Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books I'm Reading 25) On The Wealth of Nations by PJ O'Rourke

I tried once, over a decade ago, to actually read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations. Figured it was good material to learn when I was doing debate in high school and afterwards when I was coaching. I never did make it through the entire thing. It was better at putting me to sleep than the ABA's Guide to Wills and Estates. I'm glad to know that somebody who's writing I've always enjoyed actually managed to wade through the entire thing.

Ironically enough i think I started reading The Atlantic and O'Rourke when I was in high school as well. I still thinks it's one of the best magazines around and the content for the book was published as a review by the Atlantic a couple of years ago.

The real gem of the work isn't so much O'Rourke's explanation of Adam Smith, it's in the explanations of the 'diversions' that Smith takes and the ancillary people surrounding Smith, like David Hume and other thinkers of the day. Oh and yes, I do recognize the irony of my writing what amounts to a short review of a review of a book that was published nearly two and a quarter centuries ago.

We're I still coaching debate, I'd make this required reading for my LD kids. It's an easy read of complex subjects and provides a solid foundation for me to drill them on Hume, Kant even Locke and other social contract theorists. Locke's ideas on property and justice would have probably made a nice contrast to some of the other viewpoints like Hume that O'Rourke goes into, come to think of it.

Regardless, it was well worth the weekend going through this even if I don't put it to much actual use anytime soon. And I do agree that it's somewhat annoying that the term "bullshit" didn't come into the vernacular sooner.


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