A culture that is plagued by materialist excess won’t be cured by taxes. It can only be cured, if at all, through a revival of postmaterialist values — that is, a revival of hippie values.
It was interesting to read Reihan’s discussion of the new hippies, but as much as I enjoy his ongoing one-man war against the Prius and his energetic denunciation of Planet Green–a channel that seems to inspire mockery and loathing across the spectrum–I was surprised that he made no direct references to the convergence of hippie and traditionalist values or the moves (and false starts) of socially conservative greens (or green social conservatives). The “crunchy cons” are one example of this, but along with them would be the broader array of neo-agrarians, Wendell Berry devotees and Christian homeschooling families. Reihan briefly alluded to homeschooling families, but took it no further. There is to some extent a cultural overlap between hippies, greens and American converts to Orthodoxy that is a very small phenomenon in American society, but I think it is representative of a more general trend within socially conservative Christian churches in the rising cohort of 18-29 year olds. I would be interested to hear where Reihan thinks these people fit into his analysis.
This subject has been on my mind in recent weeks, and has caught my attention again now that I am starting to look through Anestis Keselopoulos’ Man and the Environment, which is an Orthodox study of the relationship between man and creation in the thought of St. Symeon the New Theologian. As Keselopoulos says in his foreword, “The relationship between man and the environment, which it [Orthodox patristic thought] puts forward as alone being true and salutary, is one that passes through man’s relationship and communion with God.” Ultimately, it seems to me that a “revival of hippie values” will not create an enduring post-materialism, because a diffuse “hippie” culture on its own has no stable spiritual foundation, and because there is no particular rationale for the ascetic discipline that such post-materialism requires. One of the arguments of Keselopoulos’ work is that St. Symeon’s ascetic, spiritual life is the path to understanding the right relationship between man and nature. “The oppressive and tyrannical congtrol which man feels from material goods is due to the effort he makes, whether consciously or unconsciously, to make them autonomous from their Creator.” It will be through asceticism, festivity and koinonia that people will overcome their own attempts at autonomy from God and will cease to treat the natural world as a separate object either to be enshrined or exploited.