America's leading right-wing humorist (not a very crowded field, admittedly) turns to that dismal science, economics. There's no need to find your college notes, however, since Samuelson had it all wrong, according to Prof. O'Rourke (Give War a Chance, 1992; All the Trouble in the World, 1994; etc.). The libertarian comedian first offers a succinct primer on the workings of Wall Street that is largely accurate and entirely fun. It's a difficult subject: ""One minute we're loading our possessions on top of the Ford and fleeing the dust bowl. The next minute we're buying dust futures on the Chicago Commodity Exchange."" So reporter O'Rourke travels, tax deductibly, to divers parts of the world to determine why some places prosper and some just stink. Albania, mined by avarice and pyramid schemes, is awful. Sweden is a pleasant place but too socialist to make it, according to our dubious analyst. Cuba is a mess; Tanzania, another mess; Russia, a puzzle (and a mess); Hong Kong, a prime example of capitalism (but destined to be a mess); Shanghai, clean (but a financial mess). The author disses the Third World--and the Second, too--wonderfully, and concludes, like many before him, that the free market is a moral device like no other. Well-defined roles may be necessary, but laissez-faire is the ultimate answer. A nature lover chained to a tree will save one tree, says O'Rourke; a financial pirate, however, provides ""schools, roads and U.S. Marines, not to mention Interior Department funding to save any number of trees and the young idealists chained thereto."" (We are not told who, save the idealist, is going to divert enough from the leathernecks and the clear-cutters to save those trees). It's all selective blarney, of course, and a funny, pungent paean to the glory of free enterprise as well.