Apr 252010

The results of my straw poll are in. Obviously they are not representative, but by and large they are the answers of some of the self-described libertarians who read this blog, and a few cheaters (here’s looking at you, Mr Rob). Approximately 105 people contributed, though a few of those answered some questions and not others. So – what did they say?

Are we rich bastards?

Mostly, no. 59% of respondents have never earned more than £38,000 in a single year, therefore putting them outside of the ‘rich people’ tax bands.

Of those, 29% report that they have never earned more than £13,000 in a single year, although this is probably due to age – these will likely be younger libertarians who are still in education of some sort and have not yet worked in a full-time position. And 23% say their maximum per-annum earnings fall somewhere between £13,000 and £23,000.

So libertarians as surveyed here are mostly not rich. However. £23,000 is roughly the median annual income in Britain – and 70% of us have indeed earned more than that amount in a year.

The actual breakdown is as follows (gross income):

more than £38,000 in a year – 43 (41%)
between £23,000 – £38,000 in a year – 30 (29%)
less than £13,000 in a year – 18 (17%)
between £13,000 – £23,000 – 14 (13%)

Do we live off the sweat of others?

Not really. 56% of libertarian respondents work in full-time jobs (35 hours per week or more). A further 10% support themselves with part-time jobs.

Full-time students who don’t work are well-represented – 12% – as are a surprising number of people who are unemployed or between jobs (11%).

Only 3 respondents live from accumulated wealth.

The actual breakdown is as follows (working for a living):

more than 35 hours per week – 46 (44%)
about 35 hours per week – 12 (12%)
not at all, full-time student – 12 (12%)
not at all, unemployed/between jobs – 11 (11%)
less than 35 hours per week – 10 (10%)
not at all, retired – 6 (6%)
not at all, accumulated wealth – 3 (3%)
part-time with other support – 3 (3%)
not at all, maternity – 1 (1%)

Are we drooling rubes?

Definitely not. Despite frequent claims that educated people are left-wing (and that left-wing people are educated), 70% of libertarians surveyed have a university-level education, almost half of whom have some kind of post-graduate degree or qualification.

The actual breakdown is as follows (education level reached):

bachelor’s degree or equivalent – 41 (39%)
post-graduate degree or qualification – 33 (31%)
A-level – 22 (21%)
GCSE – 5 (5%)
still in school – 4 (4%)
no formal education – 1 (1%)

And so?

What this presents to me is a general picture of libertarians as hard-working, middle-class types. No surprise there, at least to me, as that basically replicates what I know of libertarians I’ve met in person.

But ‘all right, Jack’? Well, yes. We tend to be all right. But we work for it. And although I can’t speak for everyone, my own feeling is that this is the way it should be. Being all right should require hard work, and hard work should make you all right. So fair dues to us.

Anybody want to draw other conclusions?

  28 Responses to “Libertarians: mostly all right, Jack”

  1. I think your conclusions seem right. The only group not really represented amongst those I know to be libertarian are those who rely on state hand-outs for a living. There are some who work in the public sector but those who are passive recipients of ‘welfare’ are not to be found. Whether this is because of the sensible short term option being for them to support the parties who rather like having a client class, or because of more general political apathy is not something I can answer.

  2. “Mostly, no. 59% of respondents have never earned more than £38,000 in a single year, therefore putting them outside of the ‘rich people’ tax bands.”

    Wouldn’t this put you into the disproportionately wealthy group though? I mean less than 20% of people pay the top rate but 41% of libertarians have. Isn’t this a more illuminating conclusion?

    Also I don’t think that Libertarians having degrees is good evidence that the link between academia and left leaning politics is changing. I think academia breeds extremist views as you are exposed to so many competing world views, and libertarianism is fairly extreme.

    An interesting survey all in all though.

    • Yes. And of course as I pointed out, the majority of us are pulling in above the median wage, and therefore in the top 50% of earners in the country. Honestly that’s rather what I expected. I think it would have been more illuminating, really, to find out how many people grew up in those kind of financial circumstances too, but I couldn’t figure out how to frame the question properly. Asking about class isn’t a good indicator – it’s too vague – and of course money inflates and tax bands move around over time, so the different generations of libertarians answering the questions would be affected by that.

      Also, I wasn’t trying to claim that the link between academia and the left is changing – just that libertarians are not, as is sometimes suggested especially in the US, poorly-educated types. The highly-educated do tend to be left-wing, but then, libertarians (according to my survey) tend to be highly-educated, so it’s not a political philosophy espoused mainly by idiots.

      Of course, that last remark assumes that having lots of education will make a person not an idiot. Which is a pretty fallacious assumption, because I have known a fair few people with degrees who are astoundingly stupid.

      • Oh goody, that looks like an excuse to drop in a quote from Sir Peter Medawar (famous zoologist):

        “…the spread of secondary and latterly of tertiary education has created a large population of people, often with well-developed literary and scholarly tastes, who have been educated far beyond their capacity to undertake analytical thought.”

  3. I hope you don’t think that I voted in this, I don’t meet the criteria. If some scoundrels cheated, you don’t have to look very far to see who encouraged them.

    • I don’t know who is this instigator you allude to. I assumed you’d voted because you popped up yesterday to say it couldn’t have any validity any longer.

      That said, the results don’t seem particularly anomalous, so if anybody cheated, they didn’t make a great job of it.

  4. What is a “drooling rube”? I’m aware that a “rube” is some sort of not-nice thing to be, but I’ve never pinned it down to anything in particular.

    Ever willing to learn.

  5. I’m kind of offended, in a kind of raving Islamist kind of a way, at the implication in the article that there is something superior about being middle class and university “educated”. Note those sneer quotes there, I’m really getting steamed up now as I pound my keyboard to a puddle of melted plastic. I’m strapping on my bomb-belt now for a couple of reasons, to whit-

    (a) I’m not middle class.

    (b) I never went to “Uni”.

    (c) Middle class university educated wankers are the fuckers who got us into this fucking statist authoritarian mess in the first place, with their wanky stupid fucking arseholish “I’ve got a degree, so it’s my job to tell the untermenschen how to live their lives” wankery.

    Really, I’m much happier being a “drooling rube” who was WORKING and PAYING TAXES when the better folks were prancing around like a bunch of poncey tits on rag week or whatever the tossers call it. Thanks a fucking bunch Bella.

    Sorry for the swearing. I never got taughted how to express myself properly. That’s how us lot without a degree in History Of Art And Sociology are. Excuse me now, I have to go beat up an old lady while swigging from a can of Stella.

    • Thought I’d take this opportunity to mention an odd phenomenon. Here in America, it’s the poncey tits in trendy clothes and living off their parents’ allowances who swig Stella like it’s nectar. They like its foreign-sounding name and, presumably, their delicate palates can’t handle real beer.

      Also thought I’d point out that many of the rest of us from American “Uni” work hard to put ourselves through school in order to soon be WORKING and PAYING TAXES even more. This might not have occurred to all the participants of the survey, but the author comes from a country where “class” means little beyond one’s income and tax bracket. That is, the poor are perfectly capable of attending a quality university (no, I’m not exaggerating) and then earning enough to find themselves in the “middle class.” Frankly, we’ve never really understood the British obsession with class and all the outrage that arises in its discussion.

      Don’t blame bella for expressing pride in her accomplishments.

      • I would have classed the Kennedys as upper class myself. I’m sure readers can think of other members of the American upper class.

        • Ah, common misperception. In fact the Kennedys were purest trash – although very rich. Class in America is really quite weird; it’s different depending on where in the country you are. The ‘upper class’ in e.g. Boston would be those descendants of the original Puritans whose families have lots of money. It’s not uncommon to hear Massachusetts (and general north-eastern) types boast about their ancestors on the Mayflower. Given the number of people who claim that, the Mayflower must’ve held about 5,000 passengers.

          In the South, on the other hand, the ‘upper class’ would probably be the descendants of what we might call the landed gentry – not just plantation owners, but all large landowners in general, excluding smallholdings, sharecroppers, etc. Such Southerners may well be very poor indeed today, but you might say they retain the ‘breeding’ of their ancestors.

          But since basically everyone in America is new money or descended from the freaks and weirdos of early modern Europe, we tend to sound a tad ridiculous when we pretend to class in the British sense.

          • Well whatever. There is an American upper class! If you look at the British upper class you will find many who didn’t get that way till after 1776. I take your point about the size of the Mayflower; much the same thing has happened about the Australian convict ships.

          • Oh yes, there definitely is! I was just saying that who is ‘upper class’ differs from place to place. I think there are lots of Americans who would describe themselves thus, though always with the caveat, ‘But of course I’m an egalitarian too!’ etc. etc.

          • Also, one must be aware that, unlike in Britain, someone can become “upper class” simply by getting rich. For instance, most people here would categorize Bill Gates as such and argue, “How could he not be? He’s the [former] richest man in the world!”

            Class on this side of the pond has little to do with stereotypes about preferred alcoholic beverages, clothing, accents, and last names. You do, however, find such things when you talk about race.

          • Oh! Forgot to mention: much of the Kennedy fortune came from rum-running during prohibition. Not really the British idea of upper class.

    • Hey, man, I’m just reporting people’s answers. I don’t think there’s anything at all superior about being middle-class and ‘educated’ – nor do I think that having a university degree means that somebody is somehow more intelligent. You can read it how you like, but I’m not making value judgments.

    • It comes down to how you perceive class. I’m a native so know full well that a number (I can’t quantify how many) still see it a bit like the classic Two Ronnies sketch. I myself have got over that hangup and see it – as already noted – as a matter of income and tax bracket.

      I’m come from a middle class family but one that only arrived there because my dad wanted to provide a stable and comfortable position for us.

      He left school at 16 with a single qualification – a Maths O level taken a year early – and got himself a job in the City starting at the bottom and worked his way up. He eventually quit the rat race about 30 years later having made himself financial secure and was able to fund his two offspring through university over the next 6 years. He didn’t come from a position of wealth but made it because he is intelligent, put in the necessary hours to haul himself up the ladder and has a wife who supported this aim (and who willingly stayed at home to raise the kids).

      (Hum, this could almost be cross posted to Anna’s latest musings on Privilege).

  6. I missed the poll but would still like to submit my data for consideration.

    Gross income: very much in excess of £38k p.a.

    Working hours: being self-employed, they are effectively as many hours as God sends

    Rubishness: An HNC, two bachelor’s and a master’s – all in engineering except for a BA in modern languages.

    Poltiical affiliation: a BNP member

  7. I’ll be willing to wager that lots of libertarians in this country are in the closet. The left controls health, education and the cultural industry; to reveal one’s true political leanings would be social death. To most of the outside world I’m a fettucini-munching leftie. If I were a yank, I wouldn’t have to keep up this ridiculous pretence, and would be able to nail my colours to the mast (I could keep a dog and own a gun!). The concept of personal freedom in the States is completely different.

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