Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics Paperback – July 23, 1999
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
A conservative, prosperous, American journalist gadding around the world laughing at all the ways less successful nations screw up their economy--this might not sound like the recipe for a great read, unless you're Rush Limbaugh, but if that journalist is P.J. O'Rourke you can be sure that you'll enjoy the ride even if you don't agree with the politics. Although Eat the Rich is subtitled A Treatise on Economics, O'Rourke spends relatively few pages tackling the complexities of monetary theory. He's much happier when flying from Sweden to Hong Kong to Tanzania to Moscow, gleefully recording every economic goof he can find. When he visits post-Communist Russia and finds a country that is as messed up by capitalism as it was by Communism, O'Rourke mixes jokes about black-market shoes with disturbing insights into a nation on the verge of collapse. P.J. O'Rourke is more than a humorist, he's an experienced international journalist with a lot of frequent-flyer miles, and this gives even his funniest riffs on the world's problems the ring of truth. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Having chewed up and spat out the politically correct (All the Troubles in the World) and the U.S. government (Parliament of Whores), O'Rourke takes a more global tack. Here, he combines something of Michael Palin's Pole to Pole, a soupcon of Swift's A Modest Proposal and Keynsian garnish in an effort to find out why some places are "prosperous and thriving while others just suck." Stymied by the "puerile and impenetrable" prose of condescending college texts, O'Rourke set forth on a two-year worldwide tour of economic practice (or mal-). He begins amid the "moil and tumult" of Wall Street ("Good Capitalism") before turning to dirt-poor Albania, where, in an example of "Bad Capitalism," free market is the freedom to gamble stupidly. "Good Socialism" (Sweden) and "Bad Socialism" (Cuba) are followed by O'Rourke's always perverse but often perversely accurate take on Econ 101 ("microeconomics is about money you don't have, and macroeconomics is about money the government is out of"). Four subsequent chapters reportedly offer case studies of economic principles, except that Russia, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Shanghai all seem to prove that economic theory is just that. There's lots of trademark O'Rourke humor ("you can puke on the train," he says of a trip through Russia, "you can cook tripe on alcohol stoves and make reeking picnics of smoked fish and goat cheese, but you can't smoke"). There's also the feeling that despite (or maybe because of) his lack of credentials, he's often right. O'Rourke proves that money can be funny without being counterfeit. 150,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; 26-city author tour. (Sept.) FYI: Also available as a Random House audio, $18
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
In "Eat the Rich" O'Rourke builds economic theory from keen observation of various governmental, social and economic systems. He begins with the bustling center of American capital, Wall Street, where he vividly describes the chaos inherent in the capitalist system. In the course of his exposition of the money capitol, he notes that he found the one thing he never expected to find, "Transcendent Bliss". Yet transcendent bliss does not seem so far out of line when one considers that John Locke, an eighteenth century political philosopher, concluded that the right to property was the guarantor of liberty, and Thomas Jefferson took the notion a step further equating it with happiness. While O'Rourke clearly expounds such economic truisms he manages to avoid the ponderous philosophic explanations constraining most commentators.
From Wall Street "Eat the Rich" visits Albania, Sweden, Russia, Tanzania and Cuba. The description of each country is on-the-mark. In his description of Moscow, for example, he notes, "The traffic signals are timed to let three battalions of crack airborne troops and a hundred missile launchers through before the yellow caution light comes on." The reader can imagine the old Soviet Politbureau directing traffic from their platform in the event of an electrical outage. He shows how the absence of the rule of law in that country has lead to the rise of the Russian Mafia - "The only way to enforce a contract is, as it were, with a contract--and plenty of enforcers. What would be litigiousness in New York is a hail of bullets in Moscow. Instead of a society infested with lawyers, they have a society infested with hit men. Which is worse, of course, is a matter of opinion."
The romp through each country shows a different side of economics. In Albania it is capitalism in anarchy. In Sweden it is socialism in a stable, moral society. In Cuba it is the worst of all worlds. Yet all the pictures placed side by side, clearly illustrate that a stifling of individual liberty (including property rights entailing an incentive to work and invest) will make a nation poor. Indeed, this descriptive collage goes further to show what Adam Smith and classical economists ever since have endeavored to explain - Money is not wealth, the wealth of a society is inherent in the goods and services it produces, and sufficient production only occurs when there is an incentive to produce.
O'Rourke spends a few chapters explicitly explaining economic theory. Though sarcasm and skepticism run deep in this work, these qualities allow the reader to be entertained while getting to the nub of economic thought, as when the advantages of the division of labor are demonstrated by comparing the relative productivity of John Grisham and Courtney love in units of BS - BS serving as the mathematical symbol for what you would expect.
To characterize O'Rourke as the economic Carl Sagan, would be a mistake. He does not so much popularize its study as he journalistically exposes it to scrutiny, allowing the reader to extract information that will be useful in daily life. That most of his conclusions reflect the conservative theories of the Austrian school of economics seems only to be incidental to his observations.
O'Rourke shows he is aware that economic application has a significant influence on society. He pointedly notes, "Socialists think of society as a giant, sticky wad. And no part of that gum ball--no intimate detail of your private life, for instance--can be pulled free from the purview of socialism. Witness Sweden's Minister for Consumer, Religious, Youth and Sports Affairs. Socialism is inherently totalitarian in philosophy." He is correct. Why should the government be in any way involved in the religious or consuming or sporting aspects of our daily lives?
"Political systems must love poverty--they produce so much of it. Poor people make much easier targets for a demagogue." It is a keen observation. History has shown that free societies have been eroded and eventually washed away by the demagoguery of politicians calling for the redistribution of wealth. It happened to the Roman Republic in the First Century AD, culminating in the rise of the Empire. It is happening now with our own system. We have politicians buying votes by advocating policies that in the end will only degrade the productivity of our economic system (creating less wealth for everyone) and will surely undermine personal liberties.
If the book has a flaw, it is that it lacks an index. It would be nice to be able to use this work as a quick and ready reference. (However, this flaw has been remedied in the reviewer's copy through injudicious use of a red pen and dog ears.) "Eat the Rich" should be on the bookshelf of every thoughtful conservative, ready to thrust into the hands of the young skulls full of mush who come home from their liberal arts education thinking Lenin and Che Guevara are modern heroes. It should be mailed to every congressman who thinks society can be advanced through a redistribution of wealth. More, it should be read, studied and enjoyed by every person who considers taking the life of a nation into his hands by walking into a polling booth.
Unfortunately for the world, but fortunately for the reader, little has changed socioeconomically within the countries examined in this book. Meaning it's still illuminating, relevant, and a solid introduction to someone interested in learning at a very high-level a bit more about macroeconomics and the role government plays in other parts of the world.
The book is marred, however, by O'Rourke's inability (or unwillingness) to refrain from periodic gratuitous swipes at anyone and everyone who is, or was, left of center on the political spectrum. These unnecessary reminders of his own set of biases limited my enjoyment in reading the book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
P. J. O’Rourke is the funniest serious writer I know. Or the most serious humorist.Read more