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Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,117 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews
America's favorite political humorist leads readers on a hysterical whirlwind tour, from the "good capitalism" of Wall Street to the "bad socialism" of Cuba, in search of an answer to the age-old question: "Why do some places prosper and thrive, while others just suck?"
Paperback, 246 pages
Published July 23rd 1999 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 1994)
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Skylar Burris
I re-read this book about once every two years because it so amuses me. It's admitedly a bit out of date now. A lot changes in ten years. For one, it was written at the height of the stock market in the late 90's, but nevertheless his reflections remain basically true. (It was fun to read in the chapter on "Good Capitalism: Wall Street" his caveat "An investigation of money might as well begin where lots of money is being made -- for the moment, anyway...")

This is a very funny book, but it's al
Apr 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
It’s my own fault, I should have stopped even earlier than I did, but there was something compulsively awful about this book.

There are some things that are truly contemptible, like privileged and relatively intelligent people who assume a sort of corn-pone dumbness, and it seems to particularly affect the US right-wing. So why would anyone who pretended not to understand arithmetic write about economics in Eat the Rich? Well, because it isn’t so much about economics as it is an excuse for a dia
You know what? I love Karl Marx. He is the definitive historian, the modern day secular Clio. He understood economics, but he didn't understand wealth. Adam Smith understood wealth. PJ O'Rourke understands both. He was a marxist and then he became a rich-ist. In 1997 he traveled the planet doing a comparative study of different economic systems, looking at Russia, Cuba, Sweden, Tanzania, the US, China, and Hong Kong.

His conclusions support classical economic liberalism, while thumbing his nose
Marco den Ouden
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
They don't call economics the dismal science for nothing. As P.J. O'Rourke puts it in his latest book, "Economics is just too complicated. It makes our heads ache." And no wonder. The economics profs turn simple ideas like people buy less of something as it gets more expensive into something arcane and incomprehensible like

Y = [1] [C+I+G+(X-M)]/1-mpc

But for those of us who invest in the capitalist system, it behooves us to know something about how our system generates wealth. What better way tha
Chad Bearden
Nov 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: reportage
"Eat the Rich" isn't so much a treatise on economics as it is a travelogue with an economics slant.

I really enjoyed reading this work. I found it informative to a degree, and laughed out loud multiple times at O'Rourke's wit. It's obvious to me now that P.J. O'Rourke is the direct literary predecesor of Sarah Vowell. Their politics probably don't synch up too swell, but their writing voices are practically Siamese twins. The humor with which O'Rourke describes and explains such diverse locales a
Bookworm Smith
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Just before starting this book I read through an issue of MAD magazine. Remember MAD? Well, our library has a few copies, they are in the basement in the 'teen' section...yes, I'll admit it, I was wandering through the teen section, but, I like to make full use of all areas of the library. Funny though, I should read MAD and then start Eat the Rich. They are strikingly similar. Both are satires to the extreme...and in fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if O'Rourke was a writer for MAD.

Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Part "economics for dummies" and part travel guide, Eat the Rich not only tries to (and to a great extent succeeds) explain economics to folks like me, while at the same time trying to explain the bigger question - why are some countries richer or have a better standard of living than others? O'Rourke, a conservative Republican who is also able to write for more liberal magazines as Rolling Stone and Harper's deftly examines and compares culture, infant mortality rates, life expectancy, mineral ...more
Deryn Murphy
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this because P.J. O'Rourke uses humor to explain economics in understandable terms as demonstrated by one of his basic questions: Why do some places prosper while others suck? In trying to answer this question, he examines several types of governments and explores that made them successful and what failed. It was entertaining for me when O'Rourke traveled the world to learn about money and disparity of wealth.
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Written in 1997, many things have changed since the book's publication.

This does not, however, invalidate the humour or the sharp observations of P. J. O'Rourke.

The section on Wall Street is extremely interesting in the light of America's financial disaster of 2008.

An excellent read.
Arthur O'Sullivan
Sep 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone with a passing interest in economics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Fish
Oct 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
What makes rich countries rich and poor countries poor? Is it, as some would have us believe, the result of exploitation, poor governance, or the dead hand of the market? And is it as critical a problem as it appears? PJ O'Rourke takes a wry look at the issue in a book based on a series of articles originally published in Rolling Stone magazine.

O'Rourke is best described as a slightly more cynical and political Bill Bryson. The book reads like a travelogue, but with less emphasis on his personal
Robert Rubin
Aug 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who understands economics or wants to
O'Rourke visits countries representative of the leading economic systems and explores how people live there. He leavens a brilliant exposition of key economic ideas with a witty travelogue. I know of no other book that makes so direct and so incisive a comparison of economies, focusing not on ideology or politics, but on the everyday practical world - how people think and feel, and what they do to meet their material needs in each system. The result is a persuasive brief for what works - what ma ...more
Nov 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This could be issued as "Everything you need to know about economics, but you fell asleep in that class back in college." It's more or less an economics companion to P. J. O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores" book on politics.

The author uses his "Holidays in Hell" travelogue-style of writing to explore capitalism, socialism, and the what-the-heck-is-this giant ball of chaos that was Russia in the late 1990s. He looks at the nature of economic theory, which turns out to be all about money, and look
P.J. O'Rourke attempts to explain the success of those nations which have embraced the Free Market system as contrasted with those nations which have imposed government controls.

He contrasts the fabulous wealth of Hong Kong, a tiny island with virtually zero resources and a less than friendly neighbor thousands of times larger right next door, to the pathetic poverty of Tanzania, a relatively large nation with abundant resources but a totally corrupt and inefficient government.

Some of P.J.'s cha
Melissa McShane
I re-read P.J. O'Rourke's books when I'm in need of something fast and entertaining; each chapter is more like a stand-alone essay, good for a quick read with lunch. Though Eat the Rich isn't my very favorite, I love the sections on traveling through other countries.
John Jamison
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
A bit dated, but still a good read to put some meat onto the bones of more theoretical economics texts. Try reading this along with "The Commanding Heights".
Assigned by my microeconomics instructor in grad school. 'nuf said.
Kressel Housman
I’ve given this book a 5 because it did exactly what the flap copy promised: it explained economics in a clear, understandable way and it made me laugh. But knowing that the author is a libertarian with an agenda to push, I took him with a grain of salt. Even still, by the end, he had this ex-lefty fully convinced that the greatest civic duty I can perform is to go out and make as much money as I possibly can. But the book is definitely dated; it was written in the 90’s, before 9/11 and before t ...more
Kevin Pace
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first looked into this book because of a post I saw on Facebook which quoted a piece of its text. The quote was very amusing and intrigued me partly because the idea put forward seemed to contradict the title of the book, so I got a copy of the book and began reading. Happily the book was as good as the quote made it seem, if not better thanks largely to the author's particular style of writing.

Mr. O'Rourke has done plenty of writing in his day, most notably for Rolling Stone, and has been kno
Sean Newman
Jul 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
What a great idea, a travel memoir that illustrates the various economic systems and is laugh out loud funny. I'm all in. I know this book is dated and it would be interesting if he went did a epilogue to it but then it would be outdated in a year anyway and what would be the point. So get past that and for all the left side of aisle people get over that he slants right. The observations are just funny and it's his views from his travels that we all can relate with. He actually makes economics s ...more
Mary Karpel-Jergic
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, politics
A romp, as always and as expected from PJ O'Rourke. I dropped economics in my first year but if I had had it presented in this manner I may have pursued it more. OK, it's the world according to PJ and OK, he can be tough to swallow at times, but hey his writing is funny and there are grains of truth littered in each chapter.

His fundamental question: why do some countries prosper and thrive whilst others don't?

"When we look at economics in general terms, all of us... are daunted... We feel as tho
Aug 15, 2007 rated it really liked it

I got hooked on P.J. O'Rourke through his work in "Rolling
Stone." Each of his books have usually just been expanded
versions of his gonzo-style of journalism. He is definitely the sick
love child of Hunter S. Thompson (another "Rolling Stone"
family member) and Dave Barry--of course with a twist of Rush
Limbaugh's conservatist flare. His dry wit is interlaced with a keen
eye for the bizarre. He has attacked politicians and Congress in
"Parliament of Whores" (still his best book to date) and the
Sam Lee
In Eat the Rich, P. J. O'Rourke visits various countries that exemplify good and bad approaches to different economies. Good capitalism: USA; Bad capitalism: Albania; Good socialism: Sweden; Bad socialism: Cuba. He also explores Tanzania as an example of "how to make nothing out of everything" and Hong Kong as an example of "how to make everything out of nothing."
O'Rourke does a fairly decent job of explaining economics in simple terms, and he does it in a funny way. Sometimes too funny. His at
Robert Kroese
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I've been reading a lot of dry economics stuff lately, and I figured P.J. O'Rourke's book would be a lighter take on the matter. And it is. The jokes are hit-and-miss, but Eat the Rich is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. And I even learned some things about the economic systems of various countries: O'Rourke takes us on a tour of the New York Stock Exchange, Hong Kong, Sweden, Cuba, and several other economic outliers.

Unfortunately, any book attempting to draw conclusions from the economic cond
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
not being a believer in the "free market" (no i'm not a defender of Cuba either; it's worthwhile to remember how horrific its recent history of human rights violations is), i wasn't persuaded by pj o rourke's concluding argument. of course, much of it's dated post-recession, but that's not really his fault - he admits he's no prophet when it comes to economics. but even so. i doubt i'd have been persuaded in 1997. me & most people i know would probably rather live in sweden than the USA, esp ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
O'Rourke, admitting that he was too busy smoking pot and planning communes in college to have taken an economics course, figures that his older/wiser self who is now an international journalist might be able to figure some of this "Econ" business out. Instead of going back to same old stodgy textbooks, though, P.J. travels through various world economies trying to determine what makes them tick (or not do all that much productive ticking). From "Good Capitalism" (Wall Street) to "Bad Capitalism" ...more
Apr 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
A perceptive, outrageous, hilarious and ultimately sobering look at economic reality. P J O"Rourke, a Rolling Stone writer, goes to Cuba. He rents a car and drives out into the country where the people who have been living under Castro these many years can talk freely. The "best health system" is only for the party leaders; meat on the table is a rare treat. He goes on to Rumania and Albania, former Soviet ruled countries. Poverty and despair characterize the people who so recently became free b ...more
A humorous and wonderful trip around the world to explore different economic systems from around the world. Full of O'Rourke's bombastic wit and keen journalism, he shows how economics has manifested around the world, and what characteristics make some economies successful, and what characteristics make them failures. O'Rourke is rather critical of China, and I wonder if any of his views on the country have changed since he wrote the book. As to be expected of O'Rourke, his book is highly critic ...more
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
If you think Economics is always boring you haven't encountered P.J. O'Rourke's take on it. O'Rourke travels the world and compares the economic success of different countries and ties that to the economic system they use. The question he asks throughout the book is basically "Why are some countries rich and some poor?" The book is written in a very funny and clever style and some of the analogies made me laugh out loud (especially those used when describing my own country of Sweden). However, O ...more
Jul 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humor, economics
Far more useful and entertaining than my recently completed university Macroeconomics course.

O'Rourke spends less time manipulating economic theory and far more time exploring economic practice in Sweden, Wall Street, Russia, Shanghai, and beyond.

This book strongly reinforces the ideas found in James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds in showing that even a group of stupid, selfish people can collectively make better economic decisions than any central government.
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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
“Microeconomics is about money you don't have, and macroeconomics is about money the government is out of.” 11 likes
“We all know how 'modern democracies take loaves from the wealthy.' It's the slipups in the 'pass them out to the poor' department that inspire a study of Economics.” 6 likes
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