The Economist on the “politics of plenty”

In: Uncategorized

27 May 2007

The Economist’s Lexington column has a useful discussion of The Age of Abundance, a new book by Brink Lindsey of the Cato Institute:

“His argument goes like this. The industrial revolution in America was driven by a bourgeois Protestant ethic that celebrated work and frowned on self-indulgence. Those who invested their pay earned respect as well as compound interest; those who wasted it on whiskey and cards forwent both. But over the years, thrift combined with technology and capitalism produced such vast returns that thrift went out of fashion. The 1960s saw the coming-of-age of the first generation whose members had never known scarcity, and therefore did not fear it. Spurning their parents’ self-restraint, the baby-boomers rebelled against every form of authority and sampled every form of fun.

“It was quite a party. Mr Lindsey, a vice-president at the libertarian Cato Institute, makes two observations about it. First, it could not have happened without mass prosperity. The search for alternative lifestyles was driven by college students, whose numbers exploded during the 1960s, and who were the only group with the spare time and cash to attend love-ins, be-ins and yogic retreats. Second, the 1960s spawned the two cultural movements that still dominate American politics. There was the counter-cultural left, whose members were eager to explore new freedoms and who pushed for civil rights, feminism and environmentalism as well as sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. And partly in reaction to the excesses of the counter-culture, there was a revival of socially conservative Protestantism. As flower children were celebrating the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, Oral Roberts, a fundamentalist preacher, was founding a university in Oklahoma to fight their dissolute ideas.”

Lindsey’s book is in contrast to Benjamin Barber’s(see 7 May post).

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