Go to Homepage   P. J. O'Rourke: Eat the Rich

 

Atlantic Monthly Press (Paperback),
ISBN: 0871137607
My first and last brush with economics was Econ. 101. The bespectacled, gray-suited, black shoed professor had written the text, and his instruction consisted of reading the baffling material to us. The course had all the vitality of a slagheap.  

Preorder today from AmazonAs P. J. O'Rourke points out near the beginning of Eat the Rich, A Treatise on Economics, most liberal arts majors like me had the good sense and cowardice to stay away from courses that actually demanded intellectual gymnastics and possibly could lead to gainful employment. However, having reached mid-life and shed his Sixties' style radicalism, O'Rourke revisits economics with an attempt to understand its intricacies and give it a human face. Lucky for the reader, O'Rourke's sharp eye, tart tongue, and hail-fellow-well-met style inject new life into the dismal science. 

Not one to let a little exaggeration stand between him and a good read, O'Rourke sets out to answer fundamental economic questions by going on location for answers. His first stop: the newly capitalist Albania where O'Rourke seeks to find whether capitalism is an automatic engine pulling the train of prosperity.  

What he finds is a poverty-stricken, gun-toting, crime-ridden, work-phobic society with an aspiring king who doesn't even speak Albanian, grew up in Rhodesia and was arrested for gun-running in Thailand. Though, as O'Rourke points out, this is a better qualification for kingship "than having your ex-wife martyred by paparazzi." Subsequently O'Rourke navigates through Cuba where "the whores were budding… and everything else was old, withered, blown up, used up," as well as Russia, Tanzania and several Asiatic ports of call.  

Luckily the doctrines of political correctness have not shackled O'Rourke's subversive tongue. When he visits Sweden, the socialist paradise, he discovers a society sinking under the burden of fairness, justice, social programs and boredom. Leave it to O'Rourke to call a spade a Swede. When he meets the Swedish cabinet minister in charge of "consumer, religious, youth and sports affairs," he wonders why her title fails to include "hobbies, board games, gardening and affairs among middle-aged married people." 

But does O'Rourke's globe trotting end where it began? Not exactly. He began asking what the source of a nation's prosperity is; he ends with a dogmatic answer to that question. His final chapter outlines a prescription for world prosperity that will enrage collectivists and hearten Iowa Republicans. O'Rourke then closes with a story apocryphally attributed to Ronald Reagan that makes clear the ultimate irony in his title.

In short, this book isn't for everybody. If your idea of economics is pie graphs and Frances Moore Lappe, and you find foreign countries about as interesting as a Swedish movie with Japanese actors, then grab something else off the shelves. However, if you're up to a brisk, comic, informative global romp with a genuinely irreverent irony-machine, then wade in. It's time for you to Eat The Rich.  

H. Turnip Smith

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