P. J. O'Rourke Speaks at H-SC

November 22, 2010
John B. D. Potter '11

P. J. O'RourkeAt Hampden-Sydney, the Center for the Study of Political Economy (CSPE) educates students in the classical liberal tradition of political economy.  As part of its ongoing mission, the CSPE regularly sponsors public lectures by scholars from across academic disciplines.  The most recent CSPE lecture took place on Monday, November 1, in Johns Auditorium.  Mr. P. J. O'Rourke, a Research Fellow at the Cato Institute (a libertarian think tank in Washington D.C.) presented his cynical and hilarious interpretation of contemporary American politics.

Arguably one of the most noted American political satirists, O'Rourke is also an accomplished journalist, magazine correspondent, and writer.  Over the course of his career, he has authored sixteen books, including several which have become best sellers.  During his Monday evening talk, O'Rourke had the audience in stitches as he read excerpts from his latest book: Don't Vote - It Just Encourages the Bastards.

The following synopsis is taken from the flap of the book's dust jacket. "Don't Vote - It Just Encourages the Bastards is a brilliant, disturbing, hilarious, and ultimately sobering look at why politics and politicians are a necessary evil - but only just barely necessary.  P. J. presents his Sex, Death, and Boredom Theory of Politics, which breaks the social contract down to power, freedom, and responsibility by using a party game, Kill, F--k, Marry, more typically found in late-night giggle sessions at all-girls boarding schools.

With this tripartite lens of politics, O'Rourke looks at the financial crisis ("The best investment I've made lately? I left a $20 bill in the pocket of my tweed jacket last spring, and I just found it."), the bailout, health care reform ("Something doesn't add up. Politicians are telling me that I can smoke, drink, gain two hundred pounds, then win an iron man triathlon at age ninety-five."), the stimulus package, climate change ("There's not a god-damn thing you can do about it . . . There are 1.3 billion people in China and they all want a Buick."), trade imbalance, the end of the American automobile industry, U.S. foreign policy, the Family of Nations ("Uncle Russia's out on parole, drunk, unemployed, and likely to kill some folks next door again soon."), campaign finance reform, gun control, No Child Left Behind ("What if they deserve to be left behind?"), and pretty much everything else under the sun.

His findings: Put the country's big, fat political ass on a diet. Lose that drooping deficit. Slim those spreading entitlement programs.  Firm up that flabby pair of butt cheeks, which are the Senate and the House.

Listen to P. J. O'Rourke on the pathetic nature of politics and laugh through your tears or - what the hell - just laugh."

Funnily enough, he is the most quoted living man in The Penguin Dictionary of Modern Humorous Quotations.