Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sloan on O'Rourke on Smith

I have big reading plans for 2007, though we'll see how capable I am of executing them. My eyes hurt a lot these days.

One of the shorter, more doable items on my list is P.J. O'Rourke's new book about The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

It gets an interesting review in this Sunday's Times. The reviewer, Allan Sloan, recommends the book and makes an admission:
Before we proceed, a confession. I’ve been a business writer since 1969, I specialize in unearthing journalistic nuggets buried in lengthy financial documents that even lawyers find dull — and I’ve never been able to get more than 50 pages into Adam Smith. For several years, I took “The Wealth of Nations” with me on summer vacation, vowing that this time I’d finish it. Alas, I never came close.

But over the years, I’ve read introductions to the book and commentaries about it, listened to discussions of its principles and have even cited some of its points in my own articles. As with the Bible or “Moby-Dick,” you don’t have to be familiar with the entire work in order to grasp its essence.
That last point is a good one, and I think I understand the essence of Smith. Still, I'm eager to dive in because, as Sloan says, "...O’Rourke is a wonderful stylist. Even if you disagree with his conservative political and economic views, as I sometimes do, you’ve got to admire his facility with words."


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