Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem neat, plausible, and wrong.

Mencken - neat plausible and wrong - wist_info quote

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“The Divine Afflatus,” New York Evening Mail (16 Nov 1917)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Prejudices: Second Series (1920) and A Mencken Chrestomathy, ch. 25 (1949).

Variants:
  • "There is always an easy solution to every human problem -- neat, plausible, and wrong."
  • "For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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4 Responses to “The Divine Afflatus,” New York Evening Mail (16 Nov 1917)

  1. NB says:

    Thank you for your useful site, I read the article “The Divine Afflatus,” on page 6, The Evening Mail (New York, 16 Nov 1917), but could not see the quote “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” anywhere in the article 🙂

    • Dave says:

      Hi, NB, thanks for the info. Hmmmm. I don’t have a copy of the source article, but a reprint of Prejudices: Second Series, which includes that essay does have the variant I mention:

      Explanations exist; they have existed for all time; there is always a well-known solution to every human problem neat, plausible, and wrong.

      That variant seems to be what is included all over the place, now that I look at it, which makes me think that’s the “true” quotation, and someone else mangled it to “simple, neat, and wrong” somewhere along the line.

      I will make corrections at my first opportunity. Thanks again!

  2. NB says:

    The second reference is almost correct, at least in the 1921 version of Prejudices: Second Series (available from https://archive.org/stream/prejudices030184mbp#page/n163/mode/2up) the quote is “…there is always a well-known solution to every human problem neat, plausible, and wrong.” (rather than “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”)

  3. Dave says:

    I have updated the quotation entry and the graphic. Thanks, NB!

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