Shop now Shop now Shop now See more Shop all Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Shop now Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like a Rolf Harris portrait of the Queen ... can you tell what it is yet?, 3 Nov. 2008
This review is from: On the Wealth of Nations: A Book That Shook the World (Books That Shook the World) (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 A Theory of Moral Sentiments, and does some good work to contextualise Wealth of Nations by reference to it.

All the same, O'Rourke's simplistic economic viewpoint - and sardonic air - remain untroubled by Smith's nuance, and at times this entry drifts closer to representing O'Rourke's own theory of the Wealth of Nations rather than considering Smith's. Most readers will have far less interest in that, no matter how funny it might be, particularly as O'Rourke has had a go at that book already, a decade ago, in Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics, and more particularly because on this outing O'Rourke's wit isn't as sharp, nor his insight as valuable, as it can be.

In any case you can be sure that P J O'Rourke wouldn't need 900 pages to expound his theory. You could write it on a cocktail napkin (Eat The Rich notwithstanding), and for all his praise of Adam Smith's pragmatism in the face of ideologically driven idealism (anachronistic though it may be, at the time of publication the dread socialism being still a good century and more hence) O'Rourke's laissez-faire view of the world is as idealistic as any, supposing as it does perfectly rational actors, a complete absence of government, ubiquity of perfect information and an omnipresent infinity of buyers and sellers, and (as we can now say in November 2008 with 20:20 hindsight) just as flawed: there are, we know know, times where even perfectly rational actors simply won't act and in these times the invisible hand without so much as a by-your-leave vanishes altogether and the only credible mechanic left to deal with the black swans carousing about is good old nanny state. And Warren Buffett.

This is by no means a bad book, and for those interested in a *somewhat* deeper reading of The Wealth Of Nations, more pleasant than the one that can be had by actually reading it, step forward - but bring that salt cellar. For this P J O'Rourke book more than any, you'll be needing it.

Olly Buxton
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]


Review Details