July 15, 2013

Kill the statistics to kill the planners...

David Warren, Truth & numbers:

...Once upon a time I studied demography, at first for the purpose of excoriating the "population bomb" scaremongers back in the 1970s. The subject struck me as boring, until I was sidelined into historical demography, & discovered such authorities as Thomas Henry Hollingsworth. And while his Demografia Historica will by now be dismissed as a little dated, it is permanently astute. No one could read it without having his confidence in all past & present estimates of population profoundly shaken. And while modern census-takers have devised very extravagant methods by which to corral heads for a headcount, they rely on a ludicrously complex pile-up of crude assumptions to invent every confidently-reported fact about these people. The demographers flourish nonetheless, as prized servants of bureaucratic tyranny, which has found the number crunching of "democracy" very much to its liking.

(A correspondent in email serendipitously supplies this explanatory note from C.S. Lewis: "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.")

My libertarian hero in this regard was Sir John Cowperthwaite KB CBE, financial secretary to Hong Kong through the 1960s, & perhaps the most significant figure in the recovery of the old Crown Colony from its condition at the end of the last World War. He pointedly refused to collect economic statistics. His reasoning was that, without numbers to play with, the "economic planners" would be at a loss. They were, & Hong Kong boomed.

But to mention him is to stray into questions of economic policy, which, like Cowperthwaite, I am against. How we live our lives is God's business, & none of the government's until we are reasonably suspected of a crime. Their job is to provide for our defence against rapine & massacre by foreign powers & domestic criminals, in return for modest taxes. It is an important job, from which they should not be distracted by their own alien & criminal propensities. Let it be added that Hong Kong was remarkably free of crime throughout the period in question, comparing favourably even to booming yet placid Tokyo....
Posted by John Weidner at July 15, 2013 8:57 AM
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