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Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,620 Ratings  ·  167 Reviews
Called "an everyman's guide to Washington" (The New York Times), P. J. O'Rourke's savagely funny and national best-seller Parliament of Whores has become a classic in understanding the workings of the American political system. Originally written at the end of the Reagan era, this new edition includes an extensive foreword by the renowned political writer Andrew Ferguson - ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Grove Press (first published May 30th 1991)
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Jun 19, 2015 Lyn rated it liked it
Rather than watch five minutes of any nonsensical, muck raking sensationalist news program egging on partisan politics, I would re-read this hilarious but brilliant social and political commentary.

Funny and enlightening.

Jan 31, 2007 bp rated it it was amazing
This was probably my 1st O'Rourke book. (Maybe second, actually, after "CEO of the Sofa".) I finished the book, put my hands in my head, and despaired of my career. I could never write like this. I wasn't fit to write a review about this. Not on Amazon, not in my own diary. In fact, I should never write again, ever, to self-mute my ineptitude in the face of such captivating style. Mr. O'Rourke was witty and cutting and brilliant and hysterical. And something else: a libertarian. This, more than ...more
William Cline
This book started off somewhat weakly, and I almost put it down without finishing. The first few chapters are a tour of the federal government, including all three branches and some of its political landscape (e.g., party conventions). To someone who reads the newspaper regularly and has a modest cynical streak (hello), there is nothing enlightening here. O'Rourke's observations mostly had me sighing and shaking my head ("Tell me something I don't know.") rather than laughing or learning.

The cha
4.0 stars. While written in the early 90's during the beginning of the first Bush administration (George, Sr.), this book is still surprisingly relevant today and is very, very funny. P.J. O'Rourke description of the three years he spent observing the U.S. Government in action is hysterical (and if you think too hard about it very scary). He blasts everything from the budget process, military spending, special interest groups and social security. My two favorite section was his scathing attacks ...more
Mar 12, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
This is the best non-fiction, humorous book I've ever read. I recommend to everybody. You CANNOT discuss farm policy without first reading the chapter on "Agriculture. Or how to tell your ass from this particular hole in the ground." Or the chapter when Ted Kennedy is shouting at the 88 convention, "Where was George?" and P.J. responds: "Dry, sober and home with his wife. At least he wasn't out drowning campaign volunteers."

I want to be P.J. O'Rourke when I grow up. Kinda conservative. Kinda dru
David Sarkies
Sep 18, 2015 David Sarkies rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nobody - It's somewhat obsolete
Recommended to David by: My Local Library
Shelves: politics
Congress for Dummies
29 January 2012

I remember seeing this book in my local library, and thinking that the title was quite apt, borrowed it and read it. At this time in my life I was pretty cynical about government but in that generally uneducated type of way where we look at the politicians, think 'they really don't care about us' and label them all as jerks. I also remember that at time as I was living in a swing seat and there was an election coming up and I kept on receiving letters from bot
Apr 20, 2011 Bryan rated it it was amazing
I am too young to remember much, if anything, about the American government and its dealings in and before 1991, when Parliament of Whores was published. So I appreciated how detailed a picture O'Rourke painted of Uncle Sam, twenty years the younger. But even more than the painting itself, I appreciated his ultimately setting the canvas aflame with hilarious, biting criticism.

The main thing I love about this book, and all of O'Rourke's writing, is that it's not just some uninitiated blabbermouth
Nov 28, 2008 Eric_W rated it really liked it
This is the most devastating critique of government since H.L. Mencken, although O'Rourke is short on constructive solutions to most of the problems he exposes.
O'Rourke spent considerable time following around an unnamed congressman. O'Rourke, quite correctly, argues we get a bargain for our money. The average congressman has a budget of around $550,000 for staff, salaries, and expenses. That works out to only about $1.00 per taxpayer in his district. That's pretty cheap considering all the grip
Aug 11, 2010 Vincent rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: reporters
I am fairly sure I remember reading this 15 years ago and thinking it was not very interesting - a not very subtle attempt to recreate the style of Hunter S. Thompson but in the voice of a conservative.
O'Rourke begins by thanking all the usual suspects of the conservative movement in DC - like wacky Dana Rhorabacher and Chris Cox, who left Congress to run the SEC into the ground.
His book is divided into sections that look at the legislative, executive and judicial branch. Each time, he is drippi
Jul 13, 2012 MisterFweem rated it it was amazing
I have to read PJ O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores every year just to keep myself grounded when I ponder politics. Too many potlickers out there wanting to get elected to office, or already in office, or railing against gubmint handouts and getting mad when they get laid off from their government jobs and too many people willing to say, hey, you've got money, let the government have it and boy howdy it'll fix things right up because the government can do everything right.

I'm not a libertarian as
Melissa McShane
It's funny to read a 25-year-old book on American politics in its British edition. Was there a huge demand for this, in England? At this point (the 25-year-old point) the book reads like political history, interesting for its window back on the 1988 US Presidential election, from the perspective of someone who makes his living skewering people. Most interesting to me is the final chapter, in which O'Rourke recounts a town meeting from his hometown (which is barely big enough to deserve to be cal ...more
Nov 26, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book, much of which is a patched-up collection of articles on domestic and foreign policy written for Rolling Stone, offers some guffaws, a lot of amusing cleverness and some very flippantly conservative "ideas" on "fixing" the government. Even though it's humor, the book's message is at times thought-provoking --- the sheer amount of waste and foolishness that goes on is pretty awful. It's not a real political philosophy, of course; O'Rourke contradicts himself on his own ideas of what
Chris Watkins
Aug 14, 2011 Chris Watkins rated it it was ok
I'm giving up on this book. PJ O'Rourke has good moments, but this is 20% insight, 20% humor of sorts, & 60% facetiousness. (I was going to write "stupidity" - but it's more the lack of an attempt to understand that bothers me, and O'Rourke isn't actually a fool).

I did skip ahead, and it improved, but not enough to make me want to read the whole thing, when there are better things to read. I do want to check out his book on Adam Smith though: "On The Wealth of Nations (Books That Changed the
Dan Cohen
Mar 13, 2015 Dan Cohen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
O'Rourke is a genuinely funny and interesting writer and I enjoyed this book. It didn't really live up to the billing (he does not explain any of the US Government, just gives some snapshots) but it did provide lots of interesting views on US society and political institutions. To a Brit such as me the author's own politics seem very right-wing, but I accept that he's not particularly extreme by US standards and I was mainly able to put aside my opposition to his views to hear what he had to say ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor
The author does a fine job of showing how each part of the government works as a separate part and as a whole sucking off of the other parts. Lots of humor and some fortune telling thrown in make this a very good read. I like when he explains the budget and how all of the entitlements people constantly clamor for are sending the U.S into bankruptcy. And he even explains how only a complete idiot could fall for such a dumb ass thing as a National Healthcare System as this would create a major suc ...more
Joe Faust
Jan 09, 2013 Joe Faust rated it it was amazing
O'Rourke's classic about the "workings" of government is just as funny and relevant as when it was written 20+ years ago. Only the names and dollar amounts have changed.
Sarah Arnette
Jun 30, 2014 Sarah Arnette rated it liked it
So, here is a question. How angry do you want to get when you read a book? Do you want to feel fury and betrayed? Yes? Well, curl up with this one. Once you realize that it was written in 1991 and that the issues discussed are the EXACT same issues being discussed now, you will understand what I mean.

Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not saying that O'Rourke is right with his assessment of the United States Government. I disagree with him on a large number of topics. What I am saying is that t
Conrad Heibel
Dec 31, 2008 Conrad Heibel rated it really liked it
You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll demand a voter recount. This book holds up even after several readings. O'Rourke is on top of his game.
Dec 29, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing
P.J.'s best. The idiocy of Washington dissected in a funnym funny way.
Antonio Nunez
Jul 21, 2013 Antonio Nunez rated it really liked it
Very funny, though not as much as the earlier ones.
Chuck Russo
Jan 31, 2009 Chuck Russo rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I love PJ O'Rourke, and this is a great book.
Dec 26, 2014 Eric rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
Written with all the eloquence of your curmudgeonly, get-off-my-lawn neighbor, the disdain and condescension directed toward the poor is almost enough to turn this libertarian into a Democrat. I generally agree with the sentiments, but the tone--even allowing for humor--was completely distasteful to me. Also, the chapter defending defense spending because otherwise that money would be wasted on something else is laughable, and not in the way the author intended. The last chapter was great, and a ...more
Feb 06, 2009 Keets rated it really liked it
Velimir Randic
May 20, 2011 Velimir Randic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although writing on the problems of an ineffectual government from the perspective of 1989, it is amazing how much things HAVEN'T changed. The US still tends to throw it's military weight around without understanding the subtleties of foreign cultures. There's a chapter on foreign policy that deals specifically with the double-dealing of various tribal groups in Afghanistan, in 1989 the Russians were on the receiving end of this, now we are. Budgets and what to do about increasing medical coasts ...more
Darryl Mexic
Jan 24, 2011 Darryl Mexic rated it liked it
Pithy, humorous, cynical, factual and troubling, “Parliament” explores Congress and the U.S. Government as of the early 1990’s. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are spared the acid pen of O’Rourk as he skewers and makes fun of Congress, our drug policy, our foreign policy, defense policy, Dept. of Agriculture, special interest groups, and us for allowing it all. Mostly he attacks the way our government spends money. (I would think O’Rourk’s head would explode, if it has not already done so, up ...more
Aug 06, 2011 Jack added it
Shelves: comedy
O'Rourke is funny, but his humor is not dynamic. His political criticism is at times insightful, but for the most part unsophisticated and blunt, and his jokes often fall short because of this bluntness. He gives a pretty generic libertarian critique of government, ranting against government inefficiency without giving a viable alternative. He rails against the farm bill, entitlements, elderly monopolization of politics, environmentalists, and points out various absurdities in the government. Hi ...more
Feb 22, 2013 Dale rated it it was amazing
Originally published in 1991.
I read the 1992 Vintage Books paperback edition.

Dated but still has teeth.

P.J. O'Rourke goes after the ridiculousness that is the federal government with his trademark irreverent style in this 1991 book. Some of the commentary is dated (lots of talk about the forgettable 1988 presidential election with Republican George H.W. Bush going against Democrat Michael Dukakis. Also, the first one I voted in) but some of it is incredibly relevant. For example, the story of th
I may not completely agree with O'Rourke's politics, but he is outstandingly funny. This sharp wit is merciless in his taunting of almost every institution in America, even making jokes about the Supreme Court, the Disability Act, and the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It's safe to say you are a stickler for political correctness, this is not a book for you. O'Rourke is also lovely in that he's conservative, but refreshingly thoughtful and moderate about the world around him. Much of the essay is journali ...more
P.J. O'Rourke has the same political acuity as people like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Thomas Sowell. He also has a funny vein so deep and rich that it seems endless. When his combines these two things you have some of the most razor-sharp political and cultural writing and humor ever to come along since Will Rogers, but using all the language mother washed your mouth out with soap for using. The result is uproariously funny.

Now, a conservative, O'Rourke refers to himself as "a former lon
Nov 08, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
I'd say this one's a solid 3.6. It was published nearly two decades ago so the info is dated (and so, apparently, am I. Woe is me) but a lot of PJ's observations are still pretty spot-on. The author is a funny guy. At times he gets a little absorbed in his own cleverness, but the comic vanity wasn't ridiculously frequent and there were at least a few genuine laugh out loud moments for me. And that's not an easy thing to accomplish since I am by nature more of a silent chortler. I especially enjo ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Incorrect Page Count for ISBN 0679737898 2 159 Oct 21, 2013 09:05AM  
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Patrick Jake "P. J." O'Rourke is an American political satirist, journalist, writer, and author. O'Rourke is the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute and is a regular correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, The American Spectator, and The Weekly Standard, and frequent panelist on National Public Radio's game show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!. Since 2011 O'Rourke has been a columnist ...more
More about P.J. O'Rourke...

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“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it.” 52 likes
“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” 15 likes
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