PJ O'Rourke for Prospect: If I ruled the world

September 21st, 2011


If I ruled the world: PJ O’Rourke

21st September 2011

Adam Smith would be my guide, I’d be a tolerable judge if I wasn’t drunk, and my family’s dog would travel by jet

I’d leave people alone. Humans are a self-organising species. Paleontologists say we began making tools two-and-a-half million years ago. I doubt we did so in response to a Stimulus Act from the president of United Homo Erectus.

Making anything requires some form of self-organisation, as even the acrimonious mess of making breakfast at my house on school mornings shows. Breakfast at my house also shows that just because we’re self-organising doesn’t mean we’re good at it. Autonomously generated systems of caste, class and governance are as unpleasant as my kitchen on Mondays at 7am, and more violent, repressive and exploitative. But putting me in charge of the world won’t fix things any more than putting me in charge of scrambling the eggs.

Like anyone who daydreams, drinks or spends too much time in political chat rooms, I have an idea of economic and political perfection. I also have an idea of what happens when perfection is forcibly imposed on people—guillotine, Gestapo, gulag and Great Leap Forward. I’m a nicer guy than Robespierre. But my character hasn’t been tested by absolute authority. Only once have I exercised might and main over another being. That was when I trained my highly obedient and strictly-disciplined bird dog. And even then the kids got to name her. Get the hell off the couch, Fluffy.

Having all the power on earth would present me with too many temptations. Since I’m a nicer guy than Robespierre, these would be temptations to do good. There’s a strong streak of do-gooder in Americans. Actually, if you think about it, Americans do have all the power on earth. Look where it’s gotten us in Iraq, Afghanistan and our public schools. Read More…