The New York Times recently published this article trashing hipsters. Like every other red-blooded American, I also hate hipsters. And indeed, the classic hipster traits that the author points out—the constant use of irony, the listening only to vinyl records, the posting pre-washed digital photos—are easy fodder for ridicule.
Still, as the author herself intimates, “hating hipsters” is itself becoming a hipster pastime. That is, the reason that hipsters love, for instance, finding bands that no one else has heard of, is because it makes them feel like they are somehow elevated above the rest of the vulgar masses. But that same desire to cultivate an aura of intellectual aloofness is now working against hipsterism itself. As more people join the search for that perfect Brooklyn-dive-bar-with-the-extra-hoppy-microbrews, hipsterism becomes an act of conformity. To feel like a non-conforming intellectual, it becomes necessary to disdain the same crowd that you once belonged to. It’s an eternal cycle: you always want to be cool, but now to cling to the thing that used to be cool is itself uncool, just because so many other people think that it is cool. And so it goes.
This same phenomenon has a lot of significance in the political realm, especially as we debate, here and elsewhere, on the futures of libertarianism and conservatism. When leftism first took over the college campuses, it was something new and edgy that could tap into young people’s desire to be different and rebellious. This is certainly no longer so. Is there anything more trite than listening to some college kid tell you how he is “tooootally okay” with all his gay friends? In the 1970s, that might have been shocking. But now it is as nearly orthodox as you can get; to “not be okay with your gay friends” is probably grounds for expulsion under most campus speech codes.
The left-wing has never really given up its 1970s understanding of itself as some embattled, idealistic vanguard. But when the last Republican president signed into law a huge expansion of Medicare, adopted a policy of “spreading democracy” overseas, fought for open borders and amnesty for illegal immigrants, oversaw a then-unprecedented increase in federal spending and national debt, and appointed the Justice who wrote the Supreme Court opinion upholding his successor’s healthcare mandate, it is hard to see leftism as anything but the establishment. And—of particular importance to the college-age hipster crowd—when 95% of college students and nearly 100% of college professors are much further to the left than anyone you’ll ever meet off campus, no reasonable person can deny leftism’s omnipresence over your life.
This means that, if you want to be edgy and intellectually different, your natural home is on the Right. In part, this might explain the high prevalence of hipsters within the Ron Paul movement. Or how Eastern European punk rockers helped spark a libertarian rebellion against communist rule behind the Iron Curtain, even while their trendy American counterparts celebrated Che Guevara and complained about the bourgeois lifestyle.
Regardless, on a college campus, nothing rocks the boat more than to say “I support laissez-faire economics” in your Intro. to Sociology class. When I did it, as a college freshman, the professor politely ordered me to stop talking.
Hopefully, as more people see leftism as a form of conformity, we will see a trend rightward among the young. As countless hipsters have noted, it is fun to be a non-conformist. The intellectual joy that I felt when I first discovered Hans-Hermann Hoppe is much like the hipster’s joy at finding some band unknown to everyone else. And, for people who really enjoy non-conformity, the derision they receive from their professors and fellow students can only be a sign that they are doing something right.