288 pages, Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN-13: 978-0802119605
American politics are dominated by news bites and slices of incomplete information for voters that often lack a basic understanding of economic principles or (in my opinion) logic. In Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards, P.J. O’Rourke uses sarcasm and lots of analogies for why certain political issues are often carried to absurdity; states like California with strict gun laws have lots of murders while those with very lax laws don’t, for example, and also that we should probably have vote control because voting leads to politicians taking us into war which leads for far more deaths caused by guns. He writes about the futility of much of the left and right ranting (radio, books, etc.) because it’s like preaching to the little old ladies wearing white hats in the choir; I especially enjoyed how he worded the observation that we allow 19-year-old’s to vote but we don't trust them with a beer.
Just because O’Rourke uses lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, sarcasm, and analogies that could be seen as over the top in their usage doesn’t mean he hasn’t got a slew of valid points; he is obviously a well-read and well-informed (and well-connected) person, and his writing is crisp and straightforward. Much of the chapters read like part of a conversation with a neighbor over a beer while barbecuing some burgers. Good old-fashioned complaining about how stupid so much of the American political scene is, was, and will be for the foreseeable future.
One of his more humorous observations is that taxes make Republicans, logic makes Libertarians, and having children makes Conservatives (I found this an agreeable embellishment of my own instincts), O’Rourke further observes that while people tend to live their own lives as they see fit (libertarianism at its core) they often want to force others to do things for their own good. I think both lefties and righties could gain something from a thoughtful reading of this book; certainly libertarians would enjoy it, although, his own words about preaching to the choir ring partially true here.
There is a great deal of discussion directed at our current mess and the Obama Administration that I found his critique spot on. There is also a lot in here about economics and the national debt and spending; perhaps this is the most important discussion in any political discussion these days, one that is over looked or soft-footed about. It is far too important a discussion to dismiss, and should be required knowledge before one is allowed to vote (good luck with that, of course).