either. Then again, neither party really gives a crap at this point. Or ever!
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:iconjeysie:
Jeysie Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
They have tried to touch it at least somewhat; cuts in the military were part of the Dems' half of the budget compromise attempt. Not as deep as anyone would have liked, admittedly. Still, it's hard to accept Republicans as being honest when they say they care about fiscal responsibility, yet their idea of "responsibility" is cutting the funds of poor people who currently have no other income options while refusing to touch the one thing that could be cut successfully. Democrats at least aren't hypocritical in that regard.

Or to put it another way: Both sides are guilty, but only one side promised to do such a thing in the first place.
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:iconlbthecc:
LBtheCC Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Good quote. It would be nice if I knew my taxes were being spent well. They just kinda go towards a random hole somewhere, that occassionally spits out cops and roads.
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
At this point, burning my money would be of better use than sending it to the IRS. At least by burning it, I can generate heat to warm me when it gets cold.
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:iconlbthecc:
LBtheCC Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Could burn the IRS. I'll bring the marshmallows. Might warm quite a few people, literally, and in their hearts!

-- Obligatory J/K comment to keep myself from being pegged a terrorist --
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I could go with that. And the TSA. And the DHS. And the NSA. And the Federal Reserve. And pretty much any other superfluous federal agency.
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:iconrhetorichaystack:
RhetoricHaystack Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Professional General Artist
are you even old enough to have had to pay income taxes?
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm 25.
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:iconrhetorichaystack:
RhetoricHaystack Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Professional General Artist
so how many years have you had to pay in at the end of the year? specifically, your rebate being smaller than your due amount, resulting in your need to pay extra at tax time. if you are in college, you rarely have to pay in. when you live with your parents, you rarely have to pay in. mind, i am merely trying to put things into perspective for you. i find your outrage to be clearly dramatized compared to your actual portion of the tax burden [so far].
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Regardless of how much I put into the system, the mere fact that what I ultimately put into the system is wasted on crap that doesn’t benefit me still pisses me off. I don’t benefit from drones or corporate boondoggles, yet my money goes to those things anyway.

And the worst part is that the politicians up in Washington are demanding that I pay more for that stuff in order to alleviate the economy. Um, hell no. Why don’t you guys stop wasting my money on crap before you start asking me for more money. In fact, if you guys just stop wasting my money on crap, you wouldn’t need more of it to begin with, and you would actually have extra money for stuff we actually need like roads.
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:iconlordthawkeye:
LordTHawkeye Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012
Just today I had some unthinker spout "taxes pay for public services!"

To which I only reply "War does not serve the public interest yet still takes the biggest slice to date."

More window breakers who think tax money is magic money that comes from Santa Claus...
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
LOL! Exactly.

I get tired of hearing about our taxes go to roads and schools and bridges and other good things like that. What planet do these people live on where our taxes only go towards stuff that benefits us? Last time I checked, the majority of our budget goes to defense—which really isn’t defense at this point.
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:iconoverlord299:
Overlord299 Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2012
In fairness, that is where they go in Australia. Our army is minscule (we have something like 24 million people total, what did you expect?) and so the majority of our tax money goes to public transport (the bits that aren't privatised at least) healthcare (same as before), education (see above) and healthcare (likewise).

The benefit of being a country with a tiny army is that we really don't spend a heap on defense (proportianally).
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:iconthelightswentoutin99:
TheLightsWentOutIn99 Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2012  Student Writer
You're wrong there. Entitlements take the biggest slice.
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:icon2112yyz2112:
2112yyz2112 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012
I have heard him quoted by many, most of whom I admire intellectually.
He is no Clint though! LOL
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Recently read his essay in The Libertarian Reader. He sounds like a really deep thinker. He was a very prominent journalist in his day. And the fact that his opinions still ring true to this day shows how relevant he truly is.
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:icon2112yyz2112:
2112yyz2112 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012
Agreed, your synopsis rings true with what I have heard, plus he is profiled in a philosophy book I have been reading. Will read more of him, and see if there are any good youtube interviews... maybe a Charlie Rose or some such caliber....

This may be good....
[link]
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:iconblamethe1st:
BlameThe1st Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
They’re all pretty good. The first one is a bit questionable. Taken out of context, it could be as though he’s advocating for censorship.
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:icon2112yyz2112:
2112yyz2112 Featured By Owner Sep 2, 2012
Yes I see that, the one that caught me was the one regarding, if one chooses to put forth original thought one must accept that they will be misunderstood. This makes me think on both sides of the implications there, I may/hope it will keep me cool and level headed in future disagreements.... Dont laugh IT IS POSSIBLE!!!! LOL
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