H.L. Mencken channels Adam Smith

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Over at Liberty Fund’s AdamSmithWorks website, I have an article drawing a parallel between Adam Smith’s moral philosophy and H.L. Mencken’s satire:

The impartial spectator is a key concept in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments. It is a way for people to judge their own behavior. If a complete stranger were observing how I treated people, would that person say that I was treating them well? If I were having a disagreement with someone, who would this unbiased stranger side with?

Mencken, in his own way, is also an impartial spectator. He made fun of almost everybody, but his lampooning had a few common themes. These include status-seeking, greed, gullibility, and, above all, being a killjoy. One way to judge your own conduct is to ask yourself, would H.L. Mencken make fun of me for this? If the answer is yes, you might need to make some changes.

Read the whole piece here.

I previously found common ground between Adam Smith and Greek tragedy here.

For more CEI content on Adam Smith, see our recent series celebrating Smith’s 300th birthday (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).