Acton Institute Powerblog

The Free Enterprise Values of Burning Man

Share this article:
Join the Discussion:

Each year tens of thousands of mostly underdressed people spend weeks hanging out in the Nevada desert in an “annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” If you’re like me, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about the Burning Man festival is . . . hippies. Lots and lots of hippies.

But Burning Man isn’t a hippie festival. (Really, it’s not.) In fact, underneath it all, says the festival’s co-founder, Larry Harvey, is a very anti-hippie concept: “old-fashioned capitalism.”

There’s not a corporate logo in sight at the countercultural arts festival, and nothing is for sale but ice and coffee. But at its core, Harvey believes that Burning Man hews closely to the true spirit of a free-enterprise democracy: Ingenuity is celebrated, autonomy is affirmed, and self-reliance is expected. “If you’re talking about old-fashioned, Main Street Republicanism, we could be the poster child,” says Harvey, who hastens to add that the festival is non-ideological — and doesn’t anticipate being in GOP campaign ads anytime soon.

For more than two decades, the festival has funded itself entirely through donations and ticket sales — which now go up to $300 a pop — and it’s almost never gone in the red. And on the dry, barren plains of the Nevada desert where Burning Man materializes for a week each summer, you’re judged by what you do — your art, costumes and participation in a community that expects everyone to contribute in some form and frowns upon those who’ve come simply to gawk or mooch off others.

Read more . . .

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

Comments