Born in ’59, I assimilated some 60s counterculture, even joining a pentecostal Jesus-freak “cult” as a young teen. And I still hold the “hippy” image to be somewhat positive. Some today try to say hippies were mainly about presaging their current political views, such as by opposing racism, pollution, or the Vietnam war. But most such folks trying to claim hippy heritage really aren’t very hippy like. Consider this hippy manifesto:
We want fun, good health and mutual caring … We love diversity. … We try to live a simple life with simple rules. … Everything about others can and may be different. … We still love marijuana brownies. (more; see also)
Hippies are more about going back to basics – paying more attention to simple things that seem obviously important, and less attention to all the other things folks say to worry about. So worry less about being “successful”, and do something you like. Worry less about satisfying official concepts of marriage and relationships, and more about just enjoying the people you are with. Eat good ingredients, prepared simply. Avoid getting weighed down by too many material goods. Worry less about defending your nation, ideology, race, or religion, and focus more on collecting friends, lovers, etc. that you like and get along with. Instead of obsessing about preparing your kids for the future, just treat them well and enjoy your time with them.
My colleague Bryan Caplan’s new book Selfish Reasons To Have More Kids (read it; it’s good) is in fact a pretty hippy book, a description Bryan mostly accepts. He says you can’t really change kids much by parenting, but you can influence how much they enjoy their kid years. Bryan and I also agreed on relatively hippy positions on school, medicine, housing, and war, especially for the US. These things are just less useful, and matter less, than most say. The US would do well to cut our military in half, cut medicine in half, and subsidize school and housing less.
I’ve been impressed lately with the play vs. serious distinction. Obsessing about politics seems a much better way to signal your seriousness than your playfulness. Those who want to seem playful focus more on partying, joking, etc. So politics is biased, I think, toward taking most things too seriously. For example, on medicine the familiar political parties all say medicine is too important to be left to those other fools. None want to say medicine hardly matters for health, and so should be drastically cut. On war familiar parties similarly all agree on the great importance of fighting terrorism, or building nations, or supporting democracy. None want to say our military can’t do much about such things, and should be drastically cut.
Even today, when the US desperately needs to cut spending to avoid going bankrupt, few dare to take such hippy-style positions, that most of the things we spend so much on just matter much less than most think, and so can be drastically cut. One might imagine starting a Party Party, based on a fun-loving hippy-style emphasis on simple living. But alas those who agree are less eager to be political. So I expect the usual political parties will continue to fall over themselves to emphasize how very important are things like war, medicine, school, parenting, etc., so important that you shouldn’t dare to leave such things in the hands of those other incompetent parties.
The hippy mentality is largely a forager mentality, which we should expect more of as society gets richer. But we are more hyper-farmers at work, and our farming fears also seem over-represented in our politics, which seems biased to emphasize the serious over the playful. Turn on, tune in, drop out; the rest just matters much less than you think. That won’t necessarily always be true, but it is for now.