April Freeman Banner 2014


Are Government Statistics Necessary?

Why Are Tax Dollars Funding Bureaucratic Data Collection?


Mr. Youngblood is a manufacturer’s representative living in North Carolina and producer of the radio talk show The Free Market in Columbia, South Carolina.

I recently received an eye-catching advertisement from the Government Printing Office for The Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1993, “The Essential Reference and Research Resource for people like you!” According to some of my think-tank friends, next to national defense, data collection is the best thing the federal government does.

This year’s edition features information “keyed to Congressional district,” along with “new material on health practices, education attainment, child abuse and neglect, book purchasing, federal debt, military installations, occupational tenure, use of automated teller machines, high tech exports, . . . details on racial and Hispanic groups and more.”

My first thought was: How much does the annual Abstract cost taxpayers? I’m sure the $32 price per copy merely covers the printing costs, not the expense of hiring bureaucrats to collect and collate raw data and having firms spend man-hours to fill out copious forms under penalty of law for non-compliance. Consumers also pay—through the loss of goods and services that could have been, but were not, produced because companies diverted resources from output to regulation compliance.

As an entrepreneur I gather much data on my customers. It has been a discovery process for me to learn what information is important to me. My research has helped me to answer such questions as:

• What mix of equipment does a customer now own?

• How often and how much does he order?

• How do seasonal factors affect the ordering process?

• What is the interest rate on leasing new equipment?

• What are the new technology trends?

This information does not come without a cost both in money and time, but it allows me to tailor my marketing and advertising and to better serve my customers.

Many industries and special interest groups lobby Congress to have information gathered at taxpayer expense. But they should finance the collection of pertinent data themselves rather than use the power of government. For example, the banking industry should pay for its own survey of automated teller machines.

The ultimate cost of the Statistical Abstract to all of us, however, is some loss of freedom when government uses statistics to manage our lives.


April 1994

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April 2014

Around the world, people are struggling to throw off authoritarianism, with deeply mixed results. From Egypt to Venezuela, determined people build networks to overthrow their regimes, but as yet we have not learned to live without Leviathan. In this issue, Michael Malice and Gary Dudney discuss their glimpses inside totalitarian regimes, while Sarah Skwire and Michael Nolan look at how totalitarian regimes grind down the individual--and how individuals fight back. Plus, Jeffrey Tucker identifies a strain in libertarianism that, left unchecked, could reduce even our vibrant movement to something that is analogous to the grim aesthetic of architectural brutalism. The struggle for our lives and freedom is a struggle for beauty; it begins inside each of us.
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