P. J. O'RourkeP. J. O'Rourke, (1947-2022) US humorist, journalist, & political commentator

P. J. O'Rourke Quote

“Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It's not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights -- the "right" to education, the "right" to health care, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are rations of slavery -- hay and a barn for human cattle. There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

P. J. O'RourkeP. J. O'Rourke
~ P. J. O'Rourke

Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut (Atlantic Monthly Press 1995)

Ratings and Comments

Christopher J Ward, Hobart. Tasmania AU

I believe this to be a most appropriate and important observation. Modern society is too focused on what the individual can get from government or the system to and the reciprocal of a right is a duty or obligation. If you want to take the historical view, it can be traced to the 1960s and the beginning of the "me" generation

Mike, Norwalk

Said very well and accurately.

J Carlton, Calgary

Personal Freedom and Individual Responsibility under a System of Justice is the most natural and prosperous form of living one can expect. But for you Socialists I have a different message....Mmmmmoooooooo :)

jim k, Austin,Tx

This is why I'm a Libertarian and not a republicrat.

E Archer, NYC


g.theodor, portage,michigan

With thinking like this Somalia is only a step away.

PulgaBucky, Cleveland, OH

Short, sweet, simple, and to the point. Thank you Mr. O'Rourke for succinctly expressing what I hold true.

M. Clarke, Vancouver, BC

This individual only observes the successful view of life by those who are well on their way. When you are seeking a way out of poverty a helping hand is deeply appreciated.

Joy, Papillion, NE

As a humorist, I like PJ but his politics leave something to be desired. Without government "safety-nets", we who are slaves in gilded cages would see how much we have given up for security! It's become more and more obvious after the crimes committed on 9/11. We cannot live without the "fear-driven" society we have become so used to--after WWII it was the "Commie" scare and what happened to that? After spending years of "ducking and covering" as a kid and learning what one "demagog" (McCarthy) was able to accomplish by polishing that fear to a high patina--it is clear to me that we are unable to think for ourselves. We listen to the fear mongers and cower in our corner of the so-called "American dream" (something I'm sure an advertising agent came up with to sell us all manner of items that will assuage our biggest fear--death! And in the American dream we all die happy deaths!) You know, if Republicans want to quote someone they should be quoting Eisenhower who left office with a huge warning "Beware of the Military Industrial Complex". Why, doesn't it keep our economy humming? I suppose in some ways it did because our fears always push us toward "war" and thus Ben Franklin's great quote: "He who gives up freedom for security deserves neither" But, back to the programs PJ calls "entitlement" programs--people asking for a handout? Right, you all agree with that? Most of those people have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and need to have their taxes now (because WE are the government and everyone pays taxes) to help them to survive until Our Corporate Masters decide to bring their businesses, manufacturing and otherwise, BACK to this country! And what do we call the Corporate Welfare, tax breaks, deregulation and other handouts like government contracts that these clowns drag offshore while good and honest Americans cannot afford to put even bread on the table. I don't know what you call that but that is infact what the word "ENTITLEMENT" refers to: "to give a right or demand or expect; authorize or qualify as in HIS POSITION entitles him to it.,,,to give (a person) a TITLE designating rank, honor or TITLE." What PJ and many people call "entitlement" programs is a misuse of that word. A huge misuse of the word. Because what they don't want to see through the haze of the "America Dream" is that we are all becoming slaves. Those at the bottom of the food chain already understand they are entitled to nothing, not even after years of paying taxes while the rich (who ARE entitled) gobble down everything INCLUDING our tax dollars while paying little or nothing themselves--being entitled to places of honor because of their exorbitant wealth! A person given a title was usually wealthy and of so called "noble" birth....something people who immigrated here in the early years, were fleeing! The opportunities to make your own way and be non-dependent went the way of "no standing army". And the job creators, those entitled to what they have by their wealth alone--because the great industrial leaders are also a thing of the past--are waiting until the majority of Americans are all begging for help to offer them a pittance instead of a living wage for which all will be "eternally grateful". And it will be clear to everyone---too late I might add--that what we have been and will continue to be is "slaves in gilded cages"--coined by Jerry Spence who adds, "A slave in a gilded cage is no less a slave!" It is a shameful thing that we have allowed to happen--the criminals are behind every government office including presidents and supreme court judges. They change the laws to suit their purposes and then proclaim executive privilege or some other excuse why their crimes should be overlooked. There is no going back now, that I can see. And you all better hope the government "safety nets" are still in place when it happens to you and don't think it won't--our vain glorious Corporate Masters own this country lock, stock and barrel!

Dave Wilber, St. Louis

Freedom and democracy are incompatible. Freedom and legal tender are incompatible. The sole function of legal tender is to take labor and property without payment. Thank Lincoln for the legal tender statutes we have today, His contemporary, Horace Greeley said Lincoln's system "is no less cruel than the old system of chattel slavery." You think we are free people? See: www.morpix.biz/dc

Johann Hollar, St Paul, Minnesota

It's a great pity that most people these days can do stupid crap and not want to take responsibility for their actions. But this is brilliant work none the less.

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RBESRQ    11/30/10

Stupid is stupid does...

Abigail, newport

Self-responsibility, self-reliability, self-sufficiency...liberty.

Waffler, Smith

Okay but if this is so why do so many want to receive an inheritance. Is not getting money from your parents, grandparents or grand uncle the worst form of dependency. Receiving a benefit from their death of funds for which you did nothing at all except maybe kiss their behinds. Why do not people who hate "welfare" for poor people seem to support welfare for rich people. The hypocrisy makes it hard to breathe sometimes.

A Adams
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    A Adams    12/1/10

    ARE YOU KIDDING WAFFLER? We share with our kids if we have anything left at death, but most is spent for our care, our burial and attys to divvy the spoils between themselves and the gov leaving little for those kids. It is OUR money to leave to our kids IF we have any left...and now the government wants the death tax back...55%...which is taxing already taxed income. THEFT would be a better word. I say great for anyone who leaves this earth and has something to share with their family...it means they were prudent and able to work hard enuff to save more than they needed to live those last years...sadly a luxury not everyone is blessed to experience. I can tell you that I rec'd not one dime in inheritance from one single relative-ever-and now am the old one...and I don't think there will be any great inheritence to leave my kids...but I certainly will hope to leave them a legacy of freedom to work and acquire their own savings for their later years. Gees, who do you think should receive the leftovers from ones life? Strangers? The government? People have the same opportunities I have had. The government needs to butt out of private lives and stop taxing us to death.

    warren, olathe

    Nothing particularly brilliant about what he said. It is just common sense. But it was said very well. Seems others can take up huge amounts of space in here and type nothing but drivel.

    warren, olathe

    A. Adams- Is it not a hoot reading Waffler? Be careful though. If you try to make sense out of his crap, it can drop your IQ.

    Bob, Ithaca

    Two of my close friends who I've known for years are multi-millionaires. One of them is very conservative in his political orientation, and the other is quite liberal. One of my friends made the majority of his money by receiving stock options from a silicon valley company that he went to work for (as an engineer) in the seventies. My other friend inherited the vast majority of his wealth from his deceased parents who in turn inherited the majority of their wealth from their parents (who owned chemical companies). I've learned that very often wealth results solely from which womb you happen to emerge from.

    Bob, Charlotte

    Gee -- lots of [long] reactions to a succinct truth, which only lend credence to the initial O'Rourke.

    Ronw13, Yachats Or

    O, the truth how well it rings, from the simple observation comes the sting. " Earth bears no balsam for mistakes; Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool That did his will; but Thou, O Lord, be merciful to me, a fool ! " A couple of lines from, Edward R. Sill's poem, " The Fools Prayer "
    Slavery the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood, Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood. Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play ? " The Present Crisis " James Russell Lowell.

    E Archer, NYC

    @Ron, great quotes!

    E Archer, NYC

    "There's only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."

    The responsibility of Liberty in a nutshell.

    Fredrick William Sillik, Anytown

    A characteristic of freedom is definitely empowerment. A crazed lunatic with a firearm should not be considered empowerment.  To feel your human abilities growing and developing is empowered freedom.


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