O’Rourke takes comical look at the business of business

Friday, January 4, 2019, Vol. 43, No. 1
By Terri Schlichenmeyer

It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make cents, either, how your workload and your banking account can be so far apart, monetarily. Each payday, your check does a disappearing act almost before you’ve seen it, and you’d like to know why. In “None of My Business,” P.J. O’Rourke tries to explain, but it’s complicated.

From his work, first as editor of a national magazine and then as an overseas journalist and correspondent, O’Rourke has learned much by watching. Though it never made any difference in his bankbook, he learned the most about economic matters by watching people kill one another, he says.

Take Lebanon: even when war was raging, there was an economy. That goes for other places where trouble occurs: even in the worst of times, there’s always an economy. When you get right down to it, humans have employed some sort of economy and some way of exchange ever since they started walking upright; the only difference is that economies were based on pelts and rocks millions of years ago. Now, we have different kinds of money with which to trade.

O’Rourke recommends that you steer clear of some of those kinds of currency because they operate like your parents did when you were a kid: those currencies are worth what they’re worth because someone “said so.” What’s more, the value of money changes, seemingly from minute to minute, depending on a lot of factors.

And then there are banks, which are like storehouses of virtuality. Most people would be surprised to know that banks don’t have big Scrooge McDuck swimming pools of cash in a back room. No, your money is being used to help the bank make a profit; even more so, if you’re being charged negative interest rates. Ouch!

None of My Business

by P.J. O’Rourke

c.2018, Atlantic Monthly Press


304 pages

If you have a teen or millennial around, ask him or her about being digital, then seriously consider your own internet usage. Turn your phone off sometimes; there’s plenty of static online and repetition doesn’t indicate accuracy. Finally, when you start thinking you’re not rich, look around. Just how much money do you really, truly need, anyhow?

There’s a lot of goodness inside “None of My Business” and a whole bunch of shake-your-head, shake-your-belly humor, but you may also say “Huh?” a lot, too.

Indeed, there are times inside this book when one might feel that an economics degree would help in grasping more of what author P.J. O’Rourke is tackling. Especially in categories that involve politically-charged world issues, explanations and analogies could muddy any understanding you might have, although O’Rourke makes other topics feel like elementary-school stuff. As you should rightfully expect, there’s plenty of wry, dead-on observations and edge-of-snark humor here, but even that is sometimes taken to wildly off-topic extremes that are funny but dubiously relevant.

Overall, if it’s your job to keep a finger on the checkbook, you’ll enjoy this book because it makes cents and you’ll laugh. If you’re not deep into money matters, then “None of My Business” will hold none of your interest.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.