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Beach Reading - Eat the Rich

"This is an economics book for people who loathe economics."
Catherine Krantz

Eat the Rich
by P. J. O'Rourke

This is P.J. O'Rourke's treatise on global economics and it's pretty deep for a humorist.

One of the problems with P.J. O'Rourke is you never know what category to put him in, travel, humor, satire, politics, journalism...

Obviously, I'm not the only one with this problem because I had a hell of a time finding the P.J. section in my home town book store. It was one of those huge suburban mega mall book store empires, all bright and shiny with a coffee shop. Big as a warehouse with 50 rows of books stretching off into the horizon, in no apparent order. I just wanted one book, I was there over an hour. I used to be a librarian, I know how to find books. You got the Dewey Decimal system, all about categories, but nobody uses that anymore. Then you got the Library of Congress system all about alpha by author, and pretty logical. Then you got your big book store system-- all about placement, triggering consumer desires. Travel next to food, big photos and coffee table books at the front, little dictionaries and academic books at the back. And a hundred and 50 rows between you and that smirky little high school student with the name tag whose always sneaking around and hiding from you cause they're the only ones who know how to find the P.J. section, and they know it. So here's a time saving tip for you, P.J. O'Rourke is in non-fiction, right next to biographies of Dwight D. Eisenhower, go figure. Out of dumb spite or just the fear of ever having to return, I bought every P.J. O'Rourke they had. And now, 6 months later, I'm finally getting around to taking P.J. O'Rourke's Economics 101, and what a joy it is. And in defense of huge book stores everywhere, "Eat the Rich", despite its humorous title is indeed non-fiction. It is an economics text book, but without the graphs and the incomprehensible language. A text book that will make you laugh out loud and desperately want to read out whole passages to anyone who'll listen. A tip, the humor is lost on non English speakers.

If you ever had even the passing interest in knowing anything at all about traveling to exotic locations, money, emerging global economic patterns or as Mr. O'Rourke so aptly puts it: "Why some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?", then this is the book for you. A totally hilarious and refreshing look at the underlying simplicities of economics and money, and educational did I say educational? This is an economics book for people who loathe economics. For everyone who slept through their economics classes, for everyone who pretends to understand all those pages of squiggly numbers at the back of the business section and for those of us who are just too scared to even open that section. Before I read this book, I knew nothing about economics. I once dated an economics major, and yes, in the stereotypical way he was a boring economics major, but I always felt just a little intimidated by him, that he could understand these things and I couldn't. I even harbored a secret fear that he just might have been smarter than me. But no longer, I just might call him up and say, "Ha! I understand inflation!" and then hang up real quick. Thank you, P.J. O'Rourke, for giving me back my dignity.

"Eat the Rich" is a whirlwind tour of the globe's most triumphant and disastrous economic systems. O'Rourke takes on the economic ideologies of the day and shows us up close and personal what works and why and what is just never gonna happen, ever. From Good Capitalism on Wall Street to Bad Capitalism in Albania, From Good Socialism in Sweden to Bad Socialism in Cuba to the wonderfully insightful sections entitled: How to make Nothing from Everything - Tanzania and How to make Everything from Nothing - Hong Kong. He raises some great ponderous questions, like why is it that some of the world's richest nations in terms of natural resources are some of the world's poorest nations in terms of wealth and economic stability. Why some countries that seem to have everything, just can't do anything with it. Of course he has an extreme free market bias and a great conservative streak, but he's definitely done his research and really who'd want to argue with someone whose actually witnessed first hand everything he's ever written about. Never one to sugar coat, O'Rourke gets right in there and comes out with some true points to ponder. He educates and enlightens and makes you think. He comes up with some surprising statistics that will totally make you re-think just what is important, necessary and valuable in a modern economic society. All this while making you chuckle and smirk and laugh out loud. A guilt free pleasure and an excellently educational beach read. Who would've thought economics could be so fun, who would've thought P.J. O'Rourke would ever end up in the non-fiction section?

March 2001

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