O'Rourke on Smith
Just finished reading PJ O'Rourke's new book, on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations.
A disappointment. To be fair, I am a really, really big fan of both O'Rourke and of Smith, so my hopes were perhaps unrealistically high.
But Smith is subtle, and it is hard to understand his main thesis on division of labor. PJ apparently doesn't, or at least skips over it any real discussion. He wastes chapters paraphrasing Smith's language, instead of summarizing his ideas.
PJ is capable of deep understanding, as his famous essay, "How to Drive Fast on Drugs While Getting Your Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill Your Drink" illustrates. That article changed my life, and dating/driving habits.
Seriously, I thought Parliament of Whores was so good I use several chapters in class. And All the Trouble in the World...well, the chapters on environmentalism are simply brilliant.
And, to be fair, O'Rourke's analysis of Smith does have a couple of terrific chapters. Chapter 7, on power and regulation, is outstanding. Not just funny, but fundamentally insightul. And Chapter 13, "An Inquiry into Adam Smith," is a wonderful overview of the man's life.
But too many of the other chapters just don't rise to that standard. Okay, but not great. You are still better off, if you don't want to read the whole WoN, just studying Book I and Book IV carefully, IMHO.
(cross-posted from DoL)