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The P.J. O’Rourke Interview

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Posted on October 11 2010 8:00 pm
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P.J. O’Rourke is not only knowledgable, he’s one of the best writers the Right has ever produced. Additionally, he’s the single best foreign affairs reporter I’ve ever read. Nobody makes another country come alive like P.J. O’Rourke.

I can also tell you from personal experience that P.J.’s new book Don’t Vote It Just Encourages the B@stards is outstanding. If you won’t take my word for it, then look at the quotes I compiled from his book and make your own judgment.

What follows is a slightly edited transcript of an interview I did with P.J. last Wednesday. Enjoy!

You actually had a short, but interesting chapter in your book explaining why you think our trade balance with China is mostly irrelevant. Could you give people a short, but sweet synopsis of that argument?

Adam Smith was the first to point this out in the Wealth of Nations. The common wisdom at the time, mercantilism was the name it went by, was that the way a nation got rich was by exporting things. In return for the exports they’d get gold. And Smith’s going, I’m paraphrasing broadly here, “You can’t eat gold, you can’t kiss gold, and gold won’t keep you warm at night. Gold is just gold.”

He said the exports, that’s real stuff, and you’re giving it away in favor of gold. He said imports are the good thing. Imports are when you’re getting something you like. You’re getting French wine. You’re getting American tobacco. You’re getting furs from Russia, getting whatever they were getting back in those days. He said exports are the way you pay for those imports. So imports are Christmas morning. Exports are January’s Visa bill.

People getting so upset because everything seems to be made in China — I understand it on the level of the jobs have moved overseas. I think it’s probably an important thing to remember that if the jobs hadn’t moved overseas, they probably would have just gone away. So, it’s not like the Japanese have all of our car making jobs.

Getting back to the point here, we have the example of the Japanese in the 70s and 80s to show us that an export based economy is limited in how successful it can be. There was a moment there that we were just terrified that Japan Incorporated was going to take over the world because they were sending us everything and all we were sending them was little pieces of green paper with pictures of dead presidents on them. Actually, I thought that was a pretty good deal because you can’t drive that dead president, can’t sleep with it, and can’t eat it — and they’re sending us all the stereos, TVs and the cars. Well, they wound up with a huge pile of dead presidents and nothing to spend it on because they didn’t want anything that we had except the occasional tuna we caught so they could eat it for sushi.

So, they started buying America. Remember there was quite a panic about this. They bought Rockefeller Center. They bought Pebble Beach. They bought all sorts of other businesses and resort properties all across America causing a commercial real estate bubble. People have kind of forgotten about this one because we’ve had some bubbles since, but in the 1980s, there was a commercial real estate bubble that burst in the Japanese face.

At the end of the day, we wound up with all the cars, the stereos, the radios, and the TVs that they’d made and we wound up with Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center, that we had foreclosed on, back in our own hands. We even wound up with all their little pictures of dead presidents. And the Japanese stuck their economy where the rising sun never shines.

Here’s a quote from your book, “A hundred years ago when foreign aid was unthought-of except as tribute or a bribe, we were a respected and admired country. After a century of philanthropy everyone hates our guts.” So, should we completely revamp the way we do foreign aid and basically start with the question, “What are we getting for our money?” before we give anyone a dime?

Continue reading the P.J. O’Rourke interview at Right Wing News.

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