The u201860s might be a distant memory to those people who suffered through that cultural nightmare, but the decade's community most despised by the right is still thriving. Remembered by many as a cultural movement composed of individuals with a distorted moral code, braided hair, patchwork clothing, and an insatiable appetite for drugs, the hippy community exists today in much the same form as it did over forty years ago. If you haven't seen a hippy recently, it is because you haven't been looking in the right places.
The people who were known once to live on tour with The Grateful Dead have found new homes. Volkswagen buses, dread-locked heads, and "free spirits" can be found still in large quantities in the parking lot of a Widespread Panic, String Cheese Incident, or Leftover Salmon concert.
The right, because it has not taken the time nor had the incentive to closely examine it, always has viewed this society with contempt. It has been said that "where there is a community, there is an economy." By any definition, the hippies are a community, and almost unbelievably, they have developed a nearly perfect economy. Rightfully charged for almost single handedly fostering "the last bastion of communism" known as environmentalism, these self-proclaimed anti-conservatives flourish in a capitalist economy of which many right-wing conservatives have only dreamed.
On almost any day of the year, one can find thousands of people, adorned in the usual hippy attire, converged on a field near a blue-grass festival or civic center parking lot and taking an active role in grassroots capitalism.
Hundreds of make shift storefronts made of small canvas rooftops and card tables are set up within minutes of the merchants' arrival. Competition is plentiful and product differentiation is difficult in this market. Each participant is trying to make enough money to afford a life of constant traveling. The entrepreneurial spirit is abundant among the hippies. Creative ideas for products can be seen where ever one chooses to look while strolling through this outdoor market.
Cleverly designed t-shirts with logos and clandestine references to songs or band members that will be recognized only by other fans are set out on display for shoppers. Tie-dyed shirts, a trademark of this counter-culture, remain popular items sold by many trying to make enough money to cover the expenses of their chosen lifestyle. Tradesmen are seen everywhere selling hand crafted, glass-blown pipes for up to $200 per pipe. Hemp braided necklaces, bracelets, anklets, and dog collars are available for the shopper on a budget who is searching for a souvenir. Looking for a new wardrobe? Beautiful corduroy patchwork shorts, skirts, and dresses are sold in every color combination that can be found at the local Goodwill store. No shopping center would be complete without a food court. Although the cuisine is not in a central location, one will never go hungry for lack of food at one of these festivals. Coleman stoves, Hibachis, barbeque pits, and woks can be found behind almost every Volkswagen bus. Their owners will dazzle you with their culinary skills by preparing vegetarian entrées that will satisfy any meat-lover's palate. If adult beverages are not sold at a chef's make-shift restaurant, immediately to his left or right, his neighboring vendor will have available for purchase a selection of foreign beers to add the perfect compliment to any dish. For less than $6, even the hungriest of shoppers will be able to fill his or her stomach to point of blissful misery.
Do not bring a Master Card or Visa Card to this unusual market place. The government will be able to tax any purchase made with a credit card. The American greenback is the only form of payment accepted by these entrepreneurs.
If thumbing their collective nose at society's rules is their goal, the hippy community certainly has achieved it in good form. The participants in this market are subject to the laws set by state and federal governments but intentionally subvert them. Competition, in its purist form, is the only force that the hippie community has embraced.
Income and sales taxes are not collected. Competition is not stifled by anti-trust legislation. A mandatory drinking age is for squares. One needs only a couple of dollars and change to purchase fine imported brew from a hippy's cooler. No price ceilings are set if a seller is deemed to be price gouging. A minimum wage is not enforced or desired in this economy. Although children are used to peddle necklaces, tie-dyed t-shirts, and flowery head ornaments in the baking sun or freezing snow, no child labor laws exist in this peaceful market place. Marijuana is a popular commodity that is bought, sold, and traded for concert tickets openly. Even those who do not take part in this darker side of trade simply leave those who supply and demand this product to the natural consequences of their actions.
One would think that a community such as the one described in this article would be a powerful ally in the fight against an ever expanding and oppressive government. Unfortunately, the hippy community does not understand fully the free market forces that it embraces. The moment that they enter the arenas to enjoy a night of music presented by their favorite bands, they too willing sign pieces of paper that petition a state or federal government to enforce rules on another economy that yearns only to be more similar to the one which the hippies have established. Every attendant is swarmed by friendly smiles presenting the opportunity to "save" a river, tree, bird, frog, or jungle simply by scribbling his or her name at the bottom of a list. This hypocrisy is conducted under the disguise of environmental protection. However, one only needs to walk through the vacant parking lot filled with debris the morning after this community departs to realize that its members do not value the environment in their actions as in their words.
The same individuals who reject laws subjecting them to the value scale of others proudly petition governments to force others to bear the costs of a political movement valued by them only in speech.
The economy established by the hippy community is a joy to watch. If ever its participants realize fully what they have created and why it has flourished, they will be much needed companions in the struggle for freedom, and should be welcomed with open arms by those who have despised them for so long.
November 23, 2001