Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reclaiming the Summer of Love

In a fascinating piece in today's Times, Daniel Finkelstein cites Brink Lindsey's new book The Age of Abundance and discusses the cultural meaning of the Summer of Love, suggesting that the counterculture was born of capitalism's very success, the possibilities for greater personal license having arisen from the greater freedom brought by greater wealth.

Finkelstein offers an intriguing new angle on a decade we feel we know only too well, and offers some food for thought for the Right. There is much we could be celebrating in both the inevitable failures that the hippy movement suffered in reality and in the economic policies that made such self-indulgence possible by giving people greater liberty.

At the same time, as we face the counterculture's mainstream legacy today in reflexively leftist media and universities, we cannot just suppose as Finkelstein seems to, that economic success was the only force at work. Leave that sort of thinking to the Marxists. Liberty is only an empty space -- and it was the Left who chose to fill it with murderously bad ideas. Above all, we must avoid the fashionable desire to suggest that this increase in liberty was a mistake.

No decent person can want to move the clock back to some monstrous Golden Age of 'decent poverty', or support imposing its ersatz New Labour equivalent, where the burden of government regulation replaces the old financial burdens, keeping the mass moving along approved lines.

Singing the praises of mediaeval living is what the Left are for. Rather, we must make the case for moving forward, for building a rich culture better adapted to its own sudden prosperity, a free nation better conditioned to the shock of financial liberty. We need a culture that educates individuals into self-control, able to make their own choices as they move through today's magnificent maze of personal opportunity, not one limited by financial shackles or government diktat. That is a real message of love to dream of this summer.

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