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NOTES ON DEMOCRACY: A NEW EDITION

by H. L. Mencken

AFTERWORD BY ANTHONY LEWIS

INTRODUCTION AND ANNOTATIONS BY MARION ELIZABETH RODGERS

wars for “freedom.” Fanatical fundamentalists. Intrusive laws. H. L. Mencken wrote Notes on Democracy over 80 years ago. His era, the years of World War I, Prohibition, and the Scopes trial, is strikingly like our own. Notes isn't just a provocative and funny blast from the past, but also a perceptive and unsentimental report on contemporary life.

Dissident Books reintroduces this gem of cynicism and clear thinking to readers with NOTES ON DEMOCRACY: A NEW EDITION. Long out of print, it’s a classic that tears apart a cherished and blindly worshiped institution with heretical glee. With Ginsu-sharp insight, Mencken performs a brilliant, hilarious, and timely vivisection of the body politic. Much of NOTES reads as though it was written today. It’s both a both timely and timeless masterpiece. See Choice Democracy Cuts for a sample of Mencken’s spleen.

The new edition includes an introduction and extensive annotations by noted Mencken scholar Marion Elizabeth Rodgers and an afterword by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis.

NOTES serves as the perfect anecdote to hackneyed, self-congratulatory, and mindless paeans to democracy. NOTES ON DEMOCRACY: A NEW EDITION: Don't even think about voting until you read this book!

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Take a scandalous, misanthropic, and inebriated trip back to the Jazz Age with Notes on Democracy and Don’t Call Me a Crook!

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About the Authors

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) was America’s greatest journalist and iconoclast. With his bristling, cynical humor and unmatched erudition, he mercilessly attacked war hysteria, puritanism, and censorship. As a critic, he championed uniquely American writing, helping to free the nation’s literature of its Anglophilia. Mencken covered many of the great stories of the twentieth century’s first half, including the Scopes “Monkey” trial, Prohibition, and the New Deal. Joseph Conrad said his words emitted a “crackle of blue sparks.”

Marion Elizabeth Rodgers is the author of Mencken: The American Iconoclast, winner of the ForeWord 2005 Book of the Year Gold Award for Biography, one of Booklist’s "Top Ten Biographies for 2005–2006," named to Chicago Tribune's Best of 2005 Nonfiction List, and a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Biography. Her previous books are Mencken & Sara: A Life in Letters and The Impossible H. L. Mencken: A Selection of His Best Newspaper Stories.

Anthony Lewis is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and former New York Times columnist (1969-2001). He is currently the James Madison Chair of First Amendment Issues at Columbia University. His most recent book is Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment.

Praise for
Notes on Democracy: A New Edition

Notes on Democracy casts “voters as a dopey, fear-driven ‘booboisie.’ You have to admit, that does ring something of a bell today, no?”
The New York Times

“The tone is beyond satire, almost caustic, like the guy at the bar who sidles up to you with bad news—the guy you can’t help thinking has a point.”
Los Angeles Times and Newsday

“These are hard times for elitists. … On the left and on the right, populist mobs are lighting torches and passing out pitchforks. Today’s upper-crust types may get little love from today’s pundits, but they can still order themselves a copy of Notes on Democracy and let it lift their spirits.
Forbes

“If you’re wondering what H. L. Mencken would have made of the current fascination with Joe the Plumber, Joe Six-Pack and all the other Regular Joes out there, get yourself a copy of the newly reissued Notes on Democracy, a brief satirical blast Mencken first published in 1926. With his refreshing vehemence and impeccable political incorrectness, he explores the root of the democratic ideal, the notion that at the ‘nether levels’ of the social order ‘lies a deep, illimitable reservoir of righteousness and wisdom, unpolluted by the corruption of privilege.’”
The New York Observer

“This is a book aimed at a certain type of skeptical and cynical mind. It is like a very strong cheese: only a few will like it, but those who do will crave it…”
The Seattle Times

H. L. Mencken believed in liberty but not necessarily in democracy. Democracies were founded on the principle of majority rule, and, according to Mencken, the majority is stupid. Did he mean it? Or was he trying to make a point? A little of both, thinks Marion Elizabeth Rodgers in her introduction to this new edition.”
Baltimore Sun

“Written more than 80 years ago, Mencken’s deeply cynical and amusing book is remarkably relevant today.”
The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Before the Depression, before the New Deal, before Pearl Harbor, before Sputnik, before Martin Luther King Jr. and long before the presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain, Mencken was an independent voice who rejected the prevailing wisdom and offended officeholders and sensitive people of all stripes.”
The Oregonian

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. Notes on Democracy was written well over eight decades ago, but much of its wit and insight draws striking parallels to the modern world of today … Mencken’s original message remains strong … Notes on Democracy is timeless and highly recommended reading.
The Midwest Book Review (The Social Issues Shelf)

Notes on Democracy is the most artfully written and least well known of H. L. Mencken’s many essays on democracy and its discontents … and like so much of Mencken’s writing, it turns out to be timelier than ever.
Terry Teachout, author of The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken

Notes on Democracy is the most outrageous and politically incorrect of all of Mencken’s major works. Marion Elizabeth Rodgers’s introduction and notes are models of clarity and scholarship.”
S. T. Joshi, editor of Mencken’s America

“Shall we make the world safe for democracy? To the contrary, argues H. L. Mencken, with characteristic wit and gusto. The world should be made safe from democracy!”
Hans-Hermann Hoppe, author of Democracy: The God that Failed

“…like Mencken, charming but deadly.”
Menckeniana

"[K]udos to newly founded publisher Dissident Books for this fresh, annotated edition of Menken’s politically incorrect Notes on Democracy, first published in 1926 but still arrestingly relevant today.… [N]one of the sting of Mencken’s exuberant attack on the democratic process has been lost."
Asia Times

“This is a wonderful book… If Machiavelli took off our blinders and exposed the rancid underbelly of tyrants in The Prince, Mencken did the same for democracy in this gem of a book… Buy ten copies. You know who needs them.
strike-the-root.com

“Mencken wrote mountains of material and all of it is stunningly good. … And although it is hard to pick a favorite book of his, for me, Notes on Democracy is his best, perhaps because there is no bigger sacred cow than democracy.”
Doug French, president, Mises Institute

Choice Democracy Cuts

GOVERNMENT:

[P]oliticians… are influenced … by small but competent and determined minorities, with special knowledge and special interests. It was thus that the plain people were shoved into the late war, and it is thus that they will be shoved into the next one.

THE COMMON MAN:

Liberty is unfathomable to [the Common Man] … What he mistakes for it, nine times out of ten, is simply the banal right to empty hallelujahs upon his oppressors. He is an ox whose last proud, defiant gesture is to lick the butcher behind the ear.

LIBERTARIANS:

It takes quite as long to breed a libertarian as it takes to breed a race-horse. Neither may be expected to issue from a farm hare.

PROGRESS:

Learning survives among us largely because the mob has not got news of it.

THOSE WHO QUESTION DEMOCRACY:

Democracy, alas, is also a form of theology, and shows all the immemorial stigmata… An anti-democrat is not merely mistaken; he is also wicked, and the more plausible he is the more wicked he becomes.