Sunday, August 05, 2007

P.J. O'Rourke and Economics

P.J. O’Rourke’s book “Eat the Rich”, a Treatise on Economics, ought to be required reading for every college student who aspires to a degree in Economics. Or required reading for anyone who is teaching Economics. And by all socialists and pacifists, but of course they won’t; they already know how they are going to eat the rich.

If you are easily offended, I suggest taking a pass on any of O’Rourke’s books.

I’m sorry I didn’t read this 1998 book until now but the book should be read by anyone expressing an opinion on poverty, socialism and capitalism. Most of O’Rourke’s truths are written with a lot of mostly sarcastic humor so if you are tired of reading and listening to hollow campaign rhetoric and death on our highways and urban gang killing, his books will lift anyone’s depressed spirits.

He writes “I stole the title. But I don’t know from whom I stole it. It may have lifted it from the 1993 Aerosmith CD “Get a Grip”, which has a song by the same name. But Aerosmith might have nicked it, too. Or maybe from Moorhead’s 1988 album “Rock and Roll”. And Motorhead may have filched it too because I first saw the phrase on T-shirts worn by Sshi’te Amal militia in Lebanon in the 80’s. I don’t know where Amal got the phrase, but I assure you they stole the T-shirts. Or may I got it from a forgotten Folkways recording, Song of the Economic Advisors”:

Kill the poor,
Eat the rich
Screw every other son-of-a-bitch.

He writes “The absurdity of socialism made a dog’s breakfast out of the Soviet Economy, just as it continues to ruin Cuba’s. Michael Gorbachev in his Memoirs says, “The costs of labor, fuel, and raw material per unit of production were two and one-half times higher than in the developed countries, while in agriculture they were 10 times higher. We produced more coal, oil, metals, cement and other materials (except for synthetics) than the United States, but our end product was less than one-half of the U.S.A.”

O’Rourke writes “The problem in Russia is how to reform economic system. The problem is many place in the world is how to get one. Many world organizations claim that 2 billion of the worlds inhabitants live on approximately one dollar a day. They don’t buy, sell or trade because they don’t have much to buy, sell or trade. They’re poor. And nowhere in the world have people been poorer than in Africa. According to World Bank the 10 poorest countries are in Africa.”

For other countries and entities like the World Bank compensating for the lower living costs found in poorer countries, is like your boss telling you when you ask for a raise “why don’t you move to a worse neighborhood—your rent will be lower and so will your car payment, as soon as someone steals your Acura.”

In the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, maybe, or maybe Dodoma, (I didn’t look it up because I really don’t are where the capital is because the situation of economics and people problems are much the same in most of Africa, I say most, not all) because no one seems to know for sure. He writes about corruption at a city-hospital morgue. “Some hospital staff was preventing certain people from picking up dead relatives until they were paid fees or some consideration to the staff. The hospital was forced by congestion to put some bodies outside the “cold” room. Nurses, doctors, patients and passerby were exposed to a chocking smell. A photo in the newspaper, Guardian, showed a garbage truck hauling the bodies away.” Also he says the city is out of water with hundreds of women standing in line waiting to get water out of a common tap plus the system has a 40% leakage. Peoria has a lot of water leaks also; I don’t know the per cent but the only place we stand in line for our basic free needs is at the public libraries. A little “tongue in cheek” humor. O’Rourke says in Russia they don’t stand in lines; they just shove ahead of other people.

I remember a cruise I was on years ago when we were standing in line for a show with a loud and boisterous European group behind us. I kept getting shoved in the back so many times that I finally shoved back causing a domino effect but no more shoving after that.

In talking about a Brit named Copperthwaite and his role in the astounding growth of Hong Kong, he quotes the Brit as saying in 1961, “in the long run the aggregate decisions of individual businessmen, exercising individual judgment in a free economy, even if often mistaken, is less likely to do harm than the centralized decisions of a government; and certainly the harm is likely to be counteracted faster.”

Even Communistic China into 2007, has not been too detrimental to the prosperity of Hong Kong.

He sums up that we know what to do to escape poverty:
Hard work
Property rights of others
Rule of law
Democratic government

I’ll chime in here.

I know first hand what hard work can accomplish. But the definition of hard work by many is not just working hard. It is what hard work accomplishes. Unfortunately, a lot of people who claim to be working hard never learned what real hard work was or is.

Education as long at it is not just studying the Koran and learning the best way to kill the non-believers. Or not learned behind prison bars by those released who return to their old habits and buddies.

Responsibility, yes that’s right, be responsible and accept it. I don’t think our leaders ever admit they are wrong, probably some, maybe Jimmy Carter, who was still wrong after he admitted he was wrong. Or Bill Clinton. Or George and crowd.

Or the some managerial employees of the JS.

Property rights; what belongs to someone else is not your right to take.

Rule of Law – depends whether in the U.S.A. or in Western Pakistan run by the Taliban or the Al Qaeda. I prefer ours, flawed as it sometimes is.

Democratic government; sure as long as people understand, which many don’t, that it takes years to achieve even some semblance of democracy in the third world. It never happened in the U.S.A in a few years even if the “chatterers” have forgotten about our own Civil War. (a large number of college kids, combining their knowledge, know less about the history of democracy and economics than now deceased Milton Friedman and his wife Rose.)

O’Rourke concludes “The Tenth Commandment sends a message to all socialists, to egalitarians, to people obsessed with fairness, to American presidential candidates—to everyone who believes that wealth should be redistributed. And the message is clear and concise: Go to hell.”



AdamB said...

Uh huh. And O'Rourke has been published in which peer-reviewed journals?

O'Rourke is a propagandist, not an economist. Students of economics should study economics and math, not ideological BS.

By the way, you should read more about Hong Kong's pollution problems.

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