"For every complex problem" (Mencken?)

Fred Shapiro fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Fri Apr 22 18:12:52 UTC 2005

On Fri, 22 Apr 2005 bapopik at AOL.COM wrote [quoting a question on Google

> I understand that the American newspaperman, H.L. Mencken said: "For
> every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple--and
> wrong."
> What is the reference for this?  Did he really say this?

Respectfully Quoted has the following:

There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat,
plausible, and wrong.
        H. L. Mencken, "The Divine Afflatus," A Mencken Chrestomathy,
chapter 25, p. 443 (1949).  This essay was originally published in the New
York Evening Mail, November 16, 1917, and reprinted in Prejudices: Second
Series (1920)

Other sources, citing Prejudices: Second Series, have "well-known
solution" instead of "easy solution."  I am now wondering what the 1917
newspaper article says.  Is there any chance that Barry Popik or George
Thompson or Jesse Sheidlower or someone else in New York can look at the
Evening Mail article and transcribe the full, accurate original quote?

Fred Shapiro

Fred R. Shapiro                             Editor
Associate Librarian for Collections and     YALE DICTIONARY OF QUOTATIONS
  Access and Lecturer in Legal Research     Yale University Press,
Yale Law School                             forthcoming
e-mail: fred.shapiro at yale.edu               http://quotationdictionary.com

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