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82 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2010
I just happened to buy this book at the airport yesterday before a 4 hour flight. I recognized O'Rourke's name, picked it up, read a couple of paragraphs and decided to plop down the $25 cover price. I had every intention of reading it later in the week, as I was too tired and needed to nap on the plane. Well, I couldn't put it down! I read the entire book! He is witty, incredibly intelligent and even charming in his criticism of our political system and the state of disarray it's in. I may start referring to this as "the new Libertarian manifesto!" Read the chapter on Global Climate Change (where O'Rourke challenges you to go tell 1.2 billion Chinese people that they can't have a car, old stove or fireplace because we think it might be causing the Earth to get warmer) and, if you're anything like me, you'll be hooked!
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
It was a good purchase, well worth reading.

American politics are dominated by news bites and slices of incomplete information and people that vote often lack a basic understanding of economic principles or in my opinion much logic. P.J. O'Rourke writes a line about what is wrong with politics, half the voters are less than average intelligence.

Using sarcasm and lots of analogies, he writes short examples of why certain political issues are often carried to absurdity, states like California with strict gun laws have lots of murders while those with very lax laws don't, for example, and also that we should probably have vote control because voting leads to politicians taking us into war which leads for far more deaths caused by guns.

He writes about the futility of much of the left and right ranting (radio, books, etc.) because it's like preaching to the little old ladies wearing white hats in the choir.

I enjoyed how he worded the observation that we allow 19 year old's to vote, but we don't trust them with a beer.

Just because he uses lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, sarcasm, and analogies that could be seen as over the top in there usage, he is obviously a well read and well informed and well connected person and his writing is crisp and straight forward. Much of the chapters read like part of a conversation with a neighbor over a beer while bar-b-cuing some burgers. Good old fashioned complaining about how stupid so much of the American political scene is, was, and will be for the foreseeable future.

He points out that taxes make Republicans, logic makes libertarians and having children makes conservatives. It's interesting in my own observations, and I think that he writes a bit about this too, is that people tend to live their own lives as they see fit (libertarianism at its core) but that they often want to force others to do things for their own good.

I think both lefties and righties could gain something from a thoughtful reading of this book, certainly libertarians would enjoy it, although, his own words about preaching to the choir ring partially true here.

There is a great bit of discussion in this book directed at our current mess and the administration in the White House, I found is critique spot on. There is a lot in here about economics and the national debt and spending, perhaps this is is the most important discussion in any political discussion these days, one that is over looked or soft footed about. It is far too important a discussion to dismiss, and should be required knowledge before one is allowed to vote. Good luck with that wish, of course.

I give this book a strong recommendation before this upcoming election or any in the future for that matter.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2011
Having been a PJ O'Rourke fan since his National Lampoon days, I remain amazed by his ability to make one laugh while making one think. We'd be hard pressed to identify another living American writer whose best one-liners are so widely quoted.

Don't Vote is maddening because it flops back and forth between great and... well, not so great. It contains both some of O'Rourke's most scholarly work - there's a lot of real research here - without sacrificing the wit. In these chapters, his work is sharp, illuminating and still an entertaining read. But Don't Vote also contains a bunch of one-offs that are really nothing more than reprints of some of his magazine articles, and not his best ones at that. These contribute no understanding, don't move the central thesis about government ahead and are really just filler (or worse).

Not bad, but not great. Parliament of Whores is still my favorite O'Rourke rant.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2010
P.J. O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government was one of the books that most influenced my political upbringing. It was a book that explained why American politics was so incredibly messed up, and was relentless in making fun of that fact. Even though it's almost 20 years old, it's still a classic, and well worth reading.

Well, P.J. O'Rourke's at it again. He's written a virtual sequel to Parliament of Whores that shows that in the intervening 18 years American politics has managed to become even more screwed up. And there's no one better suited to lampooning the state of American politics than P.J. O'Rourke.

But what separates this book from the many other books of political satire is that O'Rourke isn't just a bomb-throwing satirist. When, just a few pages in, O'Rourke is name-checking Michael Oakeshott, you know you're reading the work of an author who's done his homework. This book is a satire, to be sure, but it's an intelligent and thoughtful satire. This book manages to mix Oakeshott, Adam Smith, and a schoolgirl's game of "Kill, F@#$, Marry" into a devastating and intelligent critique of American politics. O'Rourke's takes on everything from health care reform to the national debt, and manages to skewer these hot-button political issues without coming across as preachy or pedantic.

O'Rourke is America's best political satirist - because he's America's most well-read and intelligent political satirist. This book, like Parliament of Whores, is destined to be a classic that will still be readable and worthwhile in 20 years -- while other political satires have long since been sent to the remainder bin.

And the Kindle edition is reasonably priced too, which makes this a must-download for this election cycle and long after.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2010
For my money Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government is a great satire of politics, and should be required reading for US high school students as a civics text. At least the reader can laugh and also learn a few things. In that book, among other things P.J. explains what really happened with the savings & loan crisis in the 80s, and also wraps up with a meditation on why government is morally wrong.

Don't Vote is not in the same league but is still good for learning and laughs. The book is a collection of short topical essays, which can be read in any order. The climate change chapter (which consists of one page) is a brilliant, succinct reality check on the human condition. There is a bit of recycling from prior works, but at least the author admits it in the preface. So you have been warned.

And the largely libertarian author equally skewers both Republicans and Democrats for the current sad state of politics, and also offers a few simple pointers for improving our lot. Read and enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2010
In reading Mr. O'Rourke's book Don't Vote..., I found myself chuckling at the many commentaries on the issues of the day. Make no mistake, this book is not for all readers who are easily offended at vulgarity; however, Mr. O'Rourke makes it clear in his preface "Apologia Pro !%@& Sua" that he chose his words to express his disgust in the current political machinations of today. Having done political work for a spell, I can see his viewpoint as politics is a game of bribes and payoffs nowadays. Still he said that the politics we have is the best that we could do, for the alternative would be arbitrary law, a point that he makes with Will Rogers-like precision.

His book is strictly commentary with a table of contents, but no index and bibliography; a fact that is line with the rest of his books.

Two parts of the book stand out in my opinion. One was the fact that the conservatives blew their political capital that they built up over the last 28 years only to become the bloated government hacks that they despised only a generation before. This is desrcibed in his chapter "Where the Right Went Wrong." The second part was the hilarious chapter on climate change that consisted of just three short paragraphs. In short he said that climatologists are just trolling for research grants in order to not become burger flippers and that there is nothing you could do to stop climate change unless one wants to deny the Chinese the opportunity to buy Buicks.

A fun tour-de-force, but easy on the language please. Well, darn I am one of those puritans, but I have fun...anybody for Scrabble or Stratego?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2010
This book is great! If you are looking for a funny book about the unfunny financial crisis this is it. P.J. O'Rourke is probably the only guy who could do this. The style is typical P.J. However he zones in on certain things that will make you laugh out loud then go "Oh Yeah!".

The book is told through a Republican point of view, or more accurately a Libertarian point of view. He does frame things in a new light that I am sure Democrats will be upset over. At times P.J. does attack the sacred cows of America. Here are a few examples:

"What is a health care provider? (as mentioned in debates)A health care provider was the school nurse when I was in third grade who gave you a peppermint oil if you broke your neck on the playground. I caught Buster, my six year old playing health care provider with one of the little girls in his first grade class. They were filling out forms fully clothed."

"for the moment the killjoys are in charge"

Those are just a few examples. The laughs aren't constant but when they do you will laugh your head off out loud.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2010
For those, worried by recent P.J. O'Rourke missives, who thought he has strayed completely from his Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World's Worst Places and Asks, "What's Funny About This" (O'Rourke, P. J.) /Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government roots, this book will ease many of your concerns.

He's back to his "one-third history, one-third explanation, one-third snark" formula, and while this version is a bit rusty -- it's been a while since he's written these kinds of essays -- it's a considerable improvement over Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism or, even worse, The CEO of the Sofa (O'Rourke, P. J.).

Speaking of thirds, that's how this volume is set up: Part 1, in which O'Rourke attempts to establish the basis of his current thought; Part 2, in which he takes pot shots at current political issues; and Part 3, in which he offers a road map for conservatives.

I believe O'Rourke is at his best when he's taking apart a complex issue, primarily explaining it and occasionally jabbing it with a stick. He's exceptionally well-read and he knows how to use others' ideas to form his own. In this case, he puts together the first cogent and intellectually appealing argument for core Tea Party beliefs I've read, even as he notes that the Tea Party is just the other side of the coin that gave us the current administration.

The central part of the book is, unfortunately, flaccid. His one-page assessment of climate change (as long as China and India continue to grow, there's nothing we can do about it) is as right-on as it is succinct. His point that trade imbalance cannot, by definition, exist -- or better yet, that a current accounts deficit, which we really mean, is actually good for America -- is the kind of frank policy analysis that government can never give us.

Conversely, his section on terrorism is a muddled disaster that borders on insulting the reader with its oversimplified, pointless nattering. The same is true of O'Rourke's takes on foreign policy, in which he does a fair amount of name-calling and very little solution-offering.

The third part is a mixed bag of Part 1's pithy wisdom and Part 2's often difficult-to-fathom, stream-of-consciousness babble.

O'Rourke's take on right-wing talking heads -- they're shouting to the converted, like Jeremiah Wright -- is a brilliant insight, and he does an adequate job of illustrating how that means the discord many point to as damaging today's politics isn't really all that harmful.

His assessment of the conservative mistakes that put Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid into leadership could not be more accurate or more damning, and not surprisingly, they're about to be repeated.

That said, he concludes with typical "the Democrats are childish ninnies" inanities, this time leveraging Somali pirates, and the Disney version of storybook pirates, to suggest a way to bring Washington to consensus. It's as cheap and silly as it sounds here.

This isn't O'Rourke's best work. It's on par with On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the World), but in the form of a return to his glory days. And for that, I am pleased.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I love P.J. O'Rourke and recommend this book to you with just two reservations. First, he feels the need, for comic punch, to use vulgarities that I still find awful, but at least he doesn't use them mindlessly. Second, even though his views justly skewer both Democrats and Republicans, he sometimes pulls the dagger back before really pushing it home in some jokes, and there are just a couple too many cheap slaps at Palin just to balance his critiques of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. Other than these very small points, the book is quite wonderful and is very much worth reading if you can get past the F-words.

The first chapter sets the tone for the political explorations of the book. While he uses the F-word instead of date, he uses the girl pajama party game of kill, date, marry as a way of examining our government and the creatures who inhabit it. In fact, given its centrality to the book and the current title's irrelevancy to the book, my guess is that the author would have preferred naming the book with the same title as the first chapter.

I love his notion that we lose every election because politicians win them. Politicians win races to gain power and by the exercise of that power they buy support but in doing so they also diminish our freedoms and steal the wealth you and I create to spend on programs they take credit for providing; with our money. He talks about the importance of pairing responsibility with freedom versus the enslavement that comes from pairing victimhood and entitlement.

The chapter on why all freedoms are economic freedoms is terrific. He talks about his daughter Muffin always complaining about life not being fair. He writes, "I say to her, `Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. You're smart. That's not fair. You were born in the United States of America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better get down on your knees and pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." Spot on.

I also love his explanation of the wisdom of our pushing the government to fix every aspect of our lives. "The government is a Rottweiler ready to be unleashed on your problems. And you've stuffed raw meat down the front of your pants."

O'Rourke also takes us through morality in politics, taxes, and asks why the government keeps making pennies when it costs more than a penny to make them.

Part II asks What Is to Be Done? Not bailouts or stimulus, which never work except to enrich those who suck up to the politicians. His chapter on the horrors of ObamaCare is very good. He notes, "There's only one thing about a government proposal of this complexity that we can be sure of: it won't work. No government proposal more complex than `This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private' ever works, that that one hasn't been working lately."

His take on Climate Change notes that noting you are doing will change anything when there are billions of people in China and India that want Buicks and air-conditioning.

After talking about the trade imbalance (there isn't one), gun control (votes kill more people than guns), campaign finance reform, and terrorism, he has two chapter on foreign policy. O'Rourke says he expected the current administration to be wrong on foreign policy, but hadn't expected them to be pathetic. He then goes on to demonstrate why Obama should spend time reading more Kipling than his Progressive political theorists.

Part III is Putting Our Big, Fat Political Ass on a Diet

He talks about how he started off as a Leftist (to get girls) and all the things he experienced that should have awaken him to becoming a Conservative, but didn't. He "became a conservative at 11"59 p.m. on December 4, 1997, the way many people become conservatives. My wife gave birth. Suddenly I was an opponent of change."

I loved the chapter excoriating the Republicans for going wrong and trading in conservative principles for gaining and trying to keep political power, which didn't work out well for them or the country.

I did not like the chapter on our current political discourse of shouting at each other. He comes to the conclusion that Rush, Sean, et al are not really helping us because they are only shouting at people who don't listen to them and the people who do listen already agree with them. This is wrong. First, they do not shout all the time or even much at all. Second, when they do they are shouting FOR us. They say what we want to say to Obama, Pelosi, and Reid. And obviously somebody does listen because they do have an effect on the discourse. If the old practice of the GOP knuckling under the Dems while the Lefty agenda is inexorably put into practice, count me as a fan of paralysis and gridlock. What I want is for the ratchet to be reversed and the Lefty edifice to be inexorably dismantled.

He concludes with chapters on the way politicians manufacture and use crises to blind us to their abuse of their responsibilities. He notes, "Politics can't save us. Politics is the idea that society's ills can be cured politically. This is a cookbook where the recipe for everything is to fry it. The fruit cocktail is fried. The salad is fried. So it the ice cream and cake. Your bottle of cabernet sauvignon is rolled in bread crumbs and dunked in the deep-fat fryer. Hence our big, fat political ass.

Amen.

Get it, read it, enjoy it, and pass it around.

I also really liked these books by O'Rourke and recommend them:
All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty

Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics (O'Rourke, P. J.)

On The Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World

Reviewed by Craig Matteson, Saline, MI
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
P.J. didn't do himself any favours with this book. What humour there is has a leaden quality; the views expressed are more reflexive crotchets and wheezes than evidence of any real consideration; the prescriptions amount too little more than a throwing up of hands and surrender to the status quo with, maybe, a bit of deckchair repositioning.

It's a bit of a pity. I've enjoyed much of his writing for decades, appreciating his ability to reduce matters to their essence without loss of meaning and to elicit hilarity along the way. This book does neither.
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