Laughing about Politics (with P.J. O’Rourke)

P.J. O’Rourke offers comedic relief about the state of our politics from his unique journalistic perspective influenced by the “sunshine” of the 1960s.

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P.J. O’Rourke offers comedic relief about the state of our politics from his unique journalistic perspective influenced by the “sunshine” of the 1960s. O’Rourke has worked for many notable publications such as the National Lampoon and Rolling Stone Magazine. He has had two New York Times #1 Bestsellers; Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance. He is currently a correspondent for the Atlantic as well as the H.L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute.

Why does show business and left-wing politics have an affinity for each other? What happened to politics in the 1960s? How did the baby boomers ruin the world? What does O’Rourke think of the state of journalism today? Are we more divided today, as a society, than we were in the latter half of the 1960s?

Further Reading:

None of My Business, written by P.J. O’Rourke

All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty, written by P.J. O’Rourke

It’s Worse than Vulgar, It’s Trendy, written by P.J. O’Rourke

Related Content:

Is Liberalism in Danger?, Free Thoughts Episode

Harambe to Trump: 2016 was the Worst, Free Thoughts Episode

King Obama, King Trump: The Dangers of an Imperial Presidency, Free Thoughts Episode

[music]

00:06 Trevor Burrus: Welcome to Free Thoughts, I’m Trevor Burrus.

00:08 Aaron Ross Powell: And I’m Aaron Powell.

00:09 Trevor Burrus: Joining us today is PJ O’ Rourke, writer and political satirist, contributing editor of The Weekly Standard, HL Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute, and author of 19 books. The newest being “None of My Business”, PJ explains money, banking, debt, equity, assets, liabilities, and why he’s not rich and neither are you. Welcome to Free Thoughts, PJ.

[laughter]

00:28 PJ O’Rourke: Well, thank you.

00:29 Trevor Burrus: I… We’ll get to the book, but I’d like to ask you about your first job, which in a book you have called “Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut”, you say, was it a Baltimore newspaper called Harry.

00:43 PJ O’Rourke: Harry, H-A… In fairness, H-A-R-R-Y, although H-A-I-R-Y probably would have described the era pretty well. Yes, we had an underground newspaper. Not that there was anything illegal about it, oh, I mean there was a fair amount of illegal things that we were doing while we were there. Well, one, smoking pot.

01:03 Trevor Burrus: Which was very illegal at the time.

01:04 PJ O’Rourke: It was very illegal. But certainly nobody had tried to suppress our free speech. And we, yeah, we were, you know, against the war and against capitalism, and in favor of bell bottom pants and walking in to the wall because you were stoned out of your gourd. And I think the only thing that really set Harry apart from a lot of the noise that was being made was that we continually got the giggles. We couldn’t stay too serious about being hippies, because there was something innately hilarious about hippies that even we perceived. And so, it was the rare element in the new left that had some measure of a sense of humor.

01:53 Trevor Burrus: Would you have called yourself a socialist or something at the time, do you think?

01:56 PJ O’Rourke: Oh, I think a Maoist, not that I…

[laughter]

01:58 Trevor Burrus: To even go even further.

02:00 PJ O’Rourke: Not that I… Not that had any idea what that would mean. You know, not that I had ever read a single word of Chairman Mao. To this day I haven’t, I don’t believe.

02:08 Trevor Burrus: Was the war, the biggest political issue that you were involved in?

02:11 PJ O’Rourke: Oh the war was… To understand the ’60s and ’60s politics is really very simple. It was the ’60s, we were having an absolutely great time. The birth control pill had been discovered.

[laughter]

02:24 PJ O’Rourke: The economy was going great-guns. Everybody was prosperous. The cars were very cool, you know, the safety Nazis hadn’t gotten in and screwed up all the cars yet. And then marijuana had been discovered, I mean, even back when I was in high school, not that we could find any, but we were trying hard. And we were just having an absolutely great time. It was a beautiful, sunny period in American history. And all of a sudden, here comes the draft and this war. And we’re having a party man, and they want us to… They wanna cut our hair off, and they wanna send us to some place with noxious flora and fauna, and terrible weather, to shoot people that we didn’t even know. And what was worse, those people were expected to shoot back. Bummer.

[laughter]

03:17 PJ O’Rourke: I mean, if they’d want… I’d been willing to cut my hair, if they were… Wanted to send me to shoot my stepfather, drunk on the couch, but you know, that wasn’t the idea.

[laughter]

03:26 PJ O’Rourke: And so it just came as such a surprise and if you listen to those… If you listen to mid ’60s music, you hear a really sunny landscape, you know, if you listen to Motown, if you listen to the Beatles, even the Rolling Stones. The darker, British import. It was all really very upbeat, it was really fun, it was really happy, we were having a great time, and along came this stupid war. And that’s really all you need to understand about it. You don’t need to understand whether the war was right, or whether the war was wrong, or some sort of like, deep political shift was going on in the United States. It wasn’t. It was just the interruption of a party and it goes to show you the aftermath of the ’60s having been quite horrible, it goes to show you how much trouble you can get in if you interrupt a party.

04:12 Aaron Ross Powell: So how did you end up in National Lampoon?

04:14 PJ O’Rourke: You know, it was pretty… I was working, like I said, it’s this thing called Harry in Baltimore, and I decided I really wanted to be some kind of writer, a magazine writer of some kind. And in those days, all the magazine work was done in New York, so I moved up to New York, worked on one of those underground newspapers up in the East Village Other. But all the time keeping my feelers out for a real job, and not that National Lampoon looks in retrospect like a real job. But it did at that time, they actually paid money. And so, you know, I knew somebody who knew somebody, who knew somebody, and managed to wheedle my way in there.

04:51 Trevor Burrus: What was the mantra of National Lampoon? I mean, I have an idea, I don’t think… My dad has old issues, and stuff and it hasn’t been prominent for a while. But was it just humor or were going for…

05:01 PJ O’Rourke: Oh no, it was just humor. The idea was to knock and mock everything. It was absolutely, absolutely… It was humor at its most destructive, you know…

05:13 Trevor Burrus: So, was there… Was there a political element? Was it going after the right more than the left, would you think or…

05:18 PJ O’Rourke: Well, we ran a… We ran one issue called “Is nothing sacred?” with a picture of Che Guevara on the front, getting a pie in the face, so…

[laughter]

05:27 PJ O’Rourke: No, I don’t think it had any particular politics. I mean, I think taken one by one, a number of the National Lampoon writers were pretty lefty and then there were some like myself and John Hughes who were much more libertarian or even borderline, conservative. But no, the point was just to make fun of things.

05:48 Trevor Burrus: Were you there with… You were there with John Hughes at the time?

05:51 PJ O’Rourke: Oh, John Hughes. Oh, I took over the magazine at the end of ‘77, and John and I had been working together on a variety of projects and he became my… Yeah, John Hughes once worked for me.

06:03 Trevor Burrus: He wrote the movie, “Vacation” based off of a piece he wrote for that column.

06:08 PJ O’Rourke: Exactly.

06:08 Trevor Burrus: “My Summer Vacation 1955” or something like that.

06:11 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah, there were a number of things that he worked on at the National Lampoon that would show up in one form or another, in his movies later on. He and I did a Sunday newspaper parody back when Sunday news, Sunday local newspapers were still a big deal and the “Dacron Ohio, the “Dacron Republican, Democrat. There you know, there’ve been two papers in the town, but they couldn’t quite support it, so they merged. And John and I wrote a lot of that. And John did a terrific job and that was a little bit of the genesis of the world that he created with his teenage comedy.

06:56 Trevor Burrus: Like Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller…

06:56 PJ O’Rourke: Breakfast Club… Exactly, yeah, and Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles.

07:01 Aaron Ross Powell: Is he described… Among the people writing at National Lampoon you would have been at least not only libertarian in your views. So I guess the question is, how did you get from the Maoist days of Harry’s, to I guess now being the HL. Mencken fellow at Cato ‘cause that’s quite a shift in perspective?

07:21 PJ O’Rourke: Well, it became clear as the ’60s went along that the new left was an angry authoritarian destructive influence. And I think one of the things that really shook me was the beginning of the Weather Underground where they started bombing… Killing… Peace, love and understanding did not seem to be part of the equation with the more radical left. Also, partly getting a job, it was very simple. When I got a job, I first got a job in New York, it was actually my actual first job in New York was… I was a messenger for a weekly newspaper, and I was paid… I think I was making $75 a week, and I got paid every two weeks, so I’m really looking forward to 150 bucks, and I net out at like $86.50 after all the taxes and I go, “Wait a minute, I’m a communist and somebody just took all my money. I’m not Rockefeller.” You know?

08:32 PJ O’Rourke: So that was an eye opener. But yeah, it was a very gradual process for me and it started as the left got more violent, I began to drift away from that. And as I saw the lives of my hippie friends kind of coming to nothing or becoming a crapper, I just saw the fall out from the… The ’60s were great on two-thirds of the libertarian idea, individual liberty for sure, individual dignity, pretty good on, individual responsibility, ah-ah [laughter] no.

09:14 Trevor Burrus: Didn’t work out that well.

09:15 PJ O’Rourke: Didn’t work out.

09:16 Trevor Burrus: But it’s interesting with the violence of the left ‘cause in your new book, in the last chapter I think you have this part about Antifas.

09:23 PJ O’Rourke: Yes.

09:24 Trevor Burrus: And then you say, “Then I realized I was one of them, or had been or had tried to be.” There was a time… So, that violence on the left, as you pointed out, the Weather Underground and the stuff in the late ’60s, early ’70s. But it seems like it’s back. Does it looked familiar to you?

09:40 PJ O’Rourke: Yes, it totally does. Although, as usual with these things, they come around first as… History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as comedy. And so, the Antifas, they don’t seem to be having as much fun as we were, but they do fall in that same category of… The impulse to violence is like lots of fun at a distance and in theory and everybody feels violent impulses. But when it’s actually put into practice, whether it’s put into practice with Weather Underground, bombings or Antifa demonstrations or school shootings for that matter, all of a sudden, oh oh this is real, these people actually get hurt from this, people I might care about, people like… People such as myself. [laughter] Once the reality takes shape sensible people start to back away. I’ve always felt with the school shooting system, no sensitive kid goes all the way through school without some thought of blowing up the building. [laughter] This may be a horrible thing to say, but you don’t put that thought into action.

10:52 Aaron Ross Powell: Coming out of… Working as a humorist, and coming out of this tradition of humorous publications, maybe you can shed light on one of the things that’s always wondered about, which is if you look at the state of comedy today, or even art in general and it seems like with obvious exceptions, most of the good stuff is on the left, or comes from the left, right? That when that right-wing… Self-consciously right-wing comedians tend… Are frequently fairly cringe-worthy, or self-consciously right, or right of center movies or books are equally cringe-worthy. And the good work’s being done on the left. Is there something about the left that’s doing that? Or is there some reason?

11:39 PJ O’Rourke: No there’s something about show business that does this. The show business and left wing politics are always going to have an affinity for each other, because it’s essentially a crowd-pleasing idea. The first mission of any entertainer is to please his or her audience and one of the things that… One of the ways that you can please that audience is to reassure the audience that whatever is going on out there in the world that they don’t like is not their fault, that they are special. And then, you want that whole sort of lovey-dovey… There used to be a phrase in England, “Lovey is for labor.” You want that sort of lovey-dovey thing where you say, “Oh, we’re all in this together. Everybody is equal. We’re all… And we’re all victims of some nastiness”. And if you try and be a right-wing entertainer, you just end up… You end up standing there saying to the audiences, “It’s your fault”. A line I’ve been using for years about education is, “Show me the politician who’s got the nerve to stand up and say, ‘No, I can’t fix public education. The problem isn’t funding, the problem isn’t overcrowding in the classrooms, the problem isn’t teachers unions, the problem isn’t lack of school choice or lack of computer equipment in the classroom, the problem is your damn kids!’”

[laughter]

13:08 PJ O’Rourke: [laughter] And so, if you’re going up to be an entertainer, and… You don’t want to be telling the audience that it’s the audience’s problem. So there’s always this collectivist side to an entertainment venue that leads it in a kind of naturally leftist… There are plenty of conservative comedians, but it’s not evident in their stuff. I would say Jerry Seinfeld is very conservative. He doesn’t talk about politics that way, it’s just that Jerry belongs to an observational kind of comedy that says, “If it’s new, it’s probably wrong”.

[laughter]

13:53 PJ O’Rourke: ‘Cause it hasn’t been tried. [chuckle] Or somebody’s probably tried it before and decided it stank.

14:00 Trevor Burrus: So after National Lampoon you went to Rolling Stone and was that immediate shift there?

14:06 PJ O’Rourke: No, there were a couple of years where I flopped around trying to figure out what to do, but somebody… Michael Kinsley, founder of Slate, was then editor of Harper’s and he sent me to the Soviet Union and I thought, “Boy, this is great, this is what I wanna do, I wanna be a foreign correspondent”. And then I got back and Michael had gotten fired from Harper’s, and so I was… Spent a couple of years trying to flop around, trying to figure out who I could get to send me to do this stuff, and it was finally, it was Rolling Stone that said, “Okay, we’ll do it, we’ll send you to cover this”.

14:43 Trevor Burrus: And you talk about it in the new book a little bit, and you had a book called “All the Trouble in the World” before, where you talk about more of it, where you went to some seriously dangerous places.

14:54 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah. It wasn’t safe as houses. Yes, actually, I re-tell some stories in this none-of-my-business book. I retell some stories that are in earlier books, notably of covering Somalia, the civil war in Lebanon, the social collapse in Albania as a result of the pyramid schemes. But this time I’m doing it to show economic points. Originally, I’ve been covering news or writing about politics, but in all of this, there’s a little economic education in all of this. So I re-told some of the stories, asking the readers, if there was somebody who read this before, I’m sorry, but telling some of these tales from an economic point of view.

15:51 Trevor Burrus: Yeah, the market in Mogadishu, was that the craziest place you think you went to when you were a foreign correspondent?

15:57 PJ O’Rourke: I think that Somalia was just about the pits. Yeah, I don’t know if it was flat out the craziest place but it certainly was the most chaotic. Yeah, and probably the most dangerous. It was more… Civil disturbance, especially when it’s very violent civil disturbance the way it was in Somalia, it’s much more dangerous than war. War has a direction, war has an internal logic to it. The murderous clan in-fighting in Somalia was… Doubtless, there was some logic in it, but it was not ascernible by the… Not discernible by the outsider.

16:37 Aaron Ross Powell: What do you think of the state of journalism today?

16:40 PJ O’Rourke: Oh, it’s pretty lousy. Journalists… Journalism used to be a trade. I’m old enough that when I started out on… I worked on a weekly newspaper and not an underground newspaper, a regular weekly newspaper in New York in 1970, ‘71, and I was around the daily newspaper journalists and so on. It was a blue-collar trade. Used to be, say you grew up in a poor Irish neighborhood and you liked to read and you didn’t wannna get up early in the morning and lift heavy things. Well, you basically had two choices, you could go into the church or you could become a newspaper reporter. So you debate with yourself, “Will it be whisky and women or just whisky?”

[laughter]

17:31 PJ O’Rourke: The… And so it was a craft and it was basically… HL Mencken describes it very well in his newspaper days, “You just got a front-row seat at everything happening in the world”. And the reporter didn’t feel that it was incumbent upon him as a reporter… And of course it mostly was him, him as a reporter, to judge everything; that would be for the sob sisters, that’s for the junk on the editorial page. He would just, “Hey, there is a terrible traffic accident, you can’t go see the traffic accident ‘cause the police have yellow tapes around, but I can go on the other side of the yellow tapes” and I’ll come back and tell you, “Whoa, that was a bad traffic accident.” I don’t have to lecture you about, “You should wear your seatbelt,” and so on and so forth. I’m just telling you about the traffic accident. And then along came the world savers and I blame it on a Woodward and Bernstein. I’m good friends with Carl, but I’m still gonna blame it on him. It was “All the President’s Men”. All of a sudden, journalism saved the world. Get out of here! Journalism doesn’t save the world. It just tells you what happened, it’s up to you to save the world. And all sorts of people who should have joined the Peace Corps decided to become journalists instead. And not only that, but they went to journalism school, whatever that may be. [chuckle] you know what I mean? What do they teach you in journalism school, keep your eyes open? You know what I mean?

[laughter]

18:54 PJ O’Rourke: So, yeah, I think that’s my sort of despair, but it’s become… Well, those pious do-goody sort of professions that we really don’t need any more of.

19:07 Trevor Burrus: Do you think that that save the world-ness with the Trump administration has gotten worse?

19:12 PJ O’Rourke: Oh sure. This has been coming for a long time, but when you get somebody as, frankly, inexplicable, deplorable and ridiculous as the President of the United States, and you mix that in with a bunch of do-goody journalists, you’re going to get just endless, endless… If HL Mencken were around they’d be enormously amused, and I am enormously amused, but everybody else seems to be furiously angry. I think it’s a pretty good show, but I would warn journalists against covering it too much, paying too much attention to Trump. Trump’s a big toddler, he wants all the attention, he wants all the oxygen in the room, and by golly, he’s been getting it. There’s just been no space for anybody else.

20:05 Aaron Ross Powell: He makes for good TV.

20:07 PJ O’Rourke: He does, it’s hilarious. And of course what makes for good TV always makes for a bad life.

[chuckle]

20:13 Trevor Burrus: That’s a good little… We should tweet that one out. Yeah. [laughter] A lot of the new book covers changes in the world, I think is it good…

20:21 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah.

20:22 Trevor Burrus: Things that have changed rapidly in different ways and you touch on some points that you make, you touch on a lot of your work, which one of them is, is that baby boomers are the worst. And now we have the millennials, which you have two millennial daughters that you also write about.

20:38 PJ O’Rourke: I do, yeah.

20:39 Trevor Burrus: So, first of all, why did… How did baby boomers ruin the world? My dad has said this for years too. He’s your age. And he has said that, he’s like, “We’re the worse generation ever.” I like my parents, I like you, but what’s wrong with your generation?

20:54 PJ O’Rourke: Spoiled rotten is what it came to. Between luck and intent, a whole bunch of guys came back from a great big war, great big really horrible war determined to have a better life and give a better life to their kids. And also determined to work hard and be prosperous. They created an extremely prosperous and stable world after decades of instability, because really the teens were unstable, because of World War I, the ’20s, because of social change, the ’30s because of the Great Depression, the ’40s because of World War II, they were determined to have a stable world, so they created a stable closeted world, in which a bunch of kids were brought up with much higher standard of living than had been… A higher median standard of living than had ever been experienced by any other generation.

21:58 PJ O’Rourke: We were spoiled, we felt entitled, we were protected on every front. And when we came up against our first major crisis, which was the war in Vietnam, all the intellectuals took our side. It was a tough period, but all the grown-ups, all the serious grown-ups were also saying, “Oh, how terrible this war is too.” So we just grew up feeling that that everything was our right, and we were right about everything. And yeah, does that make for a good society? No.

22:43 Aaron Ross Powell: So then what’s wrong with the millennials?

22:45 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah, what’s wrong with the millennials? [laughter] What’s wrong with the millennials? I think that the millennials are just… They have a… Their mind is fogged and not without reason by such incredibly rapid changes in the economy, the technology and the sort of social interactions as determined by that economy. I think millennials are deeply confused, but I cannot blame them a bit for… They have grown up in a deeply confusing situation and actually the fact that they’re confused shows that they’re not insane. If they weren’t confused, if they were certain about stuff, it’d be nuts.

23:28 Aaron Ross Powell: So I appreciate the attacks on both of the bookending generations of my own, which is… Obviously Gen X is the greatest generation. But looking forward then as these problems you’ve identified both the boomers and then with the millennials, do you think that we can dig our way out of that culturally? Do you see things potentially getting better with whatever, is it Gen Z now and whoever comes after that?

23:54 PJ O’Rourke: Oh sure. We’ll age out of the boomer problem, [chuckle] actuarial statistics will take care of the boomer problem and it’s gonna take a while because the boomers are very fussy about their health and they’ll probably will stick around for a lot longer than the greatest generation did and they stuck around for a while. But, I’m assuming that if we manage to maintain our values as a free society that will sort out the social and economic transitions, it’s not to be forgotten. The last time we had a major economic transition, a transition, as important as the transition to the digital economy or whatever you wanna call it. Was the industrial revolution and that there were tremendous dislocations in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Not for nothing, that we have all those Thomas Hardy novels and all the Blake’s “Dark Satanic mills”. And so, on.

25:01 PJ O’Rourke: It caused a… It caused people to move in from rural areas all over the world, concentrate on cities, it destroyed families. It put religion in jeopardy. And you know we’d just begin to sort out… We had just… We’re beginning to sort out the after effects of the Industrial Revolution and get them so that they harness them so that they benefited everyone, then along comes a digital revolution. Then you start over again. But we’ll be okay in the long run. Although as John Maynard Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead.”

25:41 Trevor Burrus: I like you pointing out in the book that you ask your daughter what do you think of the digital economy? And she’s like, “You just mean the economy, right?

25:48 PJ O’Rourke: Exactly.

25:49 Trevor Burrus: It’s like there’s something funny daddy about it even…

25:51 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah right.

25:54 Trevor Burrus: If you said in the industrial evolution, “What do you think of the industrial economy?” people would be like, “You mean Just the economy, the regular economy?” You do say though that I think it’s your younger daughter who comes to you and complains about too much politics on her social media that she wants to shut it off.

26:10 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah.

26:10 Trevor Burrus: Yeah, did that surprise you?

26:12 PJ O’Rourke: No. No, I can see how that would be annoying. We fancied ourselves…

26:16 Trevor Burrus: Do you do social media or?

26:18 PJ O’Rourke: No. No.

26:18 Trevor Burrus: Okay.

26:20 PJ O’Rourke: We fancied ourselves to be very politically alert and aware back in the 1960s, but as I recall, starting not just the hippie 1960s, but back in the civil rights era 1960s too… But a little bit of it went a long way. You know when you’re a kid. ‘cause you got more important things on your mind like where to get pot and beer and where to meet girls or boys or whatever it is you wanna meet.

26:46 Trevor Burrus: Well you write that some day you think that we’ll look back on the personal electronic communication fad with as much bafflement as we look back on the hula hoop. Which I think…

26:54 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah, hell I’m sure. Yeah.

26:56 Trevor Burrus: Do you think that we’ll be doing this, looking at our phones, less in 10 years or 20 years than we do now?

27:03 PJ O’Rourke: I would assume the novelty factor alone will have more… People will start to realize, just how exhausting it is to be constantly connected to everybody else. How like being in a noisy room it is.

27:15 Aaron Ross Powell: I mean, kids didn’t ever figure that out, with the telephone. They didn’t stop calling each other all the time, until they got Twitter.

27:23 PJ O’Rourke: No, but then the telephone was self-limiting to a certain extent. You know what I mean, telephones when they were wired into the walls… ‘Yeah, we used them a lot. But You could only use them so much.

27:33 Trevor Burrus: Before your mom got mad at you. Yeah.

27:35 PJ O’Rourke: That’s true ‘cause there’s usually only one line in the house you know what I’m saying?

27:39 Trevor Burrus: Now, your last year… Your last book was “How The Hell Did This Happen?

27:42 PJ O’Rourke: Right.

27:42 Trevor Burrus: You tried to explain the 2016 election. Is anything… Have you learned anything more since you wrote that book about what…

27:49 PJ O’Rourke: No.

27:49 Trevor Burrus: About that period or is anything about Trump been different than what you expected? Is it better, is it worse?

27:56 PJ O’Rourke: I would say it’s a little better in the sense that, not better, right? But in the sense that, America does have a lot of keel and it is not easy to disrupt the general course of America, even though it may be headed the wrong way and sometimes it’s not easy to turn it around. So I think that the Trump presidency for all of his scary volatility and infantile behavior, and so on. Touch wood. The outcomes have not been as frightening as I might have worried that they would be.

28:41 Trevor Burrus: As someone who…

28:42 PJ O’Rourke: But it could get worse.

28:44 Trevor Burrus: Since you started with the ’60s. And your role your life at that time on the anti-war left and that’s often the side, that is the most divided time of this country until now, does it seem that way, does now start to seem like the ’60s in some way to, you does it seem better or worse?

29:06 PJ O’Rourke: I don’t think it’s quite as bad. I would say actually the 60s that that period was worse division in American society than we’ve got now. The causes of the division, the fault lines were somewhat different, but there was an enormous amount of anger. I mean, our cities aren’t on fire the ’60s…

29:27 Aaron Ross Powell: We have better building codes now.

29:29 PJ O’Rourke: That could be it. That could be very well be it.

29:31 Trevor Burrus: They have sprinkler systems, yeah.

29:32 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah, and the other thing is that a lot of our poverty has been dispersed to old suburbs so there are a little harder to burn down. You can only go one house at a time. But yeah, no, I would say the 60s was a really, really nasty period. The latter half of the decade. I just said how sunny and wonderful. It was… But when it comes to divisiveness in America, it was much more violent.

29:56 Trevor Burrus: But when people talk about the Civil War which keeps coming up.

30:00 PJ O’Rourke: Well, yeah.

30:00 Trevor Burrus: That things are so divided now that we might have an American civil war.

30:03 PJ O’Rourke: Yeah, well consider the real civil war, if you wanna look at division in America. Division, incidentally, we survived in 1861. I mean, I’m not seeing any incoming…

30:13 Trevor Burrus: Well, 500,000 people didn’t… Right?

30:15 PJ O’Rourke: Well, there’s that… Yeah, yeah, I know the price… The price was high, but the nation, the union did survive. No, I don’t think, I mean it’s an unpleasant period of divisiveness, but I don’t think it’s terminal or fatal.

30:34 Aaron Ross Powell: Thanks for listening, Free Thoughts is produced by Tess Terrible, if you enjoyed today’s show please rate and review us on iTunes, and if you’d like to learn more about libertarianism, find us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.