The H.L. Mencken Club came into existence in 2008 as an organization for independent-minded intellectuals and academics of the Right.
Among other activities, The Club hosts an annual conference that attracts speakers and guests from around the world.
Past presenters include Peter Brimelow, Patrick J. Buchanan, Lee Congdon, Kevin DeAnna, John Derbyshire, Paul E. Gottfried, Kevin R. C. Gutzman, Henry Harpending, James Kalb, E. Christian Kopff, Ilana Mercer, Charles Murray, Tom Piatak, Byron M. Roth, James Russell, Steve Sailer, Richard Spencer, Srdja Trifkovic, Derek Turner, and Robert Weissberg.
The HLMC is in no way allied to either of the two national political parties, and it should not be confused with the “conservative movement.” It meets once a year for a plenary gathering in the fall near the city of Baltimore and sponsors other less formal events designed to promote The Club’s interests and themes.
The founders conceived of the organization as representative of the spirit of the “Sage of Baltimore,” Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956), the brilliant iconoclast, satirist and columnist who founded The American Mercury – a figure who questioned the egalitarian creed, siren calls for democratic crusades, and welfare statism with which American democracy was already identified during his lifetime.
Without necessarily embracing all of Mencken’s positions, the directors and members of the club named in his honor emphatically affirm his skepticism about whither the American “democratic experiment” has been moving in the last hundred years. Like Mencken the organization does not hold back from challenging the wisdom of that direction. We seek to change perceptions and attitudes by bringing together today’s heretics to discuss the dangerous topics few now dare to address. Like Mencken, our enemies are ignorance, wishful thinking and obscurantism.
Among the themes of past conferences are political correctness across the democracies, the fallacies of environmental determinism, and the increasing overlap of Right and Left within the “respectable” political spectrum.
Despite the group’s anti-egalitarian stance, it frowns on elitism within its own ranks. The Board of Directors has a revolving membership, and certified members are urged to participate in open discussion of the session themes and the election of officers. In this regard, The Mencken Club takes its cues from the example of aristocratic republicanism. While the Club rigorously screens members and those who are allowed to attend conferences, it treats those who are selected to join as equals. Membership dues are accordingly low ($50 per annum), and members volunteers do the administrative work, often at personal expense.
Since The Club stands outside the conventional policy community, it cannot depend on the kind of funding that is earmarked for Republican and Democratic advocacy groups. The Club has turned this to its advantage by stressing the virtues of volunteering.