[[ Textbooks ]] Eat the Rich: A Treatise on EconomicsAuthor P.J. O'Rourke – Circuitwiringdiagram.co

Y = [1] [CIG(XM)]/1mpc, this jumbled mess of numbers and letters is used to show the simple concept that as an object getsexpensive, the less people purchase said item Why is it that every economic text is written in such an arcane and unappraochable manner? Such pieces are near incomprehensible except to those who have studied economics, and even they may still have trouble understanding Eat the Rich by P.J O’Rourke seeks to rectify that problem by writing a treatise on economics that the layman can understand Without any pictures, P.J O’Rourke takes the reader on a journey throughout the world in an attempt to solve the problem that all economists are trying to solve, what makes one country rich and another country poor The author of this book is not an economist, however he is a journalist and so has seen many parts of the world which have varying levels of prosperity In each place he reasearches what is going on in that country socially, politically, and, of course, economically All the while he keeps a humorous and easy tone doing it P.J O’Rourke travels to each country that he deems as a paradigm of some concept related to economics He looks at examles of good and bad capitalism, Wall Street and Albainia respectively, good and bad socialism, Sweden and Cuba respectively, how to reform an economy, Russia, how to make nothing from everything and everything from nothing, Tanzania and Hong Kong respectively, and finally, how to have the worst of both worlds, Shanghai In the end, P.J O’Rourke concludes that the reason one country is rich and another is not is because the rich country usually has a freer market Even in Sweden, the example of good socialism in this book, O’Rourke notes that the economy there is stagnating So ultimately, a nation can be wealthy by adopting the free market, free enough that money can be made, and sensibly regulated enough that it can not be exploited by pyramid schemes as seen in Albania This book had many good moments and I quite liked reading it, but there were a few flaws For example, despite there being some funny moments in this book, there were a couple of moments in which the pace dragged considerably In those sections of the book, there was little to no humor, and the pages were filled with long, boring, descriptions which just causes me to attempt to speedread through the section until the next funny bit One part in particular which may be my least favorite part was when O’Rourke travels to Tanzania to investigate the economic situation there, that part seemed to drag on forever On the other hand, there were many good parts of the book As with other P.J O’Rourke books I read, the best moments tended to be around the beginning and the end of the book Perhaps the best two chapters in the book were the second chapter of the book, Good Capitalism Wall Street, and, Eat the Rich, the final chapter of this book The chapter Good Capitalism holds perhaps one of my favorite quotes in existence on page 35, “I needed to go someplace that had no rules and was full of crooks I considered Washington D.C., but Albania looked likefun.” If I were to change anything in this book, I would includefunny moments as seen above, and less lengthy, tedious spaces in between those funny moments In the end, Eat the Rich is, in my opinion, a great but clearly flawed book The age old question stood, what makes one country wealthy, and another country poor? The question that had been, and is still, debated constantly by economists whom we couldn’t make sense of Who knew that a book from 1998 would provide an answer with evidence that we all could understand and have fun reading That answer being free market economics I would fully recommend this to pretty much everyone who has a passing interest in economics but can not yet understand the jargon. Eat the Rich isn't so much a treatise on economics as it is a travelogue with an economics slant.I really enjoyed reading this work I found it informative to a degree, and laughed out loud multiple times at O'Rourke's wit It's obvious to me now that P.J O'Rourke is the direct literary predecesor of Sarah Vowell Their politics probably don't synch up too swell, but their writing voices are practically Siamese twins The humor with which O'Rourke describes and explains such diverse locales and cultures as Shanghai, Tanzania, Sweden, Hong Kong, Cuba, Russia, and Wall Street make this work immenantly readable.The problem is, it never actually gets around to explaining much The author does make quite a big deal early on about the weird thing about economics is that it makes no sense and that the experts seem to know less about it than lay people do And that may be true (or not) But other than pointing out the underlying pros and cons of Socialism and Capitalism as they exist in various cultural and geographical contexts, there is no connective thread that even tries to draw any kind of conclusions.Well, there sort of is, but it seemed to be a bit off the mark In his closing chapter, O'Rourke states that wealth is not a bad thing, and frequently gets a bad wrap, as though it were personally responsible for the flip side of the economics coin, poverty This is very true: wealth is a tool that can be (and sometimes actually is) used for mankind's benefit But he then goes a step further and claims that wealth in most cases (even if accidentally) used for good, and that people living in poverty shouldn't resent rich people for having nice things! They should just go figure how to get nice things for themselves.I'm sure O'Rourke could give a detailed explanation of why that is supposed to make sense and be in some way practical advice for poor people, but in the closing pages of Eat the Rich, he doesn't really make any kind of case at all He just sites the 10 Commandments (Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbors Stuff) and some statistics that show the Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality Rate gaps between wealthy and poor nations have closed over the last few decades Based on these two things, he concludes that everything is going to be okay.Had I not read that last chapter, I probably would have awarded this 4 stars Its clever, funny, insightful, and even if it doesn't have any systematic explanations of how economics work in different countries around the globe, it is still fun to read. You know what? I love Karl Marx He is the definitive historian, the modern day secular Clio He understood economics, but he didn't understand wealth Adam Smith understood wealth PJ O'Rourke understands both He was a marxist and then he became a richist In 1997 he traveled the planet doing a comparative study of different economic systems, looking at Russia, Cuba, Sweden, Tanzania, the US, China, and Hong Kong His conclusions support classical economic liberalism, while thumbing his nose at the leftist slaking thirst for regulation I've never met a leftist who thoroughly understood economics Perhaps caring about social justice goes beyond economics O'Rourke seems to think the only way countries pull themselves out of third world poverty is through adoption of sensible market solutions East Asia has proven him right However, O'Rourke fails to address the growling beast of global warming What a dick. They don't call economics the dismal science for nothing As P.J O'Rourke puts it in his latest book, Economics is just too complicated It makes our heads ache And no wonder The economics profs turn simple ideas like people buy less of something as it getsexpensive into something arcane and incomprehensible likeY = [1] [CIG(XM)]/1mpcBut for those of us who invest in the capitalist system, it behooves us to know something about how our system generates wealth What better way than to take it with a spoonful of sugar, P.J O'Rourke style!O'Rourke, the conservativelibertarian raconteur, sets out in Eat the Rich, subtitled A Treatise on Economics, to answer a simple question, Why do some places prosper and thrive while others just suck? He does it by his favorite method, visiting various places around the world and observing how they work.If you haven't met O'Rourke before, you are in for a treat Possibly America's funniest writer, the Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and regular contributor to Rolling Stone is a brilliant observer of the passing scene wherever he is and loves to poke fun at humanity's foibles and fads Eat the Rich is his ninth book and joins such classics as Parliament of Whores (where he tries to explain the entire U.S government) and All the Trouble in the World (where he looks at the lighter side of overpopulation, famine, ecological disaster, ethnic hatred, plague and poverty).In this new treatise he visits such varied places as Wall Street (good capitalism), Albania (bad capitalism), Sweden (good socialism) and Cuba (bad socialism) He also takes a stab at actually explaining some economic concepts such as the law of comparative advantage (using John Grisham and Courtney Love as his guinea pig examples).Okay! Okay! You gotta know, right? You see, he hypothesizes that John Grisham is a better novel writer and a better composer than Courtney Love But Courtney is relatively better at song writing than she is at writing novels So it pays for Courtney to concentrate on caterwauling and Grisham on bashing the laptop Society as a whole benefits from this O'Rourke draws up the usual comparative advantage chart to prove that we getbenefit to society units or BS from the duo's specialization.O'Rourke's trip to Wall Street is a must read for fans of the stock market He notes that the stock market has become the darling of the media It is in, it is hip, the New York Stock Exchange has achieved celebrity status.O'Rourke spent his first hour at the exchange fascinated by the littering Stockbrokers, he notes, are the last nonpsychotic people in the U.S throwing garbage over their shoulders while the rest of us fret about the environment Over four thousand pounds of canceled buy and sell orders and other detritus is swept from the exchange floor every day.O'Rourke explains, in his wry way, the inner workings of the exchange the floor brokers, the competitive traders, the specialist brokers and the twodollar brokers The language of the exchange upticks, downticks, the trading crowd, fill or kill, limit orders and such oddities as trading in sixteenths of a dollar called teenies And, oh yes, one of the oldfashioned charms of the NYSE, besides the littering, the constant use of the F word!But despite the humor, O'Rourke's observations are quite intriguing When we own any financial instrument, he says, what we basically own is an opinion For example, if the British pound declines, the number of pence in a pound doesn't change We just don't feel the same way about pounds any Our collective opinions on a stock constitutes its price So when we buy a stock, we are of the opinion that someone later on will think the stock is worththan we think it's worth now As O'Rourke observes, Economists call this in a rare example of comprehensible economist terminology the Greater Fool Theory.And as with most working stiffs, ask whether stockbrokers are of the classical school, Keynesians or a monetarists, the reply will be, as one broker put it, I don't think they give two shits!But as we learn, economics is important What makes our free market economies strong, vibrant and productive, is a combination of freedom in an environment of the rule of law.Albania went from communist hell hole to anarchist hellhole in short order From total control to no control A country ruined by Ponzi schemes Freedom, but no rule of law The Albanian concept of freedom, observes O'Rourke, approaches my own ideas on the subject, circa late adolescence When communism was overthrown, the best people ran like hell escaping to Greece, Italy or western embassies Looting became endemic, finally stopping when they ran out of stuff to loot.Sweden good socialism is contrasted with Cuba bad socialism, though O'Rourke clearly doesn't care for either Socialism, he says, is inherently totalitarian in philosophy Every aspect of your private life can become public property Witness Sweden's Minister for Consumer, Religious, Youth and Sports Affairs Gee! Don't we have one of those in Canada! No! Actually we have several!Cuba is worse There is one vibrant, exciting, and highly efficient sector of the official Cuban economy, he writes The police! When he made an errant left turn with his rented car, O'Rourke was pulled over a mile away in a different part of town for the transgression.He visits a dissident couple, though they hadn't actually dissented about anything They just wanted to leave Cuba They had visited Sweden and applied for asylum, but the egalitarian, progressive Swedes with their generous refugee policy had sent them back! Now they were in permanent hot water.O'Rourke writes about the history of Cuba the concentration camps, the executions Cuba, according to the Americas Watch human rights group, holdspolitical prisoners as a percentage of population than any other country in the world And he writes in detail about the economic mess The American embargo on trade with Cuba, he notes, is stupid It gives Castro an excuse for everything that's wrong with his ratbag society And free enterprise is supposed to be the antidote for socialism We shouldn't forbid American companies from doing business in Cuba, we should force them to do so.But Cubans, he argues, are also stupid for rising to Castro's propaganda bait Another little island country embargoed by her large neighbour and threatened with invasion has done quite all right for itself That, of course, is Taiwan.After an interlude with economics proper, including his Ten LessBasic Principles of Economics, O'Rourke takes us on the best part of the journey trips to Russia, Tanzania, Hong Kong and China The Tanzanian and Hong Kong experiences are a study in contrasts Tanzania has everything beautiful landscapes, verdant forests, rich agricultural land and extreme poverty Hong Kong has nothing little land, no natural resources and fabulous wealth Why? Appropriately the chapters are titled How to make nothing from everything and How to make everything from nothing.Tanzania was a victim of the egalitarian Julius Nyrere and his ujamaa vijijini or villagization program It didn't work But the worst thing about it is that we, meaning the western democracies, paid for it There's a certain kind of gullible and selfserious person who's put in charge of foreign aid, writes O'Rourke, and this type was entranced by the modest, articulate Julius Nyrere and the wonderful things he was going to do Aid amounted to $20 a head and O'Rourke speculates that that is how much it cost to build a vijijini hovel, catch a Tanzanian, and stick him inside.Although O'Rourke is a humorist, it is clear that he writes with great passion for the people he visits (from whatever country) and a great empathy for the hardships they suffer at the hands of professional dogooders like Nyrere He genuinely likes the people he meets and we feel his pain and anger as he describes how his guide's five year old daughter died a few months before his visit from the gross incompetence and backwardness of the country.At the same time, he is fascinated by the beauty, customs and uniqueness of each place he visits Besides exploring the economies of Sweden, Russia, Tanzania and Shanghai, he takes us on visits to some of the interesting sights like a jungle safari, or a trip to an exotic Chinese restaurant serving Cobra blood as an appetizer They keep live cobras for that purpose in glass aquariums just like western restaurants keep live crabs and lobsters He has an eye for the intriguing and unusual and gives us descriptions that put Fodor's travelogues to shame.O'Rourke becomes particularly incensed when he visits Hong Kong during the British surrender of the best contemporary example of laissezfaire to the biggest remaining example of socialist totalitarianism, an act he sees as craven and cowardly, a shameful moment And yet, the people of Hong Kong celebrated Why? Because they hate the English O'Rourke asked why that should be The Vietnamese have forgiven the Americans, surely Hong Kongers could forgive the odd opium war.It's different, his Hong Kong friend told him, You just killed the Vietnamese; you never snubbed them Canadians take note! Understand the significance of that remark and you understand Quebec separatism.He explores Hong Kong's history and economy The hero of this economic miracle is John Cowperthwaite, the young colonial officer sent to oversee the colony in 1945 He found it recovering nicely from the war without him and so took the lesson to heart, and while he was in charge, strictly limited bureaucratic interference in the economy The result? A stewing pandemonium: crowded, striving, ugly, and the most fabulous city on earth.In a 1961 budget speech, Cowperthwaite spoke words that O'Rourke says should be engraved over the portals of every legislature worldwide or better still tattooed on the legislators' faces: in the long run the aggregate of decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.O'Rourke's last stop is Shanghai, China, where the government is trying to impose a free market using totalitarian means It can't be done and he calls this chapter How to have the worst of both worlds Yet in spite of the horror of the home of Tiannenmen Square, he keeps his sense of humor Omnipresent amid all the frenzy of Shanghai, he writes, is that famous portrait, that modern icon The faintly smiling, bland, yet somehow threatening visage appears in brilliant hues on placards and posters, and is painted huge on the sides of buildings Some call him a genius Others blame him for the deaths of millions There are those who say his military reputation is inflated, yet he conquered the mainland in short order Yes, it's Colonel Sanders.O'Rourke is a very funny writer At the same time, he writes with passion and conviction His travelogues are filled with facts and figures (though not in a stuffy way) The book is short on what professional economists would consider economics But it is full of the stuff of life the real story that gets you an understanding of economics on a gut level And that is that poverty is hard, wretched and humiliating Poverty is John (his guide) driving around in the Tanzanian night looking for the doctor while his daughter dies.On the other hand, Making money through hard work and wise investment is a fine thing to do And so it is Economic liberty makes wealth, concludes O'Rourke Economic repression makes poverty.So have a laugh or two, be enthralled by exotic and fascinating places, and learn a few lessons about life and the blessings we gain from liberty This is a superb book Read it (This and other reviews can be found on my personal website, marcodenouden.com) Just before starting this book I read through an issue of MAD magazine Remember MAD? Well, our library has a few copies, they are in the basement in the 'teen' sectionyes, I'll admit it, I was wandering through the teen section, but, I like to make full use of all areas of the library Funny though, I should read MAD and then start Eat the Rich They are strikingly similar Both are satires to the extremeand in fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if O'Rourke was a writer for MAD.Back to the world of economics in Eat the Rich O'Rourke dishes out a very tongueincheek summary on the basic theories of economics You may be familiar with a few; supply demand etc Being a business major in university I had the joy of taking the required micro/macro economics for years so I found this sarcastic view of economics very funny As for the nonbusiness minded people you won't understand a thing When he starts into the theory of comparative advantages I'm sure all you'll get is that he is insulting John Grisham and Courtney Love through a chart somehow! Actually, this is only one small section that is laid out like a textbook with graphs and charts (this is the part that made me think of MAD the most) which look almost exactly like my first year econ book O'rourke's charts end up making funny jokes like point B and point S make BS (haha) This is funny, but, I have a real world example that made this even funnier In my first year econ we had a 'cool' prof She let us have cheat sheets, told us exactly what was going to be on the exam, and get this : she made charts with the supply/demand curves for funny things likes smokes and booze! How cool was she!?PJ also takes us on a trip through the world looking at different economies to try and figure out which one is the best Being an American seems to have tainted his vision a bit, er a lot His travels consist of criticizing the country he is visiting and slyly comparing it to the overwhelming success (his opinion) of the US The only positive visit he had was to Wall Street! He thought those screaming/rushing/greedy stockbrokers were just wonderful guys The polite reasonable citizens of Sweden did nothing for him In fact, their generous 'welfare' state benefits (like maternity leave) were almost criminal in his mind How can a country just pay people to 'not work'? Then he berates their high taxes and their word/philosophy 'lagom' (which means something similar to 'just enough', as in not greedy not impoverished just gooder just click the link) From the ol' capitalist point of view I can see his argument that money in the US may makeprofit than that in Swedenbut, strangely he completely left out any of those surveys/rankings that put quality of life in Sweden in the top few countries, while his precious US always hovers around the double digits There is a lotto life than money O'Rourke! Ok, enough with my soap box speech back to the book.There were a few good points to the book The wide range of vocabulary PJ uses is astounding He sent me searching through my dictionary a couple of times per page! Unfortunately, many times the word did not show up I guess many of his words were quasifictitious words, as in understandable but not dictionaryworthy (see I can make up words too!) Even with all these rarely used words, in a veiled attempt to confuse the reader, the writing was clear.Now onto the 'bad' parts How about we start with O'Rourke's remarks about Canadians? The only mention about Canadians in this book is when PJ is visiting Cuba strangely enough While explaining the tourist industry in Cuba he throws some offcolour remark about the only visitors seem to be Canadians who's idea of a good time is visiting the allyoucaneat salad bar for seconds How insulting! Even before this hurtful comment I noticed the book had a very negative tone Most of the 'witty' comments/jokes were just blatant insults of other countries.Warning to readers: Only read if you have run out of MAD magazines and want to hearAmericancentric world viewsand it helps if you have a degree in Economics and can catch the subtle econjokes. Written in 1997, many things have changed since the book's publication.This does not, however, invalidate the humour or the sharp observations of P J O'Rourke.The section on Wall Street is extremely interesting in the light of America's financial disaster of 2008.An excellent read. Part economics for dummies and part travel guide, Eat the Rich not only tries to (and to a great extent succeeds) explain economics to folks like me, while at the same time trying to explain the bigger question why are some countries richer or have a better standard of living than others? O'Rourke, a conservative Republican who is also able to write forliberal magazines as Rolling Stone and Harper's deftly examines and compares culture, infant mortality rates, life expectancy, mineral wealth and other factors in a number of countries from Cuba to Sweden.Why are culturerich countries like Tibet or mineral rich countries like Tanzania so poor? He takes jabs equally at both the left and right, for example comparing China's official One Child Policy, to America's unofficial One Parent Policy Readers looking for a bit of good travel writing such as O'Rourke's Holidays in Hell will not be disappointed either Here is a zinger from Eat the Rich, Albania has the distinction of being the only country ever destroyed by a chain letter A reference to the civil war that broke out in Albania in 19961997 when the largest pyramid scheme collapsed I laughed so hard at Third World Driving Tips and Hints in Holidays in Hell, I photocopied the entire chapter One of the most useful tips in the book may be this, A fundamental rule of happy living: Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people. I enjoyed this because P.J O'Rourke uses humor to explain economics in understandable terms as demonstrated by one of his basic questions: Why do some places prosper while others suck? In trying to answer this question, he examines several types of governments and explores that made them successful and what failed It was entertaining for me when O'Rourke traveled the world to learn about money and disparity of wealth. It’s my own fault, I should have stopped even earlier than I did, but there was something compulsively awful about this book There are some things that are truly contemptible, like privileged and relatively intelligent people who assume a sort of cornpone dumbness, and it seems to particularly affect the US rightwing So why would anyone who pretended not to understand arithmetic write about economics in Eat the Rich? Well, because it isn’t so much about economics as it is an excuse for a diatribe about how much better the US of A’s “good capitalism” is than any other country’s system To prove it, PJ takes a series of trips, with his smug US attitudes at full throttle, to socalled “good socialist” countries like Sweden (damned with the faint praise of someone who experiences a culture even slightly different from his own), Cuba (“bad socialist”; say no , you know what that means), the “bad capitalist” Albania with its endemic corruption and poverty, and the aspiring capitalist Russia and manages a sneer at the varied successes (some magnificent, some baby steps) of every one of them But what makes EtR so wearying to read is not the piffle and facile economics, but the incessant oneliners Every line is a wisecrack (Stupid word that, these are dumbcracks badaboom! and believe me, that one is better than 90% of PJ’s)I’m not entirely sure where the Eating part comes in, because I had to skip everincreasing chunks and paused only when I noticed an egregiously appalling bit But I suspect that it embodies the idea that Good Capitalism encourages the Rich to freely take what they want without any envy on our part, in the belief that the rest of us will somehow benefit (Of course this was all before Good Capitalism showed its Albanian side in 2008, so perhaps PJ has changed his mind? Though I somehow think not)Well, if that isn’t the message, feel free to let me know, but you can’t make me read anyof this execrable rubbish. America's favorite political humorist leads readers on a hysterical whirlwind tour, from the good capitalism of Wall Street to the bad socialism of Cuba, in search of an answer to the ageold question: Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?