(Professor Emeritus, University of Sussex, England)
Social policy researcher
(Distinguished Fellow of the Centre for Independent Studies, Australia; Professorial Research Fellow at Civitas, London)
(Fiction, non-fiction and journalism)
Media commentator and public speaker
"Brash, brilliant and cannot be ignored"
Times Higher Education Supplement
The Sunday Times
"That rare beast - a sensible sociologist"
"The most prominent liberal intellectual in Australia"
Sydney Morning Herald
"The antithesis of an Ivory Tower intellectual"
ABC Radio National
"Saunders uses spare and stylish English to mow down paddocks of sacred cows"
The need for an independent voice in social research...
In our universities, where there should be open debate and pluralism, there is political orthodoxy and intellectual conformity. Nine out of 10 UK sociology professors describe their politics as left wing and just 3% vote Conservative*. This ideological uniformity underpins the social policy advice academic 'experts' offer to politicians and the public. My aim as an independent researcher is to subject the claims of the academic establishment to critical scrutiny. Offering an alternative perspective based in classical liberal values of individual responsibility and personal liberty, I am interested in exploring practical solutions to pressing social problems that do not entail more government spending, or more control of our lives by the state.
* Survey of sociology professors reported in A. H. Halsey, A History of Sociology in Britain, 2004
I used to be a sociologist, but I'm alright now...
ABC Radio National special programme, recorded in 2008, sets out my thoughts on sociology, politics, and more. See also:
Ideological bias and closed minds in academic sociology. Sociological Research Online, 2011
Follow me on Twitter for notifications of new publications, events and media
Beware privileged hirelings and petty prophets:
'Who is to answer the question: What shall we do, and how shall we arrange our lives?.. Only a prophet or saviour can give the answers. If there is no such man, then you will certainly not compel him to appear on this earth by having thousands of professors, as privileged hirelings of the state, attempt as petty prophets to take over his role' (Max Weber, Science as a Vocation, 1919)
The meaning of freedom:
"A man's right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant, not as master - these are the British inheritance. They are the essence of a free country and on that freedom all our other freedoms depend" (Margaret Thatcher, 1975)
My new report for Civitas argues that the contributory principle at the heart of Beveridge's National Insurance system has corroded. It would be better to scrap NI and move to a system of personal welfare accounts (25 November)
- read the report
- listen to interview on LBC morning news
- read summary on Conservative Home
- read City AM report
- read Sunday Telegraph report
- read 'This is Money' website report
- read Daily Express report
Other recent output:
Things politicians dare not say
In today's Britain, just because something is true doesn't mean you are allowed to say it (Letter in The Spectator, 5 December)
Read (or here)
A licence to vote?
Labour, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nats all favour voting at 16. Fine, but test people's competence first (Ideas@TheCentre, 29 November)
Politicians are undermining social mobility by denying it exists
The more politicians talk of lack of opportunity, the more they destroy young people's motivation to succeed
- listen to Voice of Russia interview (14 November)
- listen to Radio 5 Live interview (14 November)
Wrong, Sir John!
John Major is the latest politician to make alarmist claims about social mobility which are simply not true.
- read (Conservative Home website, 12 November)
More social mobility myths:
Times columnist wants us to believe that middle class children are fifteen times more likely to succeed than working class children
- read my response (Times letters, 23 October)
Get rich or get equal?
Participant in debate on equality at the Battle of Ideas conference, The Barbican, London, Sunday 20 October
(audio recording available soon)
Remoralising The Welfare State
Centre for Independent Studies, March 2013
Three simple fairness rules for the welfare state (CIS Occasional Paper No.131)
Download or purchase hard copy
Listen to interview on Sydney's 2GB radio
Read postscipt (Ideas@TheCentre, 15 March)
Social Mobility Delusions
Civitas, June 2012
Politicians say social mobility in Britain is less common than in almost any other comparable country, that this is getting worse, and that bright poor kids fall behind dull rich kids at school. All these claims are wrong or contestible.
"If you want to know the facts, Peter Saunders's pamphlets on social mobility are absolutely second-to-none" (Julia Hartley-Brewer, LBC Radio)
"Comprehensively debunks Milburn" (Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times)
Read the report (published 21 June)
Listen to (v brief) interview on Radio 4 Today programme (21 June)
Listen to (more extensive) interview on LBC (21 June)
Read John Rentoul in The Independent (28 June)
Read Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times (15 July)
Read Dominic Lawson again in Sunday Times (21 October)
Policy Exchange, March 2012
Men claiming welfare benefits pay no more than £5/wk child support if they live apart from their families. Britain should learn from the USA and Germany, where absent fathers on benefits make serious financial contribututions to the costs of raising their children.
Download free copy of the report
Read Daily Mail report, 14 March
Read Guardian report, 14 March
Read Daily Telegraph follow-up, 7 July
The Rise of the Equalities Industry
Civitas, November 2011
Traces the way sensible measures in the 1960s to outlaw blatant racial discrimination have evolved into an irrational and illiberal legislative mess.
"A brilliant book" Professor Kenneth Minogue
"Makes startling reading...ought to be required reading for every employer" Minette Marrin, The Sunday Times
"So gripped was I that I was still studying it two days later" Peter Hitchens, Daily Mail
Buy a copy
Read The Sunday Times report 27 November
Read Daily Telegraph report 28 November
Read Daily Mail report 27 July 2012
When Prophecy Fails
Centre for Independent Studies, September 2011
New edition of my critique of The Spirit Level's claim that income equality promotes social harmony. Includes an extended postscript reviewing Wilkinson and Pickett's responses to their critics.
"A thorough debunking" (David Aaronovitch, The Times)
Order a copy or buy download
Read new Postscript
See also: 'Backlash begins over 'must-read' poverty bible', The Sunday Times 11 September