“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys,” the late P.J. O’Rourke wrote.

O’Rourke was a humorist, journalist and author who John Podhoretz at the New York Post called “America’s greatest satirist and coolest conservative.” He died on Feb. 15 at his home Sharon, New Hampshire. He was 74.

I’ve been reading and enjoying P. J. O’Rourke’s work since his days as a writer and editor for National Lampoon. He contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers, and he wrote more than twenty books on a variety of subjects. I’ve liked all of his books, especially “Parliament of Whores” and “Give War a Chance.” 

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On the website of his publisher, Grove Atlantic, O’Rourke wrote his own bio

“I was born in 1947 in Toledo, Ohio, into a family so normal as to be almost a statistical anomaly. My father sold cars, my mother was a housewife. There were 2.5 children. (My sisters are identical twins and no one noticed they had separate identities until they married different men.) I graduated from Thomas A. DeVilbiss High School, named after the man who invented the paint spray gun. He was a throat doctor trying to develop a power atomizer for his patients, poor them.”

O’Rourke graduated from Miami University in Ohio. In the early 1970s he worked for a variety of “underground” newspapers. In 1973, he went to work for National Lampoon, becoming managing editor in 1976 and editor-in-chief in 1978.

“Michael Kinsley, then editor of Harper’s, sent me on a trip to the Soviet Union in 1982. I decided to become a foreign correspondent. Foreigners are funny and do my work for me,” O’Rourke wrote.

From 1985 to 2000, he was Rolling Stone’s foreign affairs desk chief. He went on to cover the war in Iraq and other hot spots around the world for a number of magazines.   

“I live with my wife and three children in rural New Hampshire — because no one else wants to,” O’Rourke wrote.  

Below are some of O’Rourke’s best lines, in my opinion:

“There is only one basic human right: the right to do as you please, without causing others harm. With it comes our only basic human duty: the duty to accept the consequences of our actions.”

“At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child — miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.”

“Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it. The Three Branches of Government: Money, Television, and Bullshit.”

“It remains to be seen which program will cause greater societal damage: China’s one-child policy or America’s one-parent policy.”

“I have a ten-year-old at home, and she is always saying, ‘That’s not fair.’ When she says that, I say, ‘Honey, you’re cute; that’s not fair. Your family is pretty well off; that’s not fair. You were born in America; that’s not fair. Honey, you had better pray to God that things don’t start getting fair for you.’”

“Most of the people who have grabbed hold of climate change and greenhouse gases, pollution, oil dependency — they have another motive, and their motive is to attain the appearance of virtue without having actually done anything virtuous.”

“Politicians are always interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs.”

“Not being a liberal, I have very little grasp of things that I know nothing about.”

“Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race.” 

“You can’t get good Chinese takeout in China and Cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba. That’s all you need to know about communism.”

On the collapse of communism: “A huge totalitarian system with all its tanks and guns, gulag camps and secret police, has been brought to its knees because nobody wants to wear Bulgarian shoes.”

“It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.”

P.J. O’Rourke shall be missed.

Paul Davis is a South Philadelphia-based writer. He can be reached via pauldavisoncrime.com.

One thought on “Paul Davis: Remembering political satirist P.J. O’Rourke”

  1. He was a sane conservative who voted for Hillary in 2016 saying she was only “the second worst thing that could happen to this country.” He will be missed.

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