In yesterday’s New York Times, the novelist Kurt Andersen wrote a thought-provoking, and surely controversial, commentary, arguing that “what the left and right respectively love and hate are mostly flip sides of the same libertarian coin minted around 1967.” Here’s how he starts out the article.
This spring I was on a panel at the Woodstock Writers Festival. An audience member asked a question: Why had the revolution dreamed up in the late 1960s mostly been won on the social and cultural fronts — women’s rights, gay rights, black president, ecology, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — but lost in the economic realm, with old-school free-market ideas gaining traction all the time?
There was a long pause. People shrugged and sighed. I had an epiphany, which I offered, bumming out everybody in the room.
What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won.
He concludes by suggesting that
[Thomas] Jefferson wrote that our tendencies toward selfishness where liberty and our pursuit of happiness lead us require “correctives which are supplied by education” and by “the moralist, the preacher, and legislator.”
On this Independence Day, I’m doing my small preacherly bit.
I’ll look forward to reading his forthcoming novel.