“Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.”—P.J. O’Rourke
P.J. is probably the greatest political satirist of this generation (likely to go down in history with the likes of Jonathan Swift and H.L. Menken for his biting wit). And while all of his book will probably be recommended by me at some point (well most of them, you can skip Holidays in Hell) there is probably none better than Parliament of Whores. I would argue that it is one of the most well written books on the topic of government, and one of the few that remains timeless in its observations. It should be required reading in every high school government course, and it is an absolute must read for conservatives.
Granted, it was written back in the early 1990’s so you might think things have changed in government since then (after all back then people were unhappy with crappy Bush economy and the less than spectacular war in Iraq so they turned to smooth talking charlatan liberals…okay nothing has changed) but it’s still remarkably relevant.
O’Rourke analyzes almost every major aspect of government. The stirring rhetoric and philosophy of our founding documents—and points out most of the charges against George III can also be accurately (if not more egregiously) applied to our own government. The stultifying boredom of the election process. The illogical nature and bizarreness of each of the three branches of government. And, of course, a clear look at how truly insane the bureaucracy is which culminates in this charming observations about the Department of Agriculture:
“I spent two and a half years examining the American political process. All that time I was looking for a straightforward issue. But everything I investigated – election campaigns, the budget, lawmaking, the court system, bureaucracy, social policy – turned out to be more complicated than I had thought. There were always angles I hadn’t considered, aspects I hadn’t weighed, complexities I’d never dreamed of. Until I got to agriculture. Here at last is a simple problem with a simple solution. Drag the omnibus farm bill behind the barn, and kill it with an ax.”
O’Rourke is one of the few authors who can balance humor and reason in perfect measure and never let either one stray too far.
His insights into the nature and pointlessness of government is and probably always will be a relevant observation on our own Parliament of Whores.