Reiko's Ramblings and Writings

What I'm reading and writing about lately.

Adam Smith’s economics according to O’Rourke

Posted by Reiko on March 7, 2007

I just got in the mail a shiny new book which I decided to wade into today. It’s a book called On the Wealth of Nations by P. J. O’Rourke, who seems to be rather more of a comedian than an economist, at least in writing. (Is there another name for that kind of writer?) The economist part is important because he’s basically giving a capsule summary (in two hundred pages) of Adam’s Smith’s massive book on economic theory.

One particular quote near the beginning caught my attention. O’Rourke says, “Productivity of every kind can be increased by specialization. And the specialization of politics at least keeps politicians from running businesses where their stupidity and ignorance could do even greater harm to economic growth.” (p 7)

The only problem with this is that politicians happen to be running the state, or nation, or whatever. If they do a bad job at running a business, well, that’s their problem and their employees’ problem. The bigger the business, the more of a problem it is. If the nation goes bankrupt though, that’s everyone’s problem. And you know what? The nation is already bankrupt, so I think we already have a problem anyway.

O’Rourke is amusingly sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek about the whole thing. This isn’t exactly a scholarly treatment of the subject, but it’s certainly an interesting one. I’ve only read through the first chapter, but I’m looking forward to the rest of it, and hey, maybe I’ll learn something along the way.  At a retail price of $22, while I paid about $8, it was a pretty good deal.


2 Responses to “Adam Smith’s economics according to O’Rourke”

  1. the Brit said

    Hi Reiko

    One has to wonder whether, in this world of continual global commercialisation, whether the politicians are actually in charge of anything. It could be that we are rapidly reaching the stage where everyone becomes an employee of the “worldcorp plc.”

    the Brit

  2. Reiko said

    That’s a good point. But someone has to be in charge of things, so it’s even more worrisome I would think if the people who appear to be in charge of things really aren’t. At least in Britain, everyone knows the monarchy isn’t running things anymore. If people in the States started having the opinion that the President wasn’t actually running things, I’d think it would undermine what stability the country still has.


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