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On the Wealth of Nations: A Book That Shook the World [Paperback]

P. J. O'Rourke
2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2008
Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" was first published in 1776 and almost instantly it was recognized as fundamental to an understanding of economics. It was also recognized as being really long and as P. J. O'Rourke points out, to understand "The Wealth of Nations", the cornerstone of free-market thinking and a book that shapes the world to this day, you also need to peruse Smith's earlier doorstopper, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." But now you don't have to read either, because P. J. has done it for you.In this hilarious work P. J. shows us why Smith is still relevant, why what seems obvious now was once revolutionary, and how the division of labour, freedom of trade and pursuit of self-interest espoused by Smith are not only vital to the welfare of mankind, they're funny too. He goes on to establish that far from being an avatar of capitalism, Smith was actually a moralist of liberty. As P. J. says, 'It's as if Smith, having proved that we can all have more money, then went on to prove that money doesn't buy happiness. And it doesn't. It rents it.'

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843543893
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843543893
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 490,473 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"'O'Rourke is a glittering writer, light but punchy, wry and impassioned, witheringly witty one moment and rambunctiously sarcastic the next... This is a judicious, finely written book... consistently funny, with cracking asides and snarky interjections. If you're daunted by Wealth of Nations, O'Rourke's riff on it is the next best thing.' Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday 'Pithy, forceful and deliberately anachronistic... A witty book.' Andrew McKie, Daily Telegraph 'Sophisticated and comprehensive... whilst retaining the author's trademark wit... For those without the stomach to read the real thing, P. J. O'Rourke's book will provide an unusually enjoyable starting point.' Allister Heath, Literary Review"

About the Author

P. J. O'Rourke is the bestselling author of thirteen books, including Eat the Rich, Give War a Chance, and The CEO of the Sofa. He is a regular correspondent for Atlantic magazine.

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Customer Reviews

2.2 out of 5 stars
2.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars PJ goes AWOL 1 Mar 2010
By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Notwithstanding PJ O'Rourke's unremitting neocon attitudes and affinities, I've been a fan since Republican Party Animal. There are some "truths" that are so universal in the Anglo-Saxon world view that they transcend ideology.

In picking up this book I had no delusions that I was going to learn much more about Adam Smith and The Wealth Of Nations than I'd already accumulated. If you were thinking about buying it for that purpose then I'd say you were very, very lazy, and not about to win a Nobel for much, least of all Economics.

I was looking to be entertained.

Unfortunately, PJ seems to have been on an off day when he wrote this, and in total contrast with some of the other books of his I'd read, this one left me a little flat and unamused, a bit on a par with Modern Manners rather than Holidays In Hell, a book I found diverting, hilarious, informative and thought-provoking, and which I've been quoting since I read it.

Nevertheless, where O'Rourke does succeed is in giving a context for Smith's work, providing some biographical detail, such as the economist's acquaintance with James Watt, and giving some salience to the lesser-known The Theory Of Moral Sentiments, and it is in places such as this that PJ does manage to give some value.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
P J O'Rourke - he of Republican Party Reptile - is a gifted, witty and acerbic writer but one whose views, even when on his mettle, one should take wth a pinch of salt: more useful as an antidote to loony-tunes leftie thinking than as a properly constructive conservative alternative. As with all politically committed writers, left or right, his core analysis tends to be glib: the brushstrokes with which he paints the world are vigorous but, like many paintings that look good at a distance, they don't always bear close examination.

Expounding on Adam Smith's classic The Wealth of Nations, then, O'Rourke both is and isn't on home turf. *Is* in that, superficially, Smith is the godfather of O'Rourke's libertarian, optimistic, Republican brand of economics in observing that the natural opposition of interests of buyers and sellers is a functional tension such that folks left to their own devices will, quite without meaning to, generally act is a way which is constructive and efficient in its allocation of resources. *Isn't* in that O'Rourke is a journalist and a polemicist not an economist, much less a moral philosopher (though to give him credit he makes no bones whatever about that) and Smith's 900 page tome is a far more nuanced volume than its hackneyed headline about the invisible hand - which is all most of us know about it: hence O'Rourke's book - suggests.

To his credit, also, O'Rourke has also spent time assimlating Smith's companion (and much less well known) volume
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1.0 out of 5 stars Facile 22 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very disappointing and I have binned this book. If you want to know about Adam Smith read his books as he wrote them.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Poverty of Puns 18 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback
If you buy this book expecting an erudite and thoughtful synopsis of Adam Smiths magnus opus (and what other reason is there to buy it) you are going to be deeply disappointed. P.J.O'Rourke gives a very basic and shallow rundown of Smith's ideas that manages to be both condescending and downright dumb. I would have thought the audience for this book would already have some idea of Smith's work and would want to expand their knowledge with the help of some considered insights. Instead the reader is subjected to a series of puerile one-liners and an analysis that suggests O'Rourke didn't bother to read the book either but chose to depend on CliffsNotes as his source material. My advice would be to go straight to the CliffsNotes and spare yourself the pain of wondering when and how the great P.J.O'Rourke got to be so unfunny!
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wealth of Nations 17 Mar 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book covered is life more than a review of the book the Wealth of Nations.
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