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H. L. Mencken on the American Businessman:

He is the only one who always seeks to make it appear, when he attains the object of his labors, i.e. the making of a great deal of money, that it was not the object of his labors.

I thought instantly of this Mencken quote (from an article first published in Smart Set magazine in February 1921) when I read Hunter's front pager today about Charles Koch's arrogant, yet oddly devoid of actual content, rebuttal to Warren Buffet's NYT Op-Ed that gently suggested the super rich should stop acting like such jerks and pitch in with the taxes already.

In a statement published by the National Review, Koch said:

Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.
Don't you morons see, says Koch, I'm not doing this to get rich. I'm getting rich as a public service, unlike your government, which is just stealing from you.

A full fifteen years before this Charles Koch prick was born, the Sage of Baltimore had him totally nailed. Consider the full context of Mencken's remarks about the American businessman.

It is, after all, a sound instinct which puts business below the professions, and burdens the business man with a social inferiority that he can never quite shake off, even in America. The business man, in fact, acquiesces in this assumption of his inferiority, even when he protests against it. He is the only man above the hangman and the scavenger which is forever apologizing for his occupation. He is the only one who always seeks to make it appear, when he attains the object of his labors, i.e. the making of a great deal of money, that it was not the object of his labors.
Mencken was an influential voice in American letters during his own time and his views did not pass by without a reaction.

In the 90 years since these remarks, the rubrics of capitalism, business, small business, enterprise, free enterprise and several others of similar ilk have been burnished and polished and displayed and advertised and promoted and projected to the point that more and more people forget the fundamentally unsavory nature of commerce and business. But truths remain true, and taking one's profits from the labor of another will never be an entirely worthy thing.

Based on Charles Koch's remarks, I'd speculate that even today, some thin skinned billionaires still feel the sting of that sense of social inferiority. As they should.

Originally posted to The H.L. Menken Society on Sat Aug 20, 2011 at 07:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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