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‘We Are Always on the Verge of Chaos:’ The PJ O’Rourke Interview

The libertarian humorist talks about his new book, how to drink in war zones, and why the Chinese are more American than most U.S. citizens.

For the last 45 years, no writer has taken a bigger blowtorch to the sacred cows of American life than libertarian humorist P.J. O'Rourke.

As a writer at National Lampoon in the 1970s, he co-authored best-selling parodies of high school yearbooks and Sunday newspapers. For Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and other publications, O'Rourke traveled to war zones and other disaster areas, chronicling the folly of military and economic intervention. In 1991, he came out with Parliament of Whores, which explained why politicians should be the last people to have any power. Subtitled "A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government," this international bestseller probably minted more libertarians than any book since Free to Choose or Atlas Shrugged. More recently, O'Rourke published a critical history of his own Baby Boomer generation and How The Hell Did This Happen?, a richly reported account of Donald Trump's unexpected 2016 presidential victory.

O'Rourke's new book, None of My Business, explains "why he's not rich and neither are you." It's partly the result of hanging out with wealthy money managers and businessmen and what they've taught him over the years about creating meaning and value in an ever richer and crazier world. It covers everything from social media to learning how to drink in war zones to why the Chinese may be more American than U.S. citizens. He also explains why even though he doesn't understand or like a lot of things about modern technology, he doesn't fear Amazon or Google, especially compared to people who are calling for Socialism 2.0.

I sat down with O'Rourke to talk about all that, the good and bad of Donald Trump, and why being an "old white man" just isn't what it used to be (and why he's OK with that).

Edited by Ian Keyser. Cameras by Jim Epstein and Mark McDaniel. Intro by Todd Krainin.

"Please Listen Carefully" by Jahzzar used under a Creative Commons license.

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  • Bronze Khopesh||

    Where's the text!

  • Echospinner||

    PJ cannot always be done in text. It is an interview.

    You can read the book. I have read near all of them.

  • Jerryskids||

    I clicked here but no text appeared. I prefer reading to listening because you can read at your own pace but listening happens in real time. For now, anyways.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Ditto -- reading much preferred. 99% of the podcasts I see, I don't have the time to waste listening to them straight, and if I tried listening to them while driving, I wouldn't pay attention.

  • John||

    Sorry PJ, you don't get to vote for Hillary and then claim to be afraid of socialism. Give it up old man.

  • Homple||

    O'Rourke is a libertarian and I am Marie of Romania.

  • Homple||

    O'Rourke is a libertarian and I am Marie of Romania.

  • Homple||

    O'Rourke is a libertarian and I am Marie of Romania.

  • Homple||

    O'Rourke is a libertarian and I am Marie of Romania.

  • Homple||

    O'Rourke is a libertarian and I am Marie of Romania.

  • perlchpr||

    I dunno about Marie, but you certainly seem to be attractive to squirrels.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    "I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true." -- The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carrol

  • Hank Phillips||

    Got it. Another looter who found an interviewer to gull.

  • Echospinner||

    If it is not worth the effort to listen.

    Old guys have no fear. Just ask the president.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The Hillary thing was a moment of temporary insanity for him. He chose the center left candidate (the devil he knew) instead of the devil he didn't. I don't much hold it against him.

  • Harvard||

    "Devil he knew" indeed. I'll vote for the spawn of Satan because the other guy is unpredictable. I'll accept you as a women, never mind that crank. I'll pass on Kavanaugh because somebody hysterically said something. O'Rourke was perfectly happy with the left and should stay there.

  • Sam Grove||

    Hillary isn't a socialist, She's a cunning crook.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    I know, right? To think that Hillary is a socialist is to do complete violence to the term. Hillary is the one who was wined and dined by all the big banks and the titans of industry for pay-to-play shenanigans involving her foundation. She's just a grifter. During the campaign she was opposed to Berniecare *from the right* - too expensive, etc.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Hillary uses socialism as the delivery system for her evil and corruption. Which fits her well, as socialism is inherently evil and corrupt.

  • Trainer||

    There are very few real conspiracies. Most of what look like conspiracies are just clueless people taking advantage of an opportunity. I think that sums up Hillary's political views quite well. She is not a socialist but if socialism falls into her lap and she can use it for power and control, she will despite the consequences. The same goes for feminism. The one thing she is not is a feminist but if the feminists want to make her a role model, she'll gladly go along especially if it means votes and $$$.

  • Homple||

    Feckin' squarrels.

  • Jr12||

    Collectivism has nothing to do with fixed goods in the world redistributed unfairly. The collectivist complaint is about the inequality caused by those productively creating all goods, who don't want to waste their entire lifetimes enriching collectivism's politicized thieves.

  • RoninX||

    Socialists, progressives, nationalists, and populists are all collectivists of one type or another.

    I have no use for any of them.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    This

  • Dieter Kief||

    Everybody is 2/3ds libertarian: individual dignity? YES! Individual liberty: YES! Individual responsibility? Hmmmmmm???

    It's enough if the other 2/3s show some responsibility, no? Imagine everybody acting personally responsible - just how boring would that be!? - and capitalism "is more fun", PJ O'Rourke just told us so!

    Couldn't it be, that the deepest secret of the success of capitalism is, that it provides mankind with just the appropriate amount of failures? - You know: To satisfy the huge demand for greed, schadenfreude and sadism and so forth (guilt).

    (P. J. O'Rourke's travel-essays about Africa, Albania, Yugoslavia and Ireland at war, the EU and the 2008 financial crash are amongst the finest pieces on politics and society I've come across - ever - -kudos!).

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    RJ O'Puke shouldn't have voted for Hillary. That is a mortal sin.

  • Echospinner||

    PJ O is the Willie Nelson of politics.

    He would be comparable to Hunter S. Thompson or Mark Twain in my book.

    Like he cares about sin.

  • Hank Phillips||

    PJ has always been a Republican Party reptile. Is he claiming to have voted for our candidate?

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