P.J. O'Rourke on How the Greatest Generation Ruined America


A snippet from The Daily Caller's interview with the great libertarian author and comedian P.J. O'Rourke:

TheDC: When do you think we reached a point where it became taboo to discuss individual responsibility? Because we seem to have skipped that argument with homeowners, too. We've said that it's not fair that peoples' homes are worth less than they owe, so maybe they shouldn't have to pay all that back.

P.J.: This is the explosion of positive rights, as opposed to negative rights; "gimme" rights versus "get outta here" rights. The Bill of Rights are all "get outta here rights."

TheDC: Stay out of my gun cabinet, out of my bedroom.

P.J. Get off my lawn.

Explosion of positive rights started in 1932 with the election of Roosevelt. There had been noise made in this direction starting with the progressives, and even Republicans, and it was all exacerbated by the vast centralization and expansion of government power during World War II, which may have been necessary.

But even so, by the time you got done, the Greatest Generation, upon whom I blame everything, by the time they got done with the Great Depression and World War II, they emerged in 1945, as did British voters, with this sense of entitlement. This sense that government really should take care of this stuff, like it does in the military.

They emerged thinking that the government really should make sure that everybody has food, everybody has a place to sleep, everybody gets medical care.

You know, people talk about how greedy the baby boomers are, but fuck, man! We were 12! We didn't do the Great Society stuff.

Read the whole thing here. Watch O'Rourke talk auto bailouts, socialism, and libertarianism with Reason.tv below.

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  1. The Greatest Greediest Generation.

    FTFY, P.J.

  2. “You know, people talk about how greedy the baby boomers are, but fuck, man! We were 12! We didn’t do the Great Society stuff.”

    yeah but you are not 12 now. And you didn’t do anything to help the situation when it was your turn.

    As far as the Greatest Generation, the Great Society was a bait and switch. It sold as a small program to help those in need. It was only Goldwater and a few others who rightly made the point that these programs would balloon and bankrupt the country. And the establishment on both sides called them nuts. I don’t think the average American in 1965 was greedy or had any idea what the Great Society was really going to do.

    I would also point out, the Democrats took a huge beating in the 1966 elections after passing the Great Society. And those programs were only passed by narrow margins after an historic anomaly of an election in 1964. People like O’Rourke, who while a funny and smart guy really doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground about much of anything, think the Great Society was some hugely popular program demanded by the country. It wasn’t. It was every bit as controversial in its day as Obamacare is now. But, the liberals and Johnson were able to shove it down the country’s throats because fate gave them an unnatural and temporary majority in 1964.

    1. you didn’t do anything to help the situation when it was your turn

      What have you done?

      1. The same thing that your average adult living in 1965 did to pass these things. If we are talking collective responsibility, lets talk collective responsibility you dope.

        1. So, if you haven’t personally fixed a problem, you can’t comment on it? That’s going to be a real thorn in the side of this whole blogging thing.

          1. No. But O’Rourke can’t blame the entire World War II generation for the great society and then ignore the baby boom’s total inability to address those programs when they came of age.

            If we are going to start collectively blaming entire generations here, then lets at least be consistent.

            1. “It was every bit as controversial in its day as Obamacare is now.”

              That’s right. This generation, like the Greatest Generation and the baby boomers, are a bunch of tantrum throwing leeches who “WANT IT NOWWW” even though they don’t want to pay for it. Not collectively but generally guilty.

          2. It’s more about bitching than fixing, isn’t it?

            1. The people to blame for the great society are the idiots in Congress and the Whitehouse who dreamed it up and passed it.

              1. So why are you blaming O’Rourke?

                1. I am not. The “you” is used in the collective sense to mean his generation not him personally. I thought was clear.

                  1. But his “generation” was only 12 at the time. Didn’t he make that clear?

                    1. They were not 12 in the 1990s when they failed to do anything about those programs.

                      Jesus you are fucking dense.

                    2. So, O’Rourke is at fault because he didn’t run for office and singlehandedly prevent the Great Society programs?

                    3. Back to my original question: What have you done, John? What has anyone done?

    2. I don’t think the average American in 1965 was greedy or had any idea what the Great Society was really going to do.

      I was 3 in 1965, and I was greedy, and I wanted my goddamned food now, and I wanted to stay up all night, and I wanted hookers and blow when I wanted hookers and blow.

      But I did not expect the Spanish Inquisition have any idea what the Great Society was really going to do, so I’ll grant you that.

      1. I was exactly three months old when JFK got shot, which means I have an alibi.

      2. damn…your precocious. I was 10, and I knew I wanted hot young women (man did I want to get my hands on my second grade teacher)…I didn’t really know what I would do with their naked bodies…you don’t much think things through when your in second grade.

    3. John, you forget that the Boomers are the children of the Greatest Generation.

      Of course the Boomers have a sense of entitlement. They were taught they deserved it all by their parents. It takes a lot for children to unlearn the lessons they were fed with their daily bread.

      And, while we’re at it, why do you think the liberals and Johnson were able to get “an unnatural and temporary* majority in 1964”? It was because the Greatest Generation and Depression era voters overwhelmingly rejected Goldwater’s conservative notion of individual responsibility.

      The first election any Boomer got to vote in was 1968.

      *It wasn’t so “temporary” either. Look at the amount of Great Society legislation that was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by that great “conservative” Richard Nixon. That “temporary” majority lasted until the mid-nineties – which, by the way was about the same time as Boomers “came of age” in any sense related to weilding political power.

      1. And even today, with our hapless government rolling up billions of dollars of debt every single day, nobody of real national political prominence wants to have a serious adult conversation with the people about personal responsibility and the inevitable need to eventually roll back the Beveridgean entitlement state. That’s how powerful a grip the welfare mentality takes on people; it’s like a bad heroin addiction.

      2. Thought boomers were 1944 to 1960-64? That’d get the oldest voting in 62, not 68.

        1. American post-war baby boom was 1946-1964.

          1. And the voting age was still 21 for the oldest ones, so Boomers born in ’46 could not have voted till around 1967. The 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18, was not enacted till 1971. Boomers are just as responsible for the Great Society programs as junior-high-schoolers are today for ObamaCare.

  3. You know, many of the Nazis were part of the Greatest Generation.

    1. You know who el…oh, never mind

      1. That’s right, other Nazis!

        1. “Top” Nazis.

  4. You know, people talk about how greedy the baby boomers are, but fuck, man! We were 12! We didn’t do the Great Society stuff.

    He’s right, of course. 🙂

    1. That sounds curiously like Obama-ites blaming Bush for everything.

      1. So these folks, the greatest genration, drove the 1910 Overland into the ditch…

        1. Groovy!

        2. Yeah, but back then, big muscly men would put down their barbells, twirl their handlebar mustaches, and pull that Overland out of the ditch… then hop on their penny-farthing bicycles and head for the beach or dance the Charleston or something.

  5. Such a great libertarian, that PJ O’Rourke. Part One of the interview is mostly about his views of marijuana legalization, which is not that much different than Josh Marshall’s:

    The Daily Caller: What do you think of Prop 19 in California and marijuana legalization?

    P.J. O’Rourke: I find myself torn between my conservatism ? I’m a father with children and I don’t want them smoking pot ?

    TheDC: ? ever?

    O’Rourke: Well, yeah!

    TheDC: Are you just saying that because you’re a dad and you’re on the record?

    P.J.: Well, yes, I am saying that because I’m a dad and I’m on the record, but also because I’m a father, and I know that children are plenty stupid enough. They don’t need a drug to help them be more stupid.

    On the other hand, here’s a drug that makes teenage boys drive slower. [Laughs] So, I’m torn.

    Truly, I think it’s up to the people of California to decide this for themselves. What I want to know is how we’ll be able to tell whether it passed or not. How much more stoned can you get in California?

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2010/11…..z14pWVwmNG

  6. You want to know who fucked us up so badly, you gotta look back a lot farther. I don’t know that it was exactly a gener’n, but a lot of the bad shit flows from about 2 centuries ago.

    See, we’ve always had people who’ve wanted to rob others and keep it themselves, and people who’ve wanted to rob the rich to give to the poor, and people who’ve wanted to suppress the alien and unfamiliar. But combined, they’ve never had the influence to do us as badly as we’ve gotten into.

    What really fucked us up were those who, in an age of rapidly advancing science, claimed we could set public policy on science, in a way that would somehow be free of arbitrary values and mysticism. They were the ones who sowed the seeds of scientific socialism, scientific racism, the wars on booze & drugs & sex & rock & roll, and a host of other follies. They convinced people that the robbers, levellers, and bluenoses had been right all along. It just took a while for some of their initiatives to manifest fully.

  7. The only problem with all this greatest generation/worst generation “it all started with FDR” bullshit is that life is about a hundred times better than it was back in 1932, and 50 times better than 1965. Anybody missing segregation? Share-cropping? Lynchings? No TV, no Internet, no air-conditioning? No synthetic fabrics? How about no-novocaine dentistry? You’re breaking my heart, P.J.

    1. What makes you think we wouldn’t have all those things without FDR’s bullshit?

      1. Because in VannemanWorld, FDR *did* stop and/or create all those things. Singlehandedly. Quite the Superman, he was.

      2. What makes him assume we wouldn’t have even more of that kind of progress if not for FDR’s bullshit?

  8. I can’t believe P.J. O’Rourke still sounds more conservative than libertarian after all these years. I don’t give a shit about the government giving people food, healthcare, shelter, etc. I care about people who are being forced to pay for these things when they don’t want to. If the government could do these things without forcing people to pay for any of it, would Rourke still have a problem? It sounds like he would…

    1. Don’t feed the bears, man.

  9. I haven’t watched Bill Maher in many moons haven’t come to find him to be a smug jackass with his head up his ass, but whenever he had P.J. O’Rourke on it was always a total squirm fest with him making lame, non-sequitur type comments which always left me thinking “This guys a humorist???”

    1. Unfortunately, as good a writer as P.J. O’Rourke is, he does not seem to do awfully well in any environment where any kind of spontaneous or impromptu response is required.

      On NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, where he’s the house conservative, apparently, he loses out in the ad-libbing banter, but shines with the phony news story of the day, which he gets to prepare in advance.

      But even at that, his presentation is not exactly polished.

      1. He’s a writer.

        1. O’Rourke should consider using a teleprompter.

      2. He’s Tom Wolfe’s competition.

  10. Hmm, have to think about that. Never seen progressivism as a manifestation of wanting civilian society to be more like the military, but maybe it’s so. Maybe the 60’s were deep cover for this deep longing for the military life.

    It’s certainly true that that great progressive imaginary world, Star Trek, is definitely a militaristic fantasy.

    1. Which explains why so many liberals want a return of the military draft…

  11. I can’t take the 27 nano seconds it takes to ponder the Greatest Generation. I’ve got my own incontinence issu…Oh geez! Hot! Hot! Hot!


  12. TheDC: When do you think we reached a point where it became taboo to discuss individual responsibility? Because we seem to have skipped that argument with homeowners, too. We’ve said that it’s not fair that peoples’ homes are worth less than they owe, so maybe they shouldn’t have to pay all that back.

    It has been my experience that the moment you start talking about personal responsibility is the moment leftist drag out Hobbes in a manner that has been processed so many times the argument resembles Gerber’s mashed peas and carrots.

    1. Rational Person: “Able-bodied/minded people should be able to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps.”

      Liberal: “Easy for YOU to say!”

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