Jobs and Votes

Andrew Gelman posts these fascinating graphs showing the trend in Republican voting in several occupational categories compared to the national average.

Clearly, running a business makes you a Republican. What if everyone had to do quarterly estimated taxes? But Republicans have made big gains with both skilled and non-skilled wage-earners too. But nothing compares to the professionals — doctors, lawyers, etc. — rush to the Democrats. What explains that?
What's interesting is that there has been such a big difference in the trend for different kinds of relatively wealthy people. I suspect it has something to do with differences in which compensation, regulation and taxation are experienced. (Do doctors, lawyers, etc. feel more like they're collecting rents at levels relatively detached from the application of effort?) Or maybe some kind of personality variable that predicts conservatism vs. liberalism is increasingly predicting occupational choice. Can we learn more about this, please?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

12 thoughts

  1. The argument – your property isn’t your property because it has a history of theft behind it therefore no one can own property – sounds as dodgy as a $9 note. If there was any truth that style of argument then theft couldn’t be defined since there’s no ownership ability anyway.

    1. To clarify, I’m not one of those who thinks you can’t have legitimate title unless you can trace it back through a chain of voluntary transfers to a just original acquisition. I think that view is completely hopeless. My view is much more pragmatic.

  2. Will, if
    (1) the murkiness of tracing a group’s moral claim to land ownership means that
    (2) we should “redistribute” access to the land by erring on the side of an open immigration policy,
    is it also true that
    (1a) the murkiness of tracing an individual’s moral claim to property ownership means that
    (2a) we should “redistribute” access to the property by erring on the side of a vigorous redistributive welfare state?

    1. MK, I I reject the Nozick- or Rothbard-type view, so this is no problem for me, though I think it would make sense for people with that kind of view to endorse your reasoning. I don’t happen to think national territories are like property at all. That’s what I was criticizing. To my mind, a system of property is justified by its generally beneficial effects. David Schmidtz’s paper “The Institution of Property” makes the argument correctly. The system of borders has no such justification, and in fact it is generally pernicious. On consequentialist grounds, there’s no good reason not to loosen immigration restrictions. But even those with strong property rights views should be able to see that borders have a morally questionable status.

      1. By borders, I take it you mean immigration restrictions adhering to borders, and not borders that serve to delineate the physical space of a legal or administrative jurisdiction.

  3. An interesting if now-forgotten writer in this vein is Henry George, who wrote one of the most widely-read radical books of the late 19th C., Progress and Poverty (1879). George argued that land could not be legitimately considered private property (because property rights originate in labor and land is not the product of labor) and so insisted that all real property claims derive from, as Will puts it, “war, theft, and purchase from theives.” George was otherwise as laissez-faire as you could ask and wanted to abolish all forms of taxation except a confiscatory tax on land values (“the single tax”). There’s a long tradition of this kind of thinking; Herbert Spencer flirted with it early in his career, and the French Physiocrats had similar ideas. George heavily influenced early libertarianism, mainly via Albert Jay Nock, as well as many of the early progressives. There’s still a small Georgist movement.
    George also theorized that depressions are mainly caused by speculative bubbles on land values. I’m surprised his work hasn’t been resurrected a bit in the current crisis.

    1. You mean like the border between Iowa and Minnesota?
      That’s cool. We need bounded administrative jurisdictions. My argument is that the border between the U.S. and Mexico ought to be more like the border between Iowa and Minnesota. Different jurisdictions, different governments, different laws, but no one is keeping Iowans from moving to St. Paul.

  4. On the other hand, what if invaders B invade and totally eliminate people A such that people A are outright extinct and the ownership lineage is severed? The Bs ought not to have any right to claim ownership but do people C have a right either? The people C might try to argue “well we didn’t cause the loss of people A but since the Bs can’t have the land either and since the land is now unowned so we get the land by default”?

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