On the Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World


Product Details

$17.00  $15.81
Grove Press
Publish Date
5.31 X 7.84 X 0.66 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

P. J. O'Rourke (1947-2022) was an author, journalist, and political satirist who wrote twenty-two books on subjects as diverse as politics and cars and etiquette and economics. Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance both reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. After beginning his career writing for the National Lampoon, O'Rourke went on to serve as foreign affairs desk chief for Rolling Stone, where he reported from far-flung places. Later he wrote for a number of publications, including the Atlantic, the Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal, and the Weekly Standard, and was a longtime panelist on NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me.


"Some jobs require protection, to ensure they are performed locally in their own communities. My job is to make quips, jests, and waggish comments. Somewhere in Mumbai there is a younger, funnier person who is willing to work for less. My job could be outsourced to him. But he could make any joke he wanted. Who would my wife scold? Who would my in-laws be offended by? Who would my friends shun?"
"Later economists, such as, in the early nineteenth century, J. B. Say, felt that Smith undervalued the economic contributions of services. And he did. The eighteenth century had servants, not a service economy. It was hard for a man of that era to believe that the semi-inebriated footman and the blowzy scullery maid would evolve into, well, the stoned pizza delivery boy and the girl behind the checkout counter with an earring in her tongue."
"Unfortunately, Adam Smith didn't have graphs. Hundreds of pages of The Wealth of Nations that readers skim might have been condensed into several pages that readers skip entirely. Another thing Smith didn't have, besides graphs, was jargon. Economics was too new to have developed its thieves' cant. When Adam Smith was being incomprehensible he didn't have the luxury of brief, snappy technical terms as a shorthand for incoherence. He had to go on talking through his hat until the subject was (and the reader would be) exhausted."