P.J. O’Rourke: Why power is bad… and what we can do to change the government
Welcome back to the Stansberry Radio Interview Series.
Every Saturday, the Stansberry Radio Network brings you the most valuable ideas from the most intriguing guests from all of our shows.
This week we’re sharing highlights from Porter Stansberry’s interview with famed author P.J. O’Rourke – one of our favorite political commentators.
P.J. is an American political satirist, journalist, and author of 20 books. His latest book is The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way (And It Wasn’t My Fault) (And I’ll Never Do It Again).
To learn how P.J. thinks we can change the current political system, read on…
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The following is adapted from Episode 168 of Porter’s weekly Stansberry Radio podcast
Porter Stansberry: What’s going to happen to our country? We’re already $20 trillion in debt, and there is no political constituency anywhere for someone who can stop the insanity of runaway government spending. So what is going to happen?
P.J. O’Rourke: That’s a darn good question to which I wish I knew the answer, but I can give you the problem…
The problem stems from the fact that all politicians, no matter what they call themselves, want to expand the power and purview of politics. And the way you do that is by spending money. Of course, the Democrats are a little smarter about this than Republicans because they spread that money around to a larger number of people. Their idea is to get a country that’s wholly dependent, that has more than half of its people dependent on government. Then you have got to keep voting Democrats in or the programs that you’re dependent on will shrink.
Stansberry: There isn’t anybody who votes against free popcorn at the movies.
O’Rourke: No, there sure isn’t, you know? You’re never going to fix politics and you’re never going to get the money out of politics… or the desire for power. I mean, everybody wants to get paid. At least people who are just out to make money, they just want to make money. And money is neutral. It can be used for good things, used for bad things, used for things in between.
Power’s not neutral. Power’s bad… having power over other people. And the coin that politicians want to be paid in is power. The only thing to do is to try to get as many questions of ordinary day-to-day life and existence as possible out of the political arena. The more of those questions, like health care, that we get out of the political arena, the better off we’re going to be. But it’s tough. The government’s got all the guns.
There was a little bubble of this back in the Reagan era, and it’s beginning to dawn on young people. I think there’s a strong libertarian streak to younger Americans, albeit the way they express it at their age is legalizing marijuana. But I think they’re beginning to catch onto the larger problem… especially as Baby Boomers like myself get into the real – to put it bluntly – teat-sucking mode.
We are really raking it in from Social Security and especially Medicare. Young people are beginning to go, “Wait a minute… Who’s paying for all this?” And the fact is that it’s not means-tested… the fact that if I go in to get an appendix operation and somebody who’s living on a piece of cardboard on the street goes in, too… and Warren Buffett [goes in as well]… we all three go in to get an appendix operation… we all pay the same.
Stansberry: I keep waiting for Baltimore to go bankrupt, and it won’t be long, because when Baltimore goes bankrupt, my plan is to make the creditors a deal. I’ll pay off all the notes in full, as long as the government gives me Baltimore, and then every single American would have the option: you could live in America and pay your ridiculous taxes and live under those crazy, nonsense rules, or you could come to Baltimore. Imagine what real estate prices would do. Our ten office buildings here in town would be worth billions.
O’Rourke: That’s how Hong Kong made it. Hong Kong was a basket case in 1948. It was devastated by the war, Japanese occupation, and then when the communists won on the mainland, millions of refugees poured into this impoverished city, and everybody thought this was going to be a UNESCO basket case forever.
The only thing there was a guy named Sir John Cowperthwaite who was their finance minister, and the way he did it was that Hong Kong owned all of Hong Kong’s land. In fact, I think all of it still actually belongs to Hong Kong.
Stansberry: Yes, the Special Administrative Region.
O’Rourke: The SAR, right. They managed to finance basic needs; hygiene and water and police and firemen and free elementary schooling and so on by leasing that land. At first they leased it for a little and then they leased it for more, and then more, and more, and that still makes up something like 60 percent of the revenue of the SAR is from land leasing.
Stansberry: And there’s no FDIC and there’s no Social Security. It’s like Singapore; there’s nothing free. We could do this in Baltimore.
P.J., I wanted to tell the listeners out there if they haven’t picked up your latest book, get a copy… and if they’ve never read Eat the Rich, it’s absolutely a classic. It really is truly one of my favorite books that was ever written about economics.
O’Rourke: Well, thank you, ’cause that was hard work for me ’cause I was an English major or, as they call it at business school, “stupid.” [Laughter]
Stansberry: Hey, listen, P.J., it was a great pleasure and I look forward to seeing you in person in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks.
O’Rourke: Yeah. I’ll be there.
Stansberry: See you there.
Crux note: If you enjoyed this excerpt, be sure to check out the entire interview here. In it, you’ll learn how P.J. went from being a hippie to a follower of capitalism to being “the token Republican at Rolling Stone.”
P.J. will also be presenting live at the Stansberry Society conference in Los Angeles on August 23. The event is loaded with more fascinating speakers… Meb Faber from Cambria Investment Management, Rahul Saraogi, “The Warren Buffett of India,” Peter Churchouse, the former head of Morgan Stanley Asia, and one CEO Time Magazine dubbed “one of the 100 most influential people in the world.”
To learn more about the event, click here. There are only a few “early bird” tickets left – so we urge you reserve yours soon.