Monday, July 26, 2010

The Census

The Economist( Thanks Ww) and Neil Reynolds also agree with HM Government. The census is intrusive and making it a criminal offence to not fill it out is pretty whacky.

Yet, as The Economist noted, the census is essentially recognized as obsolete in a growing number of countries – a conclusion that arises from the intuitive fact that the world is so filled with statistical data that it would be a greater public service to lessen the quantity than to increase it. Britain will hold its last census next year, as will Germany. Denmark hasn’t had a census for decades. Sweden, Norway and Finland retain only a rudimentary census. With its constitutional requirement of a room-by-room head count, the U.S. government spends $11-billion to count its population – $36 a head. Finland spends 20 cents a head.

People should, as a matter of principle, prefer a voluntary census to a mandatory census. But the reason to scrap the census has nothing much to do with coercion (which is, in fact, minimal) or with cost (which is, in fact, minimal, too). The reason to scrap the mandatory census is that it, along with a great deal of other government fact-finding, is simply not necessary. Indeed, the government should have made this argument. After all, if the most statist countries of Old Europe are abandoning the coercive census, why shouldn’t we get rid of it, too? From this perspective, the government could have defended its decision as, well, liberal and progressive rather than as, well, conservative and reactionary.

Update ( thanks Wilson) Even Stats Canada advisory panel wants to get rid of the jail terms and intrusive questions. The red star spins .


Ww said...

This link might take you to the cited article in the Economist.

I've been trying to get word out via twitter and in comments that in Europe the census is increasingly considered an outdated method of data collection and the info of little use (stale) but haven't heard it much mentioned in the MSM

Absolutely crazy that the opp. is calling this move tyrannical and undemocratic. It is exactly the opposite.

wilson said...

And the national advisory to Canada's chief statistician have proposed big changes to the long form:
(short: drop the jail term, drop unnecessary and intrusive questions)

I Support Lord Black