Quotations From Chairman PJ
only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with
it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences. "
P.J. O'Rourke is the brilliant and funny political analyst for the Rolling Stone Magazine. It is through his writing that I first became aware of my Liberatarian tendencies. His book "The Parliment of Whores" should be on every required reading lists.
Please read these sample quotes, then run out and buy and read everything this man has written!
"I have only one firm belief about the American political system, and that is this: God is a Republican and Santa Claus is a Democrat.
God is an elderly, or at any rate, middle-aged, male. A stern fellow, patriarchal rather than paternal, and a great believer in rules and regulations. He holds man strictly accountable for their actions. He has little apparent concern for the material well being of others. He is politically connected, socially powerful, and holds the mortgage on everything in the world. God is difficult. God is unsentimental. It is very hard to get into God's heavenly country club.
Santa Claus is another matter. He's cute. He's non-threatening. He's always cheerful. He loves animals. He knows who's been naughty and nice, but never does anything about it. He gives every one everything they want, without a thought of quid pro quo. He works hard for charity and is famously generous to the poor.
Santa Claus is preferable to God in every way but one: there is no such thing as Santa Claus!
-P.J. O'Rourke - Parliament of Whores -- Prologue
"The Tenth Commandment sends a message to socialists, to collectivists, to people who believe that wealth is best obtained by redistribution, and that message is clear and concise: Go to hell! It's as simple as that."
"I'm a registered Republican and consider socialism a violation of the American principle that you shouldn't stick your nose in other people's business except to make a buck."
-P.J. O'Rourke - Republican Party Animal - Page 45
never too poor to clean your front yard"
"The historian C.H. Haring points out that there are two kinds of colonies. He calls them farm colonies and exploitation colonies. Farm colonies are refuges where Pilgrims, Quakers, and other fruitcakes can go chop down trees and stay out of everybody's hair. But exploitation colonies are places for wastrel younger sons and sleazed-out nobleman to get rich on gold or slave labor plantations. Farm colonists are interested in forming their own permanent institutions. Exploitation colonists are interested in getting home and spending their money. For this reason New England, Canada, Costa Rica, and parts of Argentina are reasonably nice places, while Mississippi, Jamaica, Mexico and most sections of our hemisphere are shit holes."
-P.J. O'Rourke - Holidays in Hell. Page 136
"Back in London…one more person started in on the Stars and Stripes. Eventually he got, as the Europeans always do, to the part about 'Your country's never been invaded.' (This fellow had been two during the Blitz, you see.) 'You don't know the horror, the suffering. You think that war is…'
"A John Wayne movie' I said. 'That's what you were going to say, isn't it? We think war is a John Wayne movie-with good guys and bad guys, as simple as that. Well, you know something, Mister Limey Poofter? You're right. And let me tell you who those bad guys are. They're us. WE BE BAD.'
"We're the baddest-assed sons of bitches that ever jogged in Reeboks. We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock market crash on our mother's side. You take your Germany, France and Spain, roll them all together and it won't give us room to park our cars. We're the big boys, Jack, the original, giant, economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d'Antibes. And we've got an American Express credit card limit higher than your piss-ant metric numbers go.'
"You say our country's never been invaded? You're right, little buddy. Because I'd like to see the needle-dicked foreigners who'd have the guts to try. We drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying 'Cheerio'. Hell can't hold our sock-hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit further, fuck longer, and buy more things than you know the names of. I'd rather be a junkie in a New York City jail than the king, queen, and jack of all you Europeans. We eat little counties like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.'
"Of course, the guy should have punched me. But this was Europe. He just smiled his shabby, superior European smile."
-P.J. O'Rourke - Holidays in Hell - Page 203
"We are the Republican Party Reptiles. We look like Republicans, and think like conservatives, but we drive a lot faster and keep vibrators and baby oil and a video camera behind the stack of sweaters on the bedroom closet shelf. I think our agenda is clear. We are opposed to: government spending, Kennedy kids, seat-belt laws, being a pussy about nuclear power, busing our children anywhere other than Yale, trailer courts near our vacation homes, Gary Hart, all tiny Third World countries that don't have banking secrecy laws, aerobics, the UN, taxation without tax loopholes, and jewelry on men. We are in favor of: guns, drugs, fast cars, free love (if our wives don't find out) a sound dollar, a cleaner environment (poor people should cut it out with the graffiti), a strong military with spiffy uniforms, Natassia Kinski, Star Wars (and anything else that scares the Russkis), and a firm stand on the Middle East (raze buildings, burn crops, plow the earth with salt, and sell the population into bondage).
-P.J. O'Rourke - Republican Party Animal - Page xv
"Something is happening to America, not something dangerous, but something too safe. I see it in my lifelong friends. I am a child of the 'baby boom,' a generation not known for its sane or cautious approach to things. Yet suddenly my peers are giving up drinking, giving up smoking, cutting down on coffee, sugar, and salt. They will not eat red meat and go now to restaurants whose menus have caused me to stand on a chair and shout 'Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, dinner is served!' This from the generation of LSD, Weather Underground, and Altamont Rock Festival! And all in the name of safety! Our nation has withstood many divisions - North and South, black and white, labor and management - but I do not know if the country can survive division into smoking and non-smoking sections.
"As once anything was excusable in the name of patriotism, now anything is excusable in the name of safety. We will kiss some low place on every dish-towel head in the Levant rather than have a single breeder reactor on our shores. We will make every lube artist in America learn Japanese rather than produce an enjoyable automobile. And we will all be eating communist bananas rather than risk a Kent State over Nicaragua. (Unless, of course, bananas are found to cause cancer, too.) This is treason. America was founded on danger. How many lifeboat drills were held on the Mayflower? Where were the smoke detectors in the Lincoln family cabin? Who checked to see whether Indian war paint was made with Red Dye No. 2? It was the thrilling, vast, wonderful danger of America which drew people here from all over the world - spacious skies filled with blizzards and tornadoes, purple mountain majesties to fall off, and fruited plains full of snarling animals and armed aborigines. America is a dangerous country. Safety has no place here.
"In fact, safety has no place anywhere. Everything that is fun is dangerous. Horse races, for instance, are very dangerous. But attempt to design a safe horse and the result is a cow…'
"Death is even more important than pain. Death was invented so we could have evolution. The process of Darwinian selection does not work on things that won't die. If it weren't for death we would all still be amoebas and would have to eat by surrounding things with our butts. Also, a lack of death would result in an extraordinary number of old people and the Social Security system is already overextended.
"Therefore, it is the duty of every patriotic, moral, and humanistic person among us to smoke, drink, drive like hell, shoot guns, own Corvairs, take saccharin, leave unmarked medicine bottles all over the house, get in to fist-fights, start barbecue fires with gasoline, put dry-cleaner bags over our heads, and run around barefoot without getting a tetanus shot.
"The forces of safety are afoot in the land. I, for one, believe it is a conspiracy - a conspiracy of Safety Nazis shouting "Sieg Health" and seeking to trammel freedom, liberty, and large noisy parties. The Safety Nazis advocate gun control, vigorous exercise, and health foods. The result can only be a disarmed, exhausted, and half-starved population ready to acquiesce to dictatorship of some kind."
-P.J. O'Rourke - Republican Party Animal - Page 40-42
"Manners are the formal and ceremonial manifestations of a society's underlying values. Usually these values are things like loyalty, altruism, veneration of the elderly, valor, etc."
-P.J. O'Rourke - Republican Party Animal - Page 142
From Berlin, 1989, comes "The Death of Communism," which made O'Rourke "want to do a little sack dance right there in the Cold War's end zone." Here O'Rourke gets to rub the victory of capitalism into the face of everyone who ever doubted. "We won, and let's not anybody forget it. We, the people, the free and equal citizens of democracies, we living exemplars of the rights of man tore a new asshole in international communism. Their wall is breached. Their gut-string is busted. The rot of their body-politic fills the nostrils of the Earth with a glorious stink. ... The privileges of liberty and the sanctity of the individual went out and whipped butt."
Give War a Chance
"The Greek Cynic philosopher Diogenes is said to have slept in a barrel. And supposedly it was a happy revelation to him that he could drink out of his cupped palms and thus throw away one more possession: his mug. But Diogenes had a barrel, a fairly complex piece of technology. Compared with the way some Tanzanians exist, Diogenes was a Sharper Image customer."
"Official Development Assistance has funded disasters and fostered attitudes of gross dependence. Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, says his country 'needs just two things. We need infrastructure and we need foreign investment. That is what we need. The rest we shall do by ourselves.' This is the, 'If we had ham, we could have ham and eggs, if we had eggs,' philosophy. Or, as Nzezele put it as I was leaving Dar after having given him a large and not very well-deserved tip, 'When you get back to America, if you find that you have any extra money, could you send me a wristwatch?'"
HOW TO MAKE EVERYTHING FROM NOTHING: Hong Kong
"How a peaceful, uncrowded place with ample wherewithal stays poor is hard to explain. How a conflict-ridden, grossly over-populated place with no resources whatsoever gets rich is simple. The British colonial government turned Hong Kong into an economic miracle by doing nothing."
"Hong Kong is the best contemporary example of laissez faire. The economic theory of 'allow to do' holds that all sorts of doings ought, indeed, to be allowed, and that government should interfere only to keep the peace, ensure legal rights, and protect property."
"Maybe Hong Kong just wasn't one of those vital, strategic places worth fighting for, like the Falklands. Maybe the Poms only intervene militarily where there's enough sheep to keep the troops entertained."
"Why didn't the British give some other island to China. Great Britain, for instance. This would get the UK back on a capitalist course-Beijing being more interested in money-making than Tony Blair. Plus the Chinese have extensive experience settling royal family problems."
HOW TO HAVE THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS: Shanghai
"There are some strange players in the Chinese communist economy. For instance, the People's Liberation Army is a major investor. Consider putting PLA officers into positions of corporate responsibility. 'Sir, the merger strategy is a minefield, sir. Literally, sir.' And now I've offended the People's Liberation Army. There go my 1.2 billion hardcover sales."
"I don't want to disparage private enterprise. The world has political, religious, and intellectual leaders for that. But when a totalitarian government gets cozy with large financial and manufacturing concerns, it rings a 20th century historical bell. I'm thinking how a certain 'people's car'-ein Volkswagen-got its start. I'm thinking, 'Made the trains run on time.' I'm thinking, 'Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.' There's a technical name for this political ideology."
... "The Chinese communists are attempting to build capitalism from the top down, as if the ancient Egyptians had constructed the pyramid of Khufu by saying, 'Thutnefer, you hold up this two-ton pointy piece while the rest of the slaves go get 2,300,000 blocks of stone.'"
Eat the Rich PJ O'Rourke
This next one is a long one...
Conservatism and the individual
The individual is the wellspring of conservatism. The purpose of conservative politics is to defend the liberty of the individual and-lest individualism run riot-insist upon individual responsibility.
The great religions (and conservatives are known for approving of God) teach salvation as an individual matter. There are no group discounts in the Ten Commandments, Christ was not a committee, and Allah does not welcome believers into Paradise saying, "You weren't much good yourself, but you were standing near some good people." That we are individuals-unique, disparate and willful-is something we understand instinctively from an early age. No child ever wrote to Santa: "Bring me-and a bunch of kids I've never met a pony, and we'll share."
Virtue is famously lonely. Also vice, as anyone can testify who ever told his mother, "All the other guys were doing it." We experience pleasure separately; Ethan Hawke may go out on any number of wild dates, but I'm able to sleep through them. And, although we may be sorry for people who suffer, we only "feel their pain" when we're full of baloney and running for office.
The individual and the state
The first question of political science is-or should be: "What is good for everyone?" And, by "everyone" we must mean "all individuals."
The question can't be: "What is good for a single individual?" That's megalomania, which is, like a New Hampshire presidential primary, the art of politics, not political science.
And the question can't be: "What is good for some individuals?" Or even: "What is good for the majority of individuals?" That's partisan politics, which, at best, leads to Newt Gingrich or Pat Schroeder and, at worst, leads to Lebanon or Rwanda.
Finally, the question can't be: "What is good for individuals as a whole?" There's no such thing. Individuals are only available individually.
By observing the progress of mankind, we can see that the things that are good for everyone are the things that have increased the accountability of the individual, the respect for the individual and the power of the individual to master his own fate. Judaism gave us laws before which all men, no matter their rank, stood as equals. Christianity taught us that each person has intrinsic worth, Newt Gingrich and Pat Schroeder included. The rise of private enterprise and trade provided a means of achieving wealth and autonomy other than by killing people with broadswords. And the industrial revolution allowed millions of ordinary folks an opportunity to obtain decent houses, food and clothes (albeit with some unfortunate side effects, such as environmental damage and Albert Gore).
In order to build a political system that is good for everyone, that ensures a free society based upon the independence, prestige and self-rule of individuals, we have to ask what all these individuals want. And be told to shut up, because there's no way to know the myriad wants of diverse people. They may not know themselves. And who asked us to stick our nose in, anyway?
The Bill of Rights tries to protect our freedom not only from bad people and bad laws but also from the vast nets and gooey webs of rules and regulations that even the best governments produce. The Constitution attempts to leave as much of life as possible to common sense, or at least to local option. The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Continues the 10th Amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
It is these suit-yourself, you're-a-big-boy-now, it's-a-free-country powers that conservatism seeks to conserve.
But what about the old, the poor, the disabled, the helpless, the hopeless, the addled and the daft?
Conservatism is sometimes confused with Social Darwinism or other such me-first dogmas. Sometimes the confusion is deliberate. When those who are against conservative policies don't have sufficient opposition arguments, they call love of freedom "selfish. " Of course it is-in the sense that breathing is selfish. But because you want to breathe doesn't mean you want to suck the breath out of every person you encounter. Conservatives do not believe in the triumph of the large and powerful over the weak and useless. (Although most conservatives would make an exception to see a fistfight between Norman Schwartzkopf and George Stephanopoulos. If all people are free, George Stephanopoulos must be allowed to run loose, too, however annoying this may be.)
But some people cannot enjoy the benefits of freedom without assistance from their fellows. This may be a temporary condition-such as childhood or being me when I say I can drive home from a bar, just fine, thank you very much, at three a.m.-or, due to infirmity or affliction, the condition may be permanent. Because conservatives do not generally propose huge government programs to combat the effects of old age, illness, being a kid or drinking 10 martinis on an empty stomach, conservatives are said to be "mean-spirited."
In fact, charity is an axiom of conservatism. Charity is one of the great responsibilities of freedom. But, in order for us to be responsible-and therefore free-that responsibility must be personal.
Not all needful acts of charity can be accomplished by one person, of course. To the extent that responsibility should be shared and merged, in a free society it should be shared and merged on the same basis as political power, which means starting with t he individual. Responsibility must proceed from the bottom up-never from the top down, with the individual as the squeezed cream filling of the giant Twinkie that is the state.
There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money-if a gun is held to his head.
When government quits being something we use only in an emergency and becomes the principal source of aid and assistance in our society, then the size, expense and power of government are greatly increased. The decision that politicians are wiser, kinder and more honest than we are and that they, not we, should control the dispensation of eleemosynary goods and services is, in itself, a diminishment of the individual and proof that we're jerks.
Government charity causes other problems. If responsibility is removed from friends, family and self, social ties are weakened. We don't have to look after our parents; they've got their Social Security check and are down in Atlantic City with it right no w. Parents don't have to look after their kids; Head Start, a high school guidance counselor and AmeriCorps take care of that. Our kids don't have to look after themselves; if they become addicted to drugs, there's methadone, and if they get knocked up, t here's always AFDC. The neighbors, meanwhile, aren't going to get involved; if they step outside, they'll be cut down by the 9mm crossfire from the drug wars between the gangs all the other neighbors belong to.
Making charity part of the political system confuses the mission of government. Charity is, by its nature, approximate and imprecise. Are you guiding the old lady across the street or are you just jerking her around? It's hard to know when enough charity has been given. Parents want to give children every material advantage but don't want a pack of spoiled brats. There are no exact rules of charity. But a government in a free society must obey exact rules or that government's power is arbitrary and freedom is lost. This is why government works best when it is given limited and well-defined tasks to perform.
The preamble to the Constitution states: "We, the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare..." It doesn't say "guarantee the general welfare." And it certainly doesn't say "give welfare benefits to all the people in the country who aren't doing so well even if the reason they aren't doing so well is because they're sitting on their butts in front of the TV."
A liberal would argue that those people are watching television because they lack opportunities, they're disadvantaged, uneducated, life is unfair-and a conservative might actually agree. The source of contention between conservatives and liberals, the point at which the real fight begins, is when liberals say, "Government has enormous power; let's use that power to make things good."
It's the wrong tool for the job. The liberal is trying to fix my wristwatch with a ball peen hammer.
Government: Robin Hood or just robbing hoods?
Government is an abstract entity. It doesn't produce anything. It isn't a business, a factory or a farm. Government can't create wealth; only individuals can. All government is able to do is move wealth around. In the name of fairness government can take wealth from those who produce it and give wealth to those who don't. But who's going to be the big Robin Hood? Who grabs all this stuff and hands it back out? (Remember: even in a freely elected system of government, sooner or later that person is going t o be someone you loathe. If you're a Republican, think about Donna Shalala; if you're a Democrat, think about Ollie North.)
When government takes wealth from those who produce it, people become less inclined to produce more of it-or more inclined to hide it. Conversely, when government gives wealth to those who don't produce it, they too become less productive since they're al ready getting what they'd produce in return for not producing it.
If government is supposed to make things good, what kind of good is it supposed to make them? And how good is good enough? And who's going to decide? What person is so arrogant as to believe he knows what every other person in America deserves to get? (Well, actually, all of Washington, press and pundits included, is that arrogant. But never mind.)
We don't know what people want. By the same token, we don't know what people need. The government is going to wind up giving midnight basketball to people who don't have shoes to play in. Then there will be a block grant to provide shoes, which people will boil because what they really lack is something to eat. And that brings us to expanding the school lunch program. Pretty soon, it's not government, it's shopping. It's not Congress and the White House, it's Mall of America-and a bunch of politicians have your charge cards.
Individual liberty is lost when government stops asking "What is good for all individuals?" and starts asking "What is good?" To ask the latter question is to abandon a system in which all people are considered equal and to adopt a system in which all people are considered alike. Collective good replaces individual goodies. Government will make life fair. But since limited government is hardly suitable to a task of this magnitude, the role of government will need to be expanded enormously. Government will have to be involved in every aspect of our lives. Government will grow to a laughable size. Or it would be laughable except for our experience in this century.
Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China and dozens of smaller places around the world did indeed create just such leviathan governmental engines of "good," and the dreadful history of the 20th century is in large part a history of the terrible result s of these collectivist endeavors. Once respect for the individual is lost, then what do 100 million dead individuals matter-especially if their deaths are for the "collective good"?
Of course, a liberal would say that a sharing and caring government doesn't have to turn out this way. It could be something like Sweden. And there you have it-the downside: 100 million people killed; the upside: ABBA, Volvos and suicide.
Why collectivism doesn't work
Why can't life be more fair? Why can't Americans take better care of each other? Why can't we share the tremendous wealth of our nation? Surely if enough safeguards of liberty are written into law and we elect vigorous, committed leaders...
Have another hit on the bong.
Collectivism doesn't work because it's based on a faulty economic premise. There is no such thing as a person's "fair share" of wealth. The gross national product is not a pizza that must be carefully divided because if I get too many slices, you have to eat the box. The economy is expandable and, in any practical sense, limitless.
Under collectivism, powers of determination rest with the entire citizenry instead of with the specific citizens. Individual decision-making is replaced by the political process. Suddenly, the system that elected the prom queen at your high school is in charge of your whole life. Besides, individuals are smarter than groups, as anybody who is a member of a committee or of a large Irish family after six in the evening can tell you. The difference between individual intelligence and group intelligence is the difference between Harvard University and the Harvard University football team.
Think of all the considerations that go into each decision you make: Is it ethical? Is it good in the long run? Who benefits? Who is harmed? What will it cost? Does it go with the couch? Now imagine a large group-imagine a very large group, say, 250 million people-trying to agree on every decision made by every person in the country. The result would be stupid, silly and hugely wasteful-in short, the result would be government.
Individuals are not only smarter than groups, they are also-and this is one of the best things about them-weaker than groups. To return to Harvard for a moment, it's the difference between picking a fight with the football team and picking a fight with Michael Kinsley.
Collectivism makes for a very large and, hence, very powerful group. This power is centralized in the government. Any power is open to abuse.
Government power is not necessarily abused more often than personal power, but when the abuse does come, it's a lulu. At work, power over the whole supply cabinet is concentrated in the person of the office manager. In government, power over the entire military is concentrated in the person of the commander-in-chief. You steal felt tip pens. Hitler invades Poland.
Most government abuse of power is practiced openly, and much of it is heartily approved by The Washington Post editorial board and other such proponents of the good and the fair. But any time the government treats one person differently than another because of the group to which that person belongs-whether it's a group of rich, special-interest tax dodgers or a group of impoverished, minority job-seekers - individual equality is lessened and freedom is diminished. Any time the government gives away goods and services-even if it gives them away to all people equally - individual dependence is increased and freedom is diminished. Any time the government makes rules about people's behavior when that behavior does not occasion real and provable harm to others - telling you to buckle your seat belt or forbidding you to publish pornography on the Internet - respect for the individual is reduced and freedom is diminished.
"We have to kill ideas like the wealth gap. The world doesn't need to be thinking about the wealth gap; the world needs to be thinking about wealth. Wealth is good. Everybody knows that about his own wealth. Wealth improves your life; it improves your family's life. You invest in wise and worthwhile things, and you help your friends and neighbors. Your life would get better if you got rich, and the lives of all the people around you would get better if you got rich. Your wealth is good. So why isn't everybody else's wealth good, too? I don't get it. Wealth is good when a lot of people have it, and wealth is good when just a few people have it. And that is because money is a tool, nothing more. I mean, you can't eat money, you can't sleep with it, you can't wear it as underwear very comfortably. And wealth, accumulation of money, is a bunch of tools. Now when one person, a carpenter for instance, has a bunch of tools, we don't say to him, "You have too many tools. You should give some of your saws and drills and chisels to the guy who is cooking the omelets." We don't try to close the tool gap."