Eat the Rich (1999) by PJ O’Rourke is an amusing quick ride over economics from O’Rourke’s libertarian viewpoint. O’Rourke’s quick wit and clever style shines through a sometimes informative view of economics.
O’Rourke goes and visits various countries and places to get a handle on Capitalism, Socialism and economics in general. The US is visited for a look at good capitalism and Albania for bad capitalism. Sweden is visited for good socialism, Cuba for bad socialism. Hong Kong is visited and written up as a place that made everything from nothing and Tanzania as a place that made nothing from everything. O’Rourke looks at Russia as a case of how to try and transform an economy.
It’s a good book that asks the question why are some countries rich while others are poor? What works in economics. The answer is easy for most people on the right to give, the market works. The book doesn’t look for much complexity, no mention is made of the fact that Sweden has a huge market, still about 50% of the economy that keeps the country going.
The book’s humour is clever but not as good as O’Rourke’s best which is often making fun of the silliness of the hippie era. O’Rourke still delivers some good lines though.
The book’s look at Sweden is interesting because it recalls the Swedish crash of the early 1990s which is being replayed more slowly by much of Europe some 20 years later. The view of Hong Kong which was done when HK was just being returned to China is also interesting, the fear of the take over was palpable.
Eat the Rich is a fun book which would make a particularly good read for a young adult who hadn’t thought about what makes different economies do better or worse. It, of course, biased, but any book about the subject will be. It’s also refreshingly light hearted.