Children of Thatcher: Britain's Libertarian Generation


The Economist recently reviewed the long-running British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), among other surveys, finding that:

"Young Britons are classical liberals: as well as prizing social freedom, they believe in low taxes, limited welfare and personal responsibility. In America they would be called libertarians."

Young Britons are half as likely as older people to say it's the government's responsibility to cover the costs of residential care in old age. While two-thirds of Britons born before 1938 "consider the welfare state 'one of Britain's proudest achievements'." Less than one-third of millennial Britons agree.

Britons aged 18-24 are more likely to say social problems are the responsibility of individuals rather than the state, prioritize deficit reduction, support privatization of utilities, and more likely to reject bans on cigarette branding. They care about the environment, but also commerce and are more likely to have set up their own businesses than their peers in any other large EU country. They are more likely to agree that Britain's supermarket giant, Tesco, "has only become so large by offering customers what they want." They are also about half as likely as British seniors to say "government should spend more money on welfare benefits for the poor, even if it leads to higher taxes."

Young Britons are also more socially tolerant, and have a more relaxed approach toward alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana than other young people in the European Union.

The Economist concludes libertarianism is growing especially among Britain's young, politically engaged minority, and views "this trend among the politically active as the visible tip of an iceberg of passive libertarian sentiment among the disengaged."

Young people were also more likely to support Boris Johnson, the "chaotic, colourful mayor of London." Whom the Economist describes as a "rare politician who transcends his Tory identity by melding [classical] social and economic liberalism."