Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

H.L. Mencken on the Recession

Okay, he was talking about the depression, but it still holds beautifully:

It is only the story of those Americans who yielded irrationally to professional seers and visionaries, as yokels yield to travelling [sic] corn-doctors and evangelists… Are the rest of us in the same boat? I doubt it.  The boat we are in is getting some unpleasant rocking from the foundering of the other, but it is tighter of seam and will survive.  We have all lost something, but not many have really lost everything.  In actual values, the country is still rich, and any man who owns any honest part of it still has that part, and will see it making money for him when the clouds roll by… It seems to me that the depression will be well worth its cost if it brings Americans back to their senses.  Once they rediscover the massive fact that hard thrift and not gambler’s luck is the only true basis of national wealth, they will discover simultaneously that a perfectly civilized and contented life is possible without the old fuss and display.


  1. I don’t get it. Is he talking about reducing the capital gains tax on stock sales?

  2. “The boat we are in is getting some unpleasant rocking from the foundering of the other…”.

    This statement is disturbing. While I support capitalism in general, what the truly rich fail to understand is that most people in this country are painfully close to being one of the foundering rather than being in the boat of prosperity.

    There are probably 5-10% of people in this country who have enough financial riches so that they can weather any kind of problem. Everyone else is in the situation that a single catastrophic medical event, an unjustified lawsuit, a divorce, an unexpected pregnancy or six months without a paycheck can take them from being in the boat to foundering in the water. So you do everything right, don’t rely on gambler’s luck and make $100,000 a year by the sweat of your brow? Fine, the recession will now cut your earnings by $20,000, and here comes a $150,000 medical procedure that is not “necessary” according to the insurance company but will save your young child from a lifetime of pain. Try working that into your well-planned, thrifty budget.

    That’s why it remains important that those in the boat don’t look at those in the water and say, “it’s your fault, I’m not going to help, learn your lesson.” It would be more appropriate to say, “there but for the grace of God go I,” and provide a helping hand and, yes, even a safety net.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *