A voluntary census makes our government a little dumber

During the 6th century B.C. there was an Etruscan king. Servius Tullius was the sixth king of ancient Rome and is regarded as one of Rome’s most noteworthy regal patrons whose reforms laid the groundwork for a representative government.

How is Servius Tullius responsible for ushering in the world’s first democratic republic you ask? He came up with the first Roman census (that and being murdered).

Romans were assembled by tribe and under oath, each man told his name, address, social rank, family members, servants, tenants, and property to the registrar. This information alone did not directly lead to the first roman republic.

After Servius’s murder by his daughter Tullia and son-in-law Tarquinius Superbus, the subsequent removal of Tarquinius by the rebelling Romans led to the abolition of Rome’s monarchy. Servius Tullius’s census had all the information that was needed for the Romans to have proper elections and the Roman Republic was born.

Fast forward about twenty-five hundred years and we find that the mandatory long-form census in Canada and the general census in the United States is under attack by conservatives.

The conservative mindset is that the governments are intruding on the lives of ordinary citizens. Some go as far as saying that the government uses the census to spy on its people. The fear of the government using the census as a spy tool is only true if you fear a statistician in a suit and pocket protector in a distant town knowing you’re a catholic or that you make twenty thousand dollars a year.

The fact is, the questions asked in the mandatory long-form census are essential to Statistics Canada and is only given to twenty percent of Canadians. They help with health services, spoken languages and educational needs among others.

In the early 1990’s, a team of statisticians from ten countries ranked international statistical agencies for The Economist’s good statistics guide. Statistics Canada came out on top. As they say; if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

The now former chief statistician Munir Sheikh said that making the long-form census voluntary would be equivalent to somebody using a passenger car to deliver merchandise on a regular basis to Wal-Mart. In essence, a voluntary system would diminish the quality of the survey with certain groups (aboriginals and low-income earners for example) filling out the study in fewer numbers.

Why the conservatives picked the census as a target of their right wing ideology is beyond me, maybe they thought it would be a quiet or easy sell to the public. Canadians aren’t stupid however, they know it is not an invasion of their privacy and it certainly isn’t the threat of jail time, because no one has ever gone to jail for not filling out the census.

Harper and his government have to stop picking fights where they aren’t warranted as he has done for the past few months. At least he’s starting to show his true colors; just like Tullia & Tarquinius when they killed their father Servius, the original census man.

Courtesy of Aislin 2010

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