A fellow libertarian recently forwarded me a link to a quiz that he suggested I take. Since I’m always up for a good political survey (and easily distracted), I decided to give it a try. With claims that it could predict “what factors were working in [my] favor and what [I] had to overcome to get where [I am] today,” I was curious to find out how I scored on on someone’s American Dream quiz.
Before I go any further, I’ll state outright that I scored 60, meaning that I have been fairly fortunate and had more factors working in my favor than against me. I have to say that I enjoyed taking the quiz, even though I find both the assumptions and purported research backing it to be biased.
The rhetoric is that of the “it takes a village” and “you didn’t build that…” mentality, which is subtly inferable and reveals itself in the results content. The results section is quick to provide links to material propagating various socio-economic myths, such as the systemic gender pay gap (which is far more nuanced an issue when all factors are considered).
I have become accustomed to seeing this narrative pushed by various nonprofit organizations, marketing firms, and media outlets. It is my perception that I am responsible for my successes and my failures, and I think this idea (related to locus of control) is a significant factor in determining an individual’s character and the amount of ultimate success (whatever success means for that person).
I couldn’t help but wonder how libertarians as a group would score on the American Dream survey. If I were forced to hazard a guess, I would bet that more libertarians would score on my side of the scale, meaning that they’ve been luckier and had fewer obstacles. I base this both on my social interactions with other libertarians and on the unfortunate stereotype that we are callous toward the plight of the less fortunate (a stereotype with which I happen to mostly disagree). I also don’t know many libertarians who have received government benefits (or at least many who like to talk about it).
The embodiment of the American Dream is the age-old “rags-to-riches” stories in which a struggling but capable go-getter is able to shape his own destiny through hard work, resilience, and moxie. Only until relatively recently did the phrase “equal opportunity” worm its way into the American lexicon and become associated with the American Dream. Libertarians (should) recognize that equal opportunity is a mythical construct as unnatural as equal outcomes. And rather than continue to coercively intervene into the lives of American citizens in a foolhardy attempt to impose equality, we should seek to roll back the countless state interventions that negatively impact the very people they are trying to help.
So go ahead and check out their survey—I’m curious to learn how libertarians score. And speaking of politics quizzes, there really aren’t any better than the WSPQ!