Simple Solutions

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.

H. L. Mencken, New York Evening Mail, November 16, 1917, and reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920).

WC calls this “Mencken’s Law.” Nothing has changed in the 93 years since Mencken made his point. And we get reminded of it in each and every political campaign.

Joe Miller wants to absolutely prohibit abortion. Unwanted pregnancies are certainly a human problem. An absolute ban on abortion is certainly easy, neat and plausible. But if you have a milligram of humanity in your soul, you also know that easy solution is wrong: rape, incest, pregnancies that threaten the mother’s life all present examples of just how wrong a prohibition of abortion can be. Nor can you “ban” abortion. All you can do is drive it underground. WC is old enough to remember rusty coat hangers. Miller’s position on abortion violates Mencken’s Law.

And just for the record, WC thinks abortion is none of Joe Miller’s business; it a decision between a woman and her conscience. Politicizing that decision, especially a man politicizing that decision, is despicable.

Joe Miller wants to “”return[ing] our federal government to the limits prescribed by our Constitution.” Government is certainly a human problem. Miller claims an easy solution. It’s neat and sounds plausible. And it’s wrong. Those Founding Fathers that Tea Baggers talk about? They never agreed on the scope of federal authority. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton went to their graves disagreeing on the extent of federal power. And that debate is now largely irrelevant, because the world is a dramatically different place today than it was in 1789. The United States isn’t 13 colonies huddled on the east coast of the North America. In an age when a president has the power to obliterate humanity by pushing a couple of buttons, how can  anyone think that a rural, agrarian agreement can govern the country, utterly unchanged? Miller’s simplistic position on federal power also violates Mencken’s Law.

And, once again for the record, WC thinks Miller knows his constitutional law claims are utter nonsense. In fact, he is already back-pedaling from them. Lying to your constituents, posturing for money or votes, is despicable.

Whenever Joe Miller or any other politician offers you as a voter a simple solution, ask yourself if that “solution” violates Mencken’s Law. WC offers long odds that it does.


5 thoughts on “Simple Solutions

  1. As anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows, there are no simple answers.

    I will reveal however, even while working for SAP America, I was specifically told never to answer “It depends.” to any customer question. It seems even intelligent people with active responsibility for complicated projects often want only simple answers.

    This points up the dichotomy of being required to appeal to ‘simple minds’ while struggling with reality.

    Personally, I don’t think Candidate Miller even cares about presenting any kind of logical or even ideological based argument. I think everything thing he says is all about whatever will appeal to the people he thinks most likely to vote. Period. That’s a pretty sad indictment of current politics.

    • As anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows, there are no simple answers.

      No, no, no. WC was talking about Joe Miller.

    • Mencken was a brilliant satirist, and WC is very fond of satirists. His essays on the Scopes Monkey Trials in Tennessee and the surrounding circus are brilliant. He lapsed into anti-semitism and far too high a regard for fascism in his later years, at least for WC’s tastes.

      If you enjoy Mencken, you’ll probably like Ambrose Bierce ( For example, this is one of his Fantastic Fables:

      The Returned Californian

      A Man was hanged by the neck until he was dead.

      “Whence do you come?” Saint Peter asked when the Man presented himself at the gate of Heaven.

      “From California,” replied the applicant.

      “Enter, my son, enter; you bring joyous tidings.”

      When the Man had vanished inside, Saint Peter took his memorandum-tablet and made the following entry: “February 16, 1893. California occupied by the Christians.”

  2. “No, no, no WC was talking about Joe Miller”

    {laughs to the point of tears}

    I, on the other hand, was referring to the probably competencies of “Dear Reader” … and implying that Joe Miller’s love of simple answers raises serious questions!

    As I’m reasonably certain you understood.

    Thanks for the chuckle though. It was sincerely appreciated.

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