The opus magnum of the Scottish philosopher who defined free-market economics, usurped by O’Rourke as a matrix for social commentary and humor.
Willing in the past to skewer policy disasters on both sides of the Congressional aisle (Peace Kills, 2004, etc.), the conservative satirist displays his softer side in this laudatory consideration of The Wealth of Nations. Adam Smith’s 18th-century dilation on the French proto-economic theme of laissez-faire, which advocates a free market self-regulated by self-interest, is still right on the money as far as O’Rourke is concerned. “What Smith wanted us to do,” he asserts, “was to use our mental and physical capabilities to render the rulers of mankind as unnecessary and inconsequential as possible.” O’Rourke does have a few criticisms of Wealth: Slogging through a 67-page digression on fluctuations in the value of silver over four centuries, he flatly states, is “like reading Modern Maturity in Urdu.” He stresses that full appreciation of the Scotsman’s thinking requires delving into Theory of Moral Sentiments as a counterpart to Wealth. (O’Rourke doesn’t feel that full appreciation includes familiarity with Smith the man, or with his life, about which he admits a paucity of knowledge.) The author credits Smith with proving that the world economy is not a zero-sum game; only “leftists and everybody’s little brother,” he states, believe that somebody’s gain always has to be somebody else’s loss.
An entertaining alternative to the heavy lifting required in confronting Adam Smith firsthand.