OT: In memory of P.J. O'Rourke

As you probably already heard, the brilliant journalist, political satirist, and H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, P.J. O’Rourke passed away yesterday at the age of 74. I will certainly miss his voice lampooning politics and culture, including his sometimes PG-rated sophomoric headlines.

O’Rourke’s acerbic essays and clever commentary appeared regularly in the Atlantic, American Spectator, Daily Beast, and Weekly Standard. In addition, he was Editor in Chief of American Consequences and often served as a frequent panelist on the NPR game show, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!


In honor of O’Rourke’s keen interpretation of our current zeitgeist, I recommend that everyone look up and read at least one of his many essays while looking in a mirror. You’re guaranteed to come away with at least a chuckle or a couple of rug burns.

On April 20, 2021, The Cato Institute published one of his letters from American Consequences entitled “America’s Populism Problem,” from which I will share a few short excerpts, as follows:

Populism is a muddle — a political, economic, and moral dog’s breakfast.

[Time magazine once defined Populism as] “…the politics of the little guy against the big guy — the classic struggle of the haves against the have-?nots or the have-?not-?enoughs.” Populism is a lie and a logical sophistry. The very idea of the “struggle of the haves against the have-?nots” presupposes the zero-?sum fallacy that only a fixed amount of good things exist in the world, and I can only have more good things if I take them from you…

Populism is also not American. There is no “little guy” in this country. Every American citizen stands with the same height and strength, equal before the law to a degree remarkable by any world or world history standard.

We each have our disadvantages — economic, social, and circumstantial. But few of our ancestors landed here in circumstances such as arrival by Gulfstream private jet. America is a monument to what the disadvantaged can do…

As to the “politics of the little guy,” there is no other kind in America… [Here], the views of the mass of common people are on view! In fact, it’s impossible not to see them… It’s called the House of Representatives (and the Senate too). These representative bodies may be full of nincompoops, but the mass of common people is free to exchange them for other nincompoops at every election.

A populist is somebody offering democracy to a democracy, somebody saying, “I’ll give you a dollar for four quarters.” When you hear a proposition like that, you know something’s up, some con is being played. [Emphasis added.]


RIP, Mr. O’Rourke. I feel like I’ve lost one of those college buddies who hung around my dorm room making wise cracks until 2AM in the morning.


After the National Lampoon, I stopped reading him.

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