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The Elitist Individualism of H.L. Mencken

  • The Libertarian Tradition
09/28/2010Jeff Riggenbach

Mencken saw the implications of where his thinking was leading him and he acknowledged those implications frankly. "I am," he wrote in The Smart Set in 1922, "a libertarian of the most extreme variety."

I suppose you might call it elitist individualism. It's the sort of individualism that is focused on self-realization and self-expression, and Mencken never makes any secret of the fact that he is primarily concerned with the self-realization and self-expression of what he calls "the superior man," that is, the individual of substantially above-average intelligence. "There are minds which start out with a superior equipment, and proceed to high and arduous deeds," he wrote in 1926, in the very book Walter Lippmann was reviewing when he called Mencken "the most powerful personal influence on this whole generation of educated people."

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