The libertarian cavalry

The economists, statisticians, city planners, social groups and religious leaders have had (and continue to have) their say and so now the folks at the Western Standard have helpfully compiled census opinions from their libertarian orbit, including takes from PM Jaworski, Walter Block, JJ McCullough, Terrence Watson, Martin Masse, Hugh MacIntyre and Paul McKeever.

Here’s another opinion sent directly to me from Matt Bufton, whose opinions, whatever his professional associations, are his and his alone.

It is likely that the government’s decision to discontinue the mandatory long-form census will have little to no effect on public policy making. Those who feel that the information provided by the census is vital to the government’s ability to make sound resource allocation decisions should consider the general quality of government decision-making with the vast amount of information currently available to policy makers. Governments are notoriously bad at allocating money efficiently – to take one example from thousands, how many Canadians support the recent decision to spend $16 billion on new fighter jets?

These types of decisions are not the result of corrupt or incompetent leaders. They stem from what economists of the Austrian School call the “knowledge problem.” It is simply not possible for any individual or organization to know enough to consistently make good decisions.

When those who make policy have access to vast amounts of data they may become convinced they know enough to intervene in the economy in just the right way. The results of these interventions can range from benign waste (fancy fighter jets) to tragic suffering (Mao’s attempt to restructure the Chinese economy lead to the starvation of over 20 million people).

Much of the knowledge our society finds useful or interesting is obtained without passing a law forcing randomly selected individuals to provide detailed personal information. Pollsters are able to provide data on topics ranging from how many Canadians would vote for a given political party to which world leader we’d rather have a beer with. Perhaps it’s time for the government to start getting its information from willing respondents rather than threatening us with fines and jail time for non-compliance.

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