Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Questioning a census taker

The gloriously monickered Census-Taker-in-Chief Carol Slappendel tells you why you should fill out your census instead of filing it in the Osama (Bin Liner). Let’s see if any hold water:

It will bring about sweeping changes to our lives.

“Changes” effected not by our own wishes, but by the wishes of planners and politicians.  Not buying that one.

Some schools will change decile ratings, meaning more or less funding from the Government.

The flawed ranking of schools based on parents’ incomes should be abandoned, not encouraged.

We need your answers so planners can plan.

First off, the only planning I want central planners to plan is how to change careers. The miracle of price signals gives a full daily survey of what people want and where, and they deliver the means by which to meet that demand. “Planners” by contrast try to shoe-horn all of us into plans based on their own values, not ours.  And they work with figures long out of date by the time they’re used: have you noticed, for example, that the motorways now being built around Auckland (and just granted consent on the Kapiti Coast) were actually planned in the sixties, and only just being built now?)

For Christchurch, it means the city will have crucial information as it rebuilds.

It’s not immediately apparent that over the last two years “the city,” i.e., the council’s and government’s planners, have done anything useful with the information they currently have.  There is zero reason to assume anything different for the next five years.

We need your answers to plan electoral boundaries, and the number of Maori seats.

I fail to see why boundaries should be changed so regularly anyway—and in any case, most are primarily changed for political rather than statistical reasons. And if they are to be changed, abundant information is available elsewhere and from smaller voluntary surveys. And race-based seats should be abolished, not encouraged.
(Curiously, it’s also suggested that as census-takers prioritise the “Maori” answer if forms have more than one “ethnicity” box ticked, the census continues to overstate the proportion of Maori in the population, maybe by up to ten percentage points.)

We need your answer on ethnicity to allocate health funding where ethnic communities have settle.

Even if one accepts that “health funding” should be “allocated” by government planners, it’s entirely unclear why this should be done on the basis of ethnicity.
Indeed, in that it reflects a barnyard form of collectivism, this question is probably the most offensive on the whole census form. Ethnicity elevates one’s racial identity and associated cultural traditions to a position of supreme importance – a racist version of collectivism, under-pinned by post-modernism in philosophy.
Defining oneself by one’s race and tradition -- things about which one has no control over -- is utterly incompatible with defining oneself by one’s conscious choices, and deriving pride in one's own achievements rather than just those of one's ancestors -- which is the essence of individualism.
One would have thought that the history of recent centuries might have been sufficient cause for alarm to have governments interested in measuring and elevating the importance of ethnicity.
I was encouraged to hear that in the last census, around 250,000 who inadvisably did complete their census form at least crossed out all the given answers and wrote the words “New Zealander” in this box. That, at least, is a start.

Businesses also use the data to plan where to put new retail outlets - and even what items to stock.

Unlike government planners and statisticians, businessmen are more than capable of reading trends and price signals, which give them lightning-like instant information of the whole market before and as it happens rather than long afterwards.  And if they’re not, let them do their own surveys.

The figures are also used to compile a "deprivation index" which can map the poorer areas of the country right down to small neighbourhoods. This allows for funding and resources by state agencies to closely targeted to where the need is.

Yet if one were to look at these “deprived neighbourhoods” the greatest correlation one can make with them is with the level of government services there. South Auckland has for decades had more government “services” and “agencies” on every street corner than anywhere else, yet “deprivation” levels there have changed not a whit.

When you are looking at something like rheumatic fever for instance, you can target the low income areas where there is the most overcrowding.

It’s not apparent that government planners have done anything to help the construction of affordable housing—the only way overcrowding will be overturned. Instead, they’ve done everything to make it less possible.

Iwi affiliation: As a basis for the allocation of resources and funds to iwi…

Iwi should earn their own funds.

How did you travel to work?: This helps make plans for roads and public transport.

As I said above, the motorways now being built around Auckland (and just granted consent on the Kapiti Coast) were actually planned in the sixties, and only just being built now. And the public transport around Auckland still feels like it was planned in the 1860s. In other words, it’s not apparent that anything the census reveals today is either useful now or will be used any time this half-century—or would contain information that couldn’t be easily obtained elsewhere.

Income? This will help government and councils work out where to put affordable housing.

It’s not apparent that government planners have done anything to help the construction of affordable housing. Instead, they’ve done everything to make it less possible.

It's for the efficiency of the economy and the better of society

Clearly, she never has heard of price signals. Or how society is made better by the reduction in the use of force.

If you don’t fill out your form, we’ll prosecute.

See what I mean? The last resort of the bureaucrat: threats.  Which only encourages the most common response to threats: Calling people like this by the names they deserve.


  1. Your understanding of the calculation of the Maori seats is mistaken.

    First, the Maori answer to the ethnicity question is not prioritised.

    Second, the ethnicity question is irrelevant for the purposes of the calculation of the Maori seats.

    Third, anyone of voting age who states they are of Maori descent, but who "isn't really Maori" (or something like that) doesn't increase the number of Maori seats, because, presumably, they enrol on the general roll. They either have no effect on the number of Maori seats, or they may indeed help decrease the number (if they live in the South Island).

  2. If filling in a form was a glorious and sensible thing to do, why threaten us? The threat necessary because filling in the form is just plain silly.

  3. And yet, and yet, after I told my parents I would not do it, my mum went on an emotional rant mentioning: I don't like all the laws either but I HAVE to follow them, therefore you do too!, and ending on: If you don't like it here then move to AFRICA or RUSSIA to see how good we have it here!... such emotionally loaded answers and not a fact or reasoned argument among them!
    I long to be able to talk to people who share libertarian or even AnCap principles! does anyone know people or groups of such leaning I can meet in Tauranga?
    My statist parents are driving me nuts...

  4. As I understand it, most of the questions on the US census are not used by the government but by interest groups who lobbied the census to get free data for their causes. Also, gerrymandering. Mostly gerrymandering.

    Just thought I'd let you know.

  5. I'm astonished that the advocates of this don't realise that most businesses don't use the census to make decisions on major capital expenditure.

  6. Konrad, there is a fellow by name of Graham Clark up your way who probably shares many of your rather independent views.

  7. I never got a census form! Someone did litter the pavement with some paperwork in plastic. Can't be bothered to pick that up. Not my rubbish.

    What is this census thing everyone is talking about. Never mind bored already. What shall I do next

  8. Thanks Richard.

    I see he has a concert coming up on the 23 this month, might have to waylay him them and introduce myself, I just hope I don't make a complete tit out of myself.


  9. On the contrary, Conrad, he'll be delighted to meet a fellow free-thinker. :)


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