From Publishers Weekly
O'Rourke (On the Wealth of Nations) continues his libertarian attack of current politics. The author, an early editor at National Lampoon, takes on weighty topics like the Bill of Rights, climate change, health care reform, government bailouts, and foreign policy. When he wants to be serious, he quotes from John Locke and Thomas Hobbes; when he wants to be humorous, he brings up Joe Biden and Harry Reid. Republicans get a free ride mostly; if the subject is accumulation of power, Nancy Pelosi tops Dick Cheney. O'Rourke admits he's not a deep thinker, which is why when it comes to stem-cell research, he simply accepts that the dogma of his Catholicism clashes with scientific claims. But without further investigation, he embraces former president Bush's opposition to the research and lambastes president Obama ("damn wrong") for overturning the ban. When all else fails, use a dictionary definition, and O'Rourke breaks out his Webster's more than once. He works hard to lard his arguments with humor, but like much partisan work, these essays are best appreciated by those who already believe. (Sept.)
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Power, freedom, and responsibility are the most important elements of democracy, posits O’Rourke, author of Parliament of Whores (1991) and Driving like Crazy (2009). Americans like the freedom part, politicians like the power part, and hardly anyone wants to hear the responsibility part, he laments in this merciless but often humorous look at the shortcomings of American politics. American exceptionalism seems to extend to the fact that no other nation’s “covenants, treaties, conventions, protocols, compacts, and concordants” include the right to the pursuit of happiness. He criticizes liberal politics of universal health care and bailouts but also takes to task the conservatives for blowing a chance to “educate the electorate” and move more citizens into the Republican Party. O’Rourke charts the currents of his own ideological shift from raised Republican to youth as a Democrat for a decade and then a return to Republican as he matured. He dates his conservatism to the day his child was born: “Suddenly I was an opponent of change.” Whether readers agree with O’Rourke’s politics or not, his style is funny, cutting, and insightful. --Vanessa Bush
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