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The American Spectator is sadly gone now (what's left of it is called the American Prowler), a victim of its own overzealous pursuit of President Clinton and its dalliance with the loathsome David Brock.  But many of the best writers on the Right once wrote in its pages, among them P. J. O'Rourke.  Mr. O'Rourke is one of those writers who entertains us often enough that he can be forgiven for cashing in once in awhile, which is fortunate, because this is only barely a book.  It starts with a very funny column, A Call for a New McCarthyism (American Spectator, July 1989), in which he calls for a new blacklist.  Unlike the McCarthy era list though : "The distinguishing feature of this cluster of dunces is not subversion but silliness."  And rather than barring these dunces from working and trying to hush up their views, he has the more diabolical idea of exposing them and their ideas to the harsh light of day :

    [T]he worst punishment for dupes, pink-wieners, and dialectical immaterialists might be a kind of reverse blacklist.  We don't prevent them
    from writing, speaking, performing, and otherwise being their usual nuisance selves.  Instead, we hang on their every word, beg them
    to work, drag them onto all available TV and radio chat shows, and write hundreds of fawning newspaper and magazine articles about their
    wonderful swellness.  In other words, we subject them to the monstrous, gross, and irreversible late-twentieth-century phenomenon of Media
    Overexposure so that a surfeited public rebels in disgust.  This is the 'Pia Zadora Treatment,' and, for condemning people to obscurity, it beats
    the Smith Act hollow.

That's pretty funny stuff, but then you read the list and realize that almost all of the folks on it--Gore Vidal, Tom Hayden, Angela Davis, Amy Carter, Susan Sarandon, Mike Farrell, Tikkun, Garry Trudeau, the Sheen brothers, etc.--faded into obscurity on their own; they were so awful they weren't even worthy enemies.  Unfortunately though, this initial essay was followed by six more installments (the last in November 1993) and some of these consist of nothing more than nominations from readers and Mr. O'Rourke's comments on their nominations.  It all gets pretty tiresome.

But then just as you're ready to toss the book on the trash heap, it's redeemed by two final pieces that were seemingly tacked on at the end just to flesh the book out to 150 pages.  The first, 100 Reasons Jimmy Carter Was a Better President Than Bill Clinton (American Spectator, September 1993), is very funny.  The second, Why I Am a Conservative in the First Place (Rolling Stone, July 13-27, 1995), is not only amusing but also presents as good a defense of conservatism as you'll find anywhere these days.  In light of its title and the gist of the piece, it almost has to be read as a response to F. A. Hayek's famous libertarian essay, Why I Am Not a Conservative.  Hayek, who seems to have understand American conservatism not at all, wrote :

    Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature
    it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down
    undesirable developments, but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably
    been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives
    can only affect the speed, not the direction, of contemporary developments. But, though there is a need for a "brake on the vehicle of progress,"
    I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake. What the liberal must ask, first of all, is not how fast or how far
    we should move, but where we should move. In fact, he differs much more from the collectivist radical of today than does the conservative.
    While the last generally holds merely a mild and moderate version of the prejudices of his time, the liberal today must more positively oppose
    some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists.

Mr. O'Rourke on the other hand, though often characterized as a libertarian, accepts the conservative label and his definition of conservatism :

    The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and--lest individualism run riot--insist upon individual responsibility.

contains the all important corollary to liberty, that the price of our freedom must be that we each take responsibility for ourselves.  Libertarianism's major fault is that it insists on the former but refuses the latter.

On balance, the first and then the last two pieces make the collection marginally worthwhile.  And Mr. O'Rourke does have to earn a living, so we'll not begrudge too much the filler in between.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B-)

  

Websites:

See also:

P.J. O'Rourke (3 books reviewed)
Humor
P.J. O'Rourke Links:
    -PJ O'Rourke Web Site
    -Cato Institute
    -American Spectator
    -Weekly Standard
    -Rolling Stone
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Eat the Rich
    -ESSAY : Squishier than thou : Demonstrating against reality in London and Washington (P. J. O'Rourke, The Atlantic Monthly | December 2001)
    -ESSAY : We'll Run this Planet as We Please : And if you don't like it, go back where we came from (PJ O'Rourke, August 25, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Stupidity in the Golden State (PJ O'Rourke, June 2001, Daily Oklahoman)
    -ESSAY : Bill Clinton and His Consequences (P.J. O'Rourke, Atlantic Monthly)
    -ESSAY : Who The Heck Are These People? (P.J. O'Rourke, Forbes FYI, 03.05.01)
    -ESSAY : 100 Reasons Why Jimmy Carter Was a Better President Than Bill Clinton (P.J. O'Rourke
The American Spectator, September 1993)
    -ESSAY : Why I am a Republican (P.J. O'Rourke)
    -ESSAY : No Fiscal Conservatives Here (P.J. O'ROURKE, NY Times, February 17, 2000)
    -ESSAY : The Liberty Manifesto (P. J. O'Rourke, Libertarian.org)
    -ESSAY : A Message to Redistributionists (P. J. O'Rourke, Cato Institute)
    -ESSAY : Democrats Are The Bad Guys (P.J. O'Rourke, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : A New Birth of Hypocrisy (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, March 1, 1999)
    -ESSAY : How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism 'R' Us
(P. J. O'Rourke)
    -ESSAY : An Open Letter to the Other Party. "Dear Democrats..."  (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, 08/21/2000)
    -ESSAY : Catching the Greased Pig (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, February 2, 1998)
    -ESSAY : Welcome Delegates! To Your Democratic National Convention (P.J. O'Rourke, Voter.com, 08/13/2000)
    -ESSAY : Putting the Moi Back in Memoir (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : My Fellow Americans . . .; All My Priorities (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : BOOK & BUSINESS; HOW TO SUCCED IN BUSINESS? HERE'S THE SECRET....
(P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times)
    -LECTURE : Closing the Wealth Gap (P.J. O'Rourke, June 1997 Cato conference in Shanghai, China)
    -REVIEW : of A Man in Full (PJ O'Rourke, Policy Review)
    -REVIEW : of WHY NOT ME? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency. By Al Franken (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language of the Association of American University Presses (P.J. O'Rourke, The American Spectator August, 1995)
    -REVIEW : of L.A.WOMAN By Eve Babitz (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -AUDIO : P. J. O'Rourke (Salon)
    -BOOKNOTES : Author: P.J. O'Rourke Title: Eat the Rich  Air date: January 3, 1999 (C-SPAN)
    -DISCUSSION : Live with TAE : Two men who represent different generations and different branches of conservative thought find they have a lot in common : Robert Bork & P.J. O'Rourke (The American Enterprise Institute)
    -DISCUSSION : 1997 The Year in Review (P. J. OíROURKE, CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, KATE OíBEIRNE,The American Enterprise Institute)
    -DEBATE : WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S P.J. O'ROURKE Churchillian oratory -- American style -- from the Oxford Union (P.J. O'Rourke)
    -INTERVIEW : with P. J. O'Rourke (Chris Wood, Pure Fiction)
    -INTERVIEW : P.J. O'Rourke talks politics (JIM SLOTEK, Toronto Sun)
    -INTERVIEW : P.J. O'Rourke ... a Q&A  (December 18, 1998, London Observer Service)
    -The Unofficial PJ O'Rourke Homepage
    -PROFILE : Laughing at Big Government, and Crying, Too (Richard Bernstein, NY Times, 1991)
    -PROFILE : P. J. O'Rourke : The Laughing Libertarian (Alysse Minkoff, Cigar Afficianado)
    -ARTICLE : At American Spectator, A Firing Offense (Howard Kurtz , The Washington Post, October 20, 1997)
    -REVIEW : of ALL THE TROUBLE IN THE WORLD The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty (Florence King, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of All the Troubles in the World (Eugene Linden, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of PARLIAMENT OF WHORES A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government. By P. J. O'Rourke (Signe Wilkinson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of GIVE WAR A CHANCE Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice and Alcohol-Free Beer. By P. J. O'Rourke (1992) (Terry Teachout, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of HOLIDAYS IN HELL By P. J. O'Rourke (1989) (Tom Ferrell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of REPUBLICAN PARTY REPTILE Essays And Outrages. By P. J. O'Rourke (1987) (Lewis Burke Frumke, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of EAT THE RICH By P.J. O'Rourke (1998) (Peter Passell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Eat the Rich  Readers Digest (Gary Marshall, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of Eat the Rich (JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Eat the Rich , By P.J. O'Rourke (Diane Hartman, Denver Post)
    -REVIEW : of AMERICAN SPECTATOR'S ENEMIES LIST by  P.J. O'Rourke (JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of John Preston reviews The CEO of the Sofa by P J O'Rourke (booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of CEO of the Couch by PJ O'Rourke (Griff Witte, The Denver Post )
 

GENERAL :
    -ESSAY: The real American model: A dynamic free market? No. America's economy is about massive public subsidy of the middle class. The lesson for the world? Don't copy it. (James Galbraith, OpenDemocracy)
    -ESSAY : The Mirth of a Nation : Black Comedy's Reactionary Hipness (Justin Driver, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Kristol's Ball : William Kristol's feisty Weekly Standard urges on the GOP Revolution (DAN KENNEDY, Salon)
    -ESSAY : The Death of Libertarian Outrage  (Timothy Sandefur, Laissez Faire City Times)
    -Laissez Faire City Times

Book-related and General Links:
    -PJ O'Rourke Web Site
    -Cato Institute
    -American Spectator
    -Weekly Standard
    -Rolling Stone
    -EXCERPT : Chapter One of Eat the Rich
    -ESSAY : Squishier than thou : Demonstrating against reality in London and Washington (P. J. O'Rourke, The Atlantic Monthly | December 2001)
    -ESSAY : We'll Run this Planet as We Please : And if you don't like it, go back where we came from (PJ O'Rourke, August 25, 2001, Wall Street Journal)
    -ESSAY : Stupidity in the Golden State (PJ O'Rourke, June 2001, Daily Oklahoman)
    -ESSAY : Bill Clinton and His Consequences (P.J. O'Rourke, Atlantic Monthly)
    -ESSAY : Who The Heck Are These People? (P.J. O'Rourke, Forbes FYI, 03.05.01)
    -ESSAY : 100 Reasons Why Jimmy Carter Was a Better President Than Bill Clinton (P.J. O'Rourke, The American Spectator, September 1993)
    -ESSAY : Why I am a Republican (P.J. O'Rourke)
    -ESSAY : No Fiscal Conservatives Here (P.J. O'ROURKE, NY Times, February 17, 2000)
    -ESSAY : The Liberty Manifesto (P. J. O'Rourke, Libertarian.org)
    -ESSAY : A Message to Redistributionists (P. J. O'Rourke, Cato Institute)
    -ESSAY : Democrats Are The Bad Guys (P.J. O'Rourke, Weekly Standard)
    -ESSAY : A New Birth of Hypocrisy (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, March 1, 1999)
    -ESSAY : How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism 'R' Us
(P. J. O'Rourke)
    -ESSAY : An Open Letter to the Other Party. "Dear Democrats..."  (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, 08/21/2000)
    -ESSAY : Catching the Greased Pig (P.J. O'Rourke, The Weekly Standard, February 2, 1998)
    -ESSAY : Welcome Delegates! To Your Democratic National Convention (P.J. O'Rourke, Voter.com, 08/13/2000)
    -ESSAY : Putting the Moi Back in Memoir (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY : My Fellow Americans . . .; All My Priorities (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times)
    -ESSAY : BOOK & BUSINESS; HOW TO SUCCED IN BUSINESS? HERE'S THE SECRET....
(P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times)
    -LECTURE : Closing the Wealth Gap (P.J. O'Rourke, June 1997 Cato conference in Shanghai, China)
    -REVIEW : of A Man in Full (PJ O'Rourke, Policy Review)
    -REVIEW : of WHY NOT ME? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency. By Al Franken (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, by Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language of the Association of American University Presses (P.J. O'Rourke, The American Spectator August, 1995)
    -REVIEW : of L.A.WOMAN By Eve Babitz (P. J. O'Rourke, NY Times Book Review)
    -AUDIO : P. J. O'Rourke (Salon)
    -BOOKNOTES : Author: P.J. O'Rourke Title: Eat the Rich  Air date: January 3, 1999 (C-SPAN)
    -DISCUSSION : Live with TAE : Two men who represent different generations and different branches of conservative thought find they have a lot in common : Robert Bork & P.J. O'Rourke (The American Enterprise Institute)
    -DISCUSSION : 1997 The Year in Review (P. J. OíROURKE, CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, KATE OíBEIRNE,The American Enterprise Institute)
    -DEBATE : WHERE THERE'S SMOKE THERE'S P.J. O'ROURKE Churchillian oratory -- American style -- from the Oxford Union (P.J. O'Rourke)
    -INTERVIEW : with P. J. O'Rourke (Chris Wood, Pure Fiction)
    -INTERVIEW : P.J. O'Rourke talks politics (JIM SLOTEK, Toronto Sun)
    -INTERVIEW : P.J. O'Rourke ... a Q&A  (December 18, 1998, London Observer Service)
    -The Unofficial PJ O'Rourke Homepage
    -PROFILE : Laughing at Big Government, and Crying, Too (Richard Bernstein, NY Times, 1991)
    -PROFILE : P. J. O'Rourke : The Laughing Libertarian (Alysse Minkoff, Cigar Afficianado)
    -ARTICLE : At American Spectator, A Firing Offense (Howard Kurtz , The Washington Post, October 20, 1997)
    -REVIEW : of ALL THE TROUBLE IN THE WORLD The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty (Florence King, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of All the Troubles in the World (Eugene Linden, TIME)
    -REVIEW : of PARLIAMENT OF WHORES A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government. By P. J. O'Rourke (Signe Wilkinson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of GIVE WAR A CHANCE Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice and Alcohol-Free Beer. By P. J. O'Rourke (1992) (Terry Teachout, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of HOLIDAYS IN HELL By P. J. O'Rourke (1989) (Tom Ferrell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of REPUBLICAN PARTY REPTILE Essays And Outrages. By P. J. O'Rourke (1987) (Lewis Burke Frumke, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of EAT THE RICH By P.J. O'Rourke (1998) (Peter Passell, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Eat the Rich  Readers Digest (Gary Marshall, Spike)
    -REVIEW : of Eat the Rich (JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Eat the Rich , By P.J. O'Rourke (Diane Hartman, Denver Post)
    -REVIEW : of AMERICAN SPECTATOR'S ENEMIES LIST by  P.J. O'Rourke (JIM SLOTEK -- Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence and a Bad Haircut: 25 Years of P.J. OíRourke (American Reporter by Jeff Schult)
    -REVIEW : of John Preston reviews The CEO of the Sofa by P J O'Rourke (booksonline)
    -REVIEW : of CEO of the Couch by PJ O'Rourke (Griff Witte, The Denver Post )
 

GENERAL :
    -ESSAY : The Mirth of a Nation : Black Comedy's Reactionary Hipness (Justin Driver, New Republic)
    -ESSAY : Kristol's Ball : William Kristol's feisty Weekly Standard urges on the GOP Revolution (DAN KENNEDY, Salon)
    -ESSAY : The Death of Libertarian Outrage  (Timothy Sandefur, Laissez Faire City Times)
    -Laissez Faire City Times

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