A recent NY Times OpEd, The Downside of Liberty, has generated quite a bit of discussion. It was written by Kurt Andersen, - an American author and host of the award-winning public radio program Studio 360. The OpEd’s main thesis is that ever since the late 1960s, a radical American individualism has been unleashed on multiple fronts.
“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.”
“ . . . A kind of tacit grand bargain was forged between the counterculture and the establishment, between the forever-young and the moneyed. Going forward, the youthful masses of every age would be permitted as never before to indulge their self-expressive and hedonistic impulses. But capitalists in return would be unshackled as well, free to indulge their own animal spirits, with fewer and fewer fetters in the forms of regulation, taxes or social opprobrium.”
Is is generally assumed that while liberals love the ’60s legacies of social freedoms, - e.g., civil rights, feminism, the sexual revolution, - conservatives hate them and blame these social changes for whatever they don’t like about contemporary life. Conventional wisdom would say that liberals won and conservatives lost the culture wars of the the sixties. Not quite, says Andersen, going against the prevailing narrative.