On The Wealth of Nations

A Book that Shook the World

P.J. O'Rourke

RRP: £9.99

1 March 2008

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781843543893

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was first published in 1776 and almost instantly was recognized as fundamental to an understanding of economics. It was also recognized as being really long and as P. J. O’Rourke points out, to understand The Wealth of Nations, the cornerstone of free-market thinking and a book that shapes the world to this day, you also need to peruse Smith’s earlier doorstopper, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. But now you don’t have to read either, because P. J. has done it for you.

In this hilarious work P. J. shows us why Smith is still relevant, why what seems obvious now was once revolutionary, and how the division of labour, freedom of trade and pursuit of self-interest espoused by Smith are not only vital to the welfare of mankind, they’re funny too. He goes on to establish that far from being an avatar of capitalism, Smith was actually a moralist of liberty. As P. J. says, ‘It’s as if Smith, having proved that we can all have more money, then went on to prove that money doesn’t buy happiness. And it doesn’t. It rents it.’


O'Rourke is a glittering writer, light but punchy, wry and impassioned, witheringly witty one moment and rambunctiously sarcastic the next... This is a judicious, finely written book... consistently funny, with cracking asides and snarky interjections. If you're daunted by Wealth of Nations, O'Rourke's riff on it is the next best thing.Stuart Kelly
Scotland on Sunday

Pithy, forceful and deliberately anachronistic... A witty book.Andrew McKie
Daily Telegraph

P J O'Rourke has done the hard work for you by taking the 900-page masterpiece and compressing its ideas into a little over 200 breezy pages... razor sharp.Alex Moffatt
Irish Times

Sophisticated and comprehensive.Allister Heath
Literary Review