I have always liked P.J. O’Rourke

Be sure to read through page 2, where you will read:

Conservatives should never say to voters, “We can lower your taxes.” Conservatives should say to voters, “You can raise spending. You, the electorate, can, if you choose, have an infinite number of elaborate and expensive government programs. But we, the government, will have to pay for those programs. We have three ways to pay.

“We can inflate the currency, destroying your ability to plan for the future, wrecking the nation’s culture of thrift and common sense, and giving free rein to scallywags to borrow money for worthless scams and pay it back 10 cents on the dollar.

“We can raise taxes. If the taxes are levied across the board, money will be taken from everyone’s pocket, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and least advantaged will be harmed the most. If the taxes are levied only on the wealthy, money will be taken from wealthy people’s pockets, hampering their capacity to make loans and investments, the economy will stagnate, and the poorest and the least advantaged will be harmed the most.

“And we can borrow, building up a massive national debt. This will cause all of the above things to happen plus it will fund Red Chinese nuclear submarines that will be popping up in San Francisco Bay to get some decent Szechwan take-out.”

Thanks to Arts & Letters Daily once more.


  1. Spruance

    Yes, I like him too! He had a lot of harsh words for us Germans, but, when he’s right, he’s right.
    When a good friend of mine from Massachussets toured trough Berlin and was discovered as an American, he was often blasted for American foreign policies, the death penalty, and the Ku Klux Clan. He then bowed slightly, and said something like: “Please excuse me, honey, this was not of my doing, my government did it!” And then we rolled on the floor, literally. I discovered P.J.O’Rourke later, but I could always understand what he was talking about in his hilarios ways.

  2. Ari

    O’Rourke makes a mistake with his taxation arguments: taxation doesn’t necessarily hit the poor NO MATTER WHAT. He’s operating based on a sort of “Laffer Curve” assumption without remembering that not all taxation will lead to decreased opportunities for investment in the long run. Even Laffer argued that you have a left and right side of the curve, meaning that you will see increased revenue up to a certain point.

    Also, not all taxation necessarily leads to an associated deadweight loss, though it’s always hard to gauge the effects accurately.

    He also makes the mistake of broadly generalizing taxes (most people do this, for whatever reason) as all having the same effect no matter where they’re levied or what the margins.

  3. Ari


    It always struck me as odd during my time abroad that the Europeans I’d meet in hostels would hold me accountable for whatever Bush and every previous president did. I sometimes considered asking them if they felt responsible for European policies throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, but figured it would simply fall on deaf ears and likely get me in even hotter water.

  4. The article was a great read, but I found it lacking on a number of points. For example, Ayn Rand was not an opponent of immigration (and why, indeed, did he even bring her up?). For another, the issue with why blacks vote Democrat is a LOT more complicated than “Roosevelt said something nice to them in 1932.” For cryin’ out loud – it was the Republican Eisenhower who sent in the troops to enforce Brown, and it was the Senate Republicans, not the Democrats, who passed the Civil Rights Act of 1965 – but none of this did any good buying black votes. Clearly there’s more to it than just winking at people. For a final example, how does running up a national debt fund the Chinese military? He’s got this exactly backward. Running up a national debt means captial flows from China into our financial sector. There are (very good) reasons to be worried about the size of our debt, but the idea that we’re inadvertently funding China’s military just isn’t one of them.

  5. Ari


    Remember that everything we do feeds the Chinese boogeyman. Like the Japanese boogeyman before it, we must always view it with suspicion, distrust, and subtly-disguised malice.

    If we take bonds to pay for roads, the Chinese boogeyman feeds.

    If you buy a Lenovo, the Chinese boogeyman feeds.

    Nothing can stop its ravenous hunger. And did you know it has 1.2 BILLION people?

    The Chinese boogeyman is out to get you, one nuclear submarine at a time.

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