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Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics

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9780871137197: Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics
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The nation's leading political satirist traverses the world, exploring the power of money, ruminating on the world's varieties of capitalism and socialism, and offering his own hilarious primer on economics. 150,000 first printing. $150,000 ad/promo.

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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.

From the Back Cover:

In P. J. O'Rourke's classic best-seller Parliament of Whores, he attempted to explain the entire United States government. Now, in his most ambitious book since, he takes on an even broader subject, but one that is dear to us all-wealth. What is it? How do you get it? Or, as P.J. says, "Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?"

The obvious starting point is Wall Street. P.J. takes the reader on a scary, hilarious, and enlightening visit to the New York Stock Exchange, explaining along the way stocks, bonds, debentures, commodities, derivatives-and why the floor of the exchange is America's last refuge for nonpsychotic litterers.

P.J. then sets off on a world tour to investigate funny economics. Having seen "good capitalism" on Wall Street, he looks at "bad capitalism" in Albania, views "good socialism" in Sweden, and endures "bad socialism" in Cuba. Head reeling, he decides to tackle that Econ 101 course he avoided in college. The result is the world's only astute, comprehensive, and concise presentation of the basic principles of economics that can make you laugh, on purpose.

Armed with theory, P.J. ventures to Russia in a chapter entitled "How (or How Not) to Reform (Maybe) an Economy (If There Is One)," and discovers that Russia is a wonderful case study-unless, of course, you're Russian. P.J. then goes to Tanzania, a country rich in resources that is utterly destitute, before arriving in Hong Kong, which even as the British prepare to hand it over to the communists is a shining example of how unfettered economic activity can "make everything from nothing." P.J. ends up in Shanghai, observing a top-down transition to capitalism, a process he describes "as if the ancient Egyptians had constructed the pyramid of Khufu by saying, 'Thutnefer, you hold up this two-ton pointy piece while the rest of the slaves go get 2,300,000 blocks of stone.'"

P.J.'s conclusion in a nutshell: the free market is ugly and stupid, like going to the mall; the unfree market is just as ugly and just as stupid, except there's nothing in the mall and if you don't go there they shoot you.

Excerpts from Eat the Rich
"You buy stock because you think other people will think this stock is worth more later than you think it's worth now. Economists call this - in a rare example of comprehensible economist terminology - the 'Greater Fool Theory.' Speaking of folly, you can also invest in the commodities market. This is where you buy thousands of pork bellies and still don't know what you're going to have for dinner because, in the first place, you're broke from fooling around in the commodities market and, in the second place, you're not completely insane. You didn't actually have those pork bellies delivered to your house. What you did was buy a 'futures contract' from a person who promises to provide you with pork bellies in a couple of months if you pay him for pork bellies today. You did this because you think pork belly prices will rise and you'll be able to resell the delivery contract and make out like a . . . perhaps 'make out like a pig' is not the appropriate simile in this case. Of course, if prices fall, you've still got the pork bellies, and won't your spouse be surprised?"

"The New Russians are an amazing bunch. The men wear three-piece suits with stripes the width and color used to indicate no passing on two-lane highways. The neckties are as wide as the wives. These wives have, I think, covered their bodies in Elmer's Glue and run through the boutiques of Palm Springs, buying whatever stuck."

"Omnipresent amid all the frenzy of Shanghai is that famous portrait, that modern icon. The faintly smiling, bland yet somehow threatening visage appears in brilliant red hues on placards and posters and is painted huge on the sides of buildings. Some call him a genius. Others blame him for the deaths of millions. There are those who say his military reputation was inflated, yet he conquered the mainland in short order. Yes, it's Colonel Sanders."

"The example of efficiency that economists usually give is guns and butter. A society can produce both guns and butter, they say, but if the society wants to produce more guns it will have to - because of allocation of resources, capital and labor - produce less butter. Using this example you'll notice that, at the far reaches of gun-producing efficiency, howitzers are being manufactured by cows. And this is just one of the reasons we can't take economists too seriously."

Praise for Eat the Rich:
"A keen eye for ironic detail and an aphorist's wit."-The Wall Street Journal

"A funny, pungent paean to the glory of free enterprise"-Kirkus Reviews

"[O'Rourke's] brilliance is that he gets right to the heart of things."-The Boston Phoenix

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