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It is possible to object to the census on libertarian grounds and think that our government is made up of a bunch of innumerate, liberty-restricting busy bodies.

Further to Jonathan's comment, here's myself on CBC Power & Politics last Thurday to drive that point home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExuVVFaSbTg

It really bothers me that Harper is making these sweeping changes to the fabric of our country with the slim confidence of the electorate that his party enjoys. Anyone who has paid attention to this issue will remember it at the polls that's for sure, however most of them aren't conservative supporters. The media have to do a better job of explaining what's really going. I like what the Hamilton Spectator is doing:
https://www.thespec.com/content/815135. Education to precede the editorials. The Toronto media is abysmal on this. No mention of data mining til Stockwell Day brings it up. Harper turns everything he does to his political advantage and this is no exception. Suppressing data collection that could damn his government's performance. It's just wrong. He should be impeached!

Jonathan, Mike: any discussion of the census decision that makes no mention of its costs in terms of its effect on responsible governance gets dropped into the sweaty-palmed fanboy bin.

Sorry, but that's the way it is. A cost-benefit analysis that ignores one side of the argument is dogmatic ranting, and deserves to be treated as such.

I know this post is going to be rude, and I don't like being rude, but I feel deeply insulted by this post and I believe it to be dishonest and unfair.

To put it concisely, just because "we libertarians" believe that the state shouldn't force people to answer questions - and seizing someone's property is a use of force, like it or not - doesn't mean that we're in love with the government. In fact, every self-respecting libertarian worth of the same that I know absolutely loathes this administration. We hate them all, in fact, because they're all the same: out to run your life and tell you how to behave, how to spend your money, and to smack you when you get out of line. THERE IS NO ONE SUPPORTING THIS GOVERNMENT ON LIBERTARIAN PRINCIPLE. No one. To say otherwise is to lie, which is what this post does.

No, people shouldn't be coerced into answer the short-form. And hell no, people shouldn't go to jail for victimless "crimes" such as drug offences. And of COURSE the government doesn't have a libertarian impulse in its collective body. They're a bunch of lying, thieving, hypocritical thugs. But as a libertarian, I'll take the 0.00000000000000000001% of what I want that they're willing to give it. It's something. It's better than nothing and it's not like I have a say in it either way, anyhow.

The Conservative lapdogs who howl with glee every time Harper scratches himself may be all for this decision because that's what they're programmed to do, but they are NOT libertarians in any sense whatsoever of that word. They're partisan hacks who are incapable of understanding what a real idea or what it feels like to have a belief system or an ideology other than "give me more power."

What was written above is utter claptrap unworthy of a thinking man with a PhD. You're better than this and you're better to play the politician's game of twisting everything out of context, inventing straw men from whole cloth, and, generally, attacking the person and not the position. But it's so much easier to simply mock your opponents as stupid hypocrites than to acknowledge that they might be sincere, or might perhaps even have a modicum of a point.

If you think our beliefs are stupid, you're entitled to do so, but you're not entitled to smear us in the way you did up there. Some intellectual honesty on this issue would be a bit nice. I know we can't expect any from the government, but I'd think that an economics professor would be insulted if he were held to that pitifully low standard.

Stephen,

Why would I do a cost-benefit analysis on the census? I'm not a legal positivist on thee issues. I articulate specific natural rights for which I believe that I, and everyone else is entitled to. Rights that I believe justifiably [should] encumber the government's authority. Not rights that I should have to ask for, or show the economic of political benefit to having. They're my bloody rights, after all.

"Sorry, but that's the way it is."

Dispense with the though-terminating clichés. You've made a statement about the positions and political motivations of libertarians.

Now, I know there are some people who claim to be libertarians are are anything but. But any libertarian worth his/her salt has absolutely no interest in "regurgitating" the Conservative party line. This article just plainly misrepresents the general consensus of libertarians in this country, politically active and otherwise, in regards to their views on this government.

Very few libertarians that I know support the Conservative party. And even those who do, in a nominal sense, do so on an argument -- which I reject -- that they're the "best of the worst". But not that they're our political brethren. I imagine the three libertarians (myself included) who have shown up, won't be the last to stick you with this sort of rebuttal.

I do not understand the libertarian concern with the census as it has been conducted in the past. Could someone please explain this to me?

I thought that there were extensive safeguards protecting individual privacy in the use of census data. Is there concern that these safeguards are inadequate? or that they are frequently ignored?

I'm afraid that 'rebuttals' that consist of a systematic refusal to consider the costs of making the census voluntary are going to carry very little weight with me.

Stephen,

Well, I repeat my question: why would a libertarian, who fundamentally does not acknowledge the right of the government to compel me to do such a thing, look at the question as a matter of economic costs and benefits? That's like asking a communist to consider arguments on the cost-benefit analysis of letting Wal-Mart setup shop in downtown Toronto.

You're committing a serious logical fallacy by doing this. I mean, if you're an economist, I'd think you would be educated in logical thinking. But I'll help you along. The fallacy you're making here is called denying the antecedent; if x then,y. Not x. Therefore, not q. Or translated into English: "The only valid argument is a cost-benefit argument. You're not making a cost-benefit argument. Therefore, you're wrong."

I must concede I misrepresented the argument structure you're making. It's more like "A valid argument is a cost-benefit argument. You're not making a cost-benefit argument. Therefore, you're not making an argument."

That's a more academically accurate condensation of the logical fallacy, you're making. Which is still denying the antecedent, of course.

Stephen, there were only 7 prisoners left in the Bastille on the day it was stormed. I guess you could stretch the analogy to apply it to this case...

That being said, I once posted negative comments about the Fraser Institute here and I was surprised to see the backlash. I have always believed they were putting partisanship and ideology ahead of science. Their current posturing reinforces my belief.

Thanks Stephen. Keep at it.

Mike: Let's differentiate between libertarians (who are, let's face it, a pretty rare breed) and the pseudo-libertarian propaganda being used by the Gov't to sell this incredibly stupid idea. Their propaganda IS a cost/benefit analysis. They're saying the cost to liberty outweighs the benefits of data enabling evidence based policy and they come to the conclusion that the workaround is to make the census voluntary. And the response to that is that a voluntary long form census is provably (in the mathematical sense) stupid. The logically coherent argument would be: scrap the census altogether. The Gov't isn't making a logically coherent argument.

Patrick,

Sure. But I've never denied that point. Nothing the government does is logical. Look at they're law and order agenda, and this new prisons crap. We have a decreasing crime rate, one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world, and all the Conservatives can think about is how to lock more people up, and for longer.

If you watch my interview on CBC, you'll see that I am not buying the government's BS. I don't think they're being sincere. I think this a page-turning issue for them in respect to the G20 police abuse questions. And I've said as much.

I just don't like having a political position for which I subscribe being misrepresented. And from the looks of it, neither do a few others.

And by "they're", I obviously meant "their", in that second sentence.

Mike,
In your youtube video you mention "We have these agreements with conservatives on things like low taxes, smaller government, less regulation..." Why not zero taxes, zero regulation? Why not a voluntary tax? Is the government not coercing me into giving away a portion of my income? I have yet to meet a libertarian who lives in the real world and yet believes that the optimal level of taxation is zero. And why? Because they do a cost-benefit analysis. Some taxes are necessary to maintain the institutions that have enabled us to earn this standard of living. In the same way, why not argue for a smaller census rather than the ridiculous notion of a voluntary survey? To be effective, we need information just as we need taxes.

I simply don't understand the arrogance of the natural right vs. cost benefit argument. Do you so strongly hold the belief that you have some natural right not to answer questions about the number of rooms in your home that you are willing to ignore the costs of this decision?

I have yet to meet a libertarian who lives in the real world and yet believes that the optimal level of taxation is zero. And why?

So, this is an interesting observation, Jane. And certainly, if I supported a stateless society, I'd be an anarchist. Not a libertarian. But I think you've missed the point a little.

My point was not to generally dismiss the usefulness or validity of cost-benefit arguments. Or even more broadly, utilitarian reasoning. But rather, to question why a libertarian would value a cost-benefit argument when they hold fixed moral view on that point.

What is the fixed moral view? It's the view that the role of the state is to be as minimal as possible, as place the most minimal infringements on liberty possible. It's primary roles defence and justice. Some libertarians, particularly Rawlsians and even Hayekians support a limited welfare state, believe that welfare is, indeed, a necessary tradeoff to ensure political stability to maximize liberty.

But the purpose of the census is, let's face it, to collect information to be used in forming economic regulation, healthcare delivery, education delivery, housing programs, bilingualism programs, etc. All things, which libertarians pretty much universally believe is outside the legitimate functions of government.

This being the case, I repeat the question: why would we be interested in a cost-benefit argument on this point?

We're not interesting in making the delivery of government healthcare or education services more efficient. We're interested in dismissing the government from these responsibilities. We hold they have no legitimate right to monopolize or even regulate these industries. Therefore, the cost-benefit of the census is moot.

Dismissing the libertarian argument against the census as not being sufficiently cost-benefit within the context of the current system is to pretty much deny the entire libertarian position. To coin another example, it would be like me saying: "I know you don't want to invade Iran, but make a better argument on how we should invade Iran." That's the sort of argument you're directing at libertarians like myself. And if you held my worldview, you'd find it equally silly.

"Do you so strongly hold the belief that you have some natural right not to answer questions about the number of rooms in your home that you are willing to ignore the costs of this decision?"

I believe that I have the natural right, in general, to not be compelled to act against my own free will for the benefits of others. I do not generally believe in positive responsibility.

Taxes are an interesting case, in the sense you can make an argument that there are certain costs that I impose on society; use of justice system, use of roads, etc. And that's a long argument, and there's plenty of good literature from libertarians on this issue.

But the census just does not fit into that tenuous area for libertarians. It doesn't come close. You can demand remuneration for costs I impose on you, but you can't really demand any more than that as far as libertarians are concerned.

Most libertarians fundamentally believe they own their own body. And that, as owners of their own body, they have a right to exclude others from it's use. Further, we don't believe the government has any legitimate right, whether through popular support or otherwise, to abridge these rights. No democracy of referenda makes these things legitimate. Because, we believe, that only we own our bodies, even if 99.99% of the rest of the world disagree.

This is the libertarian mindset.

Now, to be honest, as you could see from the CBC video, I myself am not actually that fired up about the census issue. I agree the census should be scrapped. But I don't think it's the highest on my priority list as a libertarian. Not by a long-short. And I share much the same cynicism of the Conservative Party as you do, and the author of this blog -- for the most part.

... and I need to comment less from my iPhone, because my grammatical mistakes are pathetic when I do.

This post is an attempt to close the open italic tag, ruining the format of this blog.

Great. If we lived in a libertarian utopia, there would likely be no census. Maybe I would like that way of living, maybe I wouldn't. But we don't live in a libertarian utopia. For better or worse, we live in Canada, with G/Y at around 40%, give or take.

Given that that is where we live--and that it is very unlikely to be replaced in the near future with G/Y of 0%--the question I ask myself is, "how do we make our economy more efficient?" I don't think taking away the Census is going to make it more efficient. The presence or not of a census in some magical non-existent libertarian society is just not the question I really care about. It is simply irrelevant. Fun for talk over a beer, but really just totally irrelevant to real life here in 2010 Canada.

Google up the 'theory of the second best.' When we live in an economy with all the distortions brought on by a G/Y of 40%, you can't apply an argument about what would be optimal when there are no distortions. Removing the 'distortion' of the census can, and I would argue does, make the 'big' distortion of G/Y=40% much worse.

Stephen, you need a "Like" button for these posts. I appreciate the forthrightness.

Libertarians:

Taxation is theft right? Government spending, which has to be financed by taxation, is theft, right?

This policy is going to increase government spending. How is that libertarian?

Even from a strictly libertarian perspective, there *is* a cost-benefit analysis that needs to take place here. I ask - why is this cost-benefit analysis not taking place?

Stephen -

I hate to say it, but your on-going preoccupation with this issue is driving me away from this (otherwise fascinating) blog. Not that I really have any strong feelings one way or the other - I'm just not interested in the long-form census and I'm not about to become interested with any amount of drum-beating. I have a feeling mostly everyone in the country has now divided into the camps of those intensely opposed to the changes and the overwhelming majority who simply don't care. At this point you're just preaching to the converted over the heads of an increasingly restless audience.

Teach me more about the Canadian economy!

Stephen,

Regarding your Aug 4, 10:16 pm comment (serves me right for not checking back sooner that I'm now this far down the list). I agree! There's no magic fairy that will make everything better if we just get rid of the mandatory long form census. Any such argument (libertarian or otherwise) is vacuous.

Nonetheless, a robust libertarian philosophy needn't be so facile.

I'd be interested in the libertarian commentator's reaction to this question: **what is really the issue**, is it that:
- the government has no right to know, for example, whether or not I'm white or how much I spend on utilities *or*
- the government has no right to make me spend 1/2 hour or an hour getting information to a whole bunch of questions that I can't answer off the top of my head e.g. how much I spend on utilities

For me, when I'm dealing with businesses, I frequently find myself getting annoyed by intrusions of the first sort - why, for example, does someone need to know my occupation in order to rent me a French Horn? Why do I have to give my date of birth and allow someone to scan my driver's licence to get a cell phone? Why does amazon.ca automatically keep my credit card details on its computer system? I rage, but give in, because I want the stuff.

For the census, I don't mind - I've looked up my great-grandparents' and great-grandparent-in-laws' 1901 census information and found it an absolutely fascinating insight into how and where they lived - I'm happy to do the same for my great-grandchildren.

But I've filled out the long form census and, as Rachel commented on an earlier post, the big issue was the hassle factor - it was just a pain to get all the info.

And at the risk of boring Geoff NoNick further, one more thought -

the question about the number of bedrooms only seems like a stupid question if you have always lived a midddle-class life with ample bedrooms per person. If you grow up, like my father-in-law, one of nine children in an English row-house (I don't know exactly how many bedrooms it had, perhaps 3, it would be unlikely to be as many as 4) yes, the number of bedrooms *is* an issue. Multiple kids sharing a room makes it harder to find a quiet place to study, to say nothing of other kinds of risks...

Frances,

Though I'm hesitant to grab the flag and answer for all "libertarians", I would suggest that the issues are the coercive aspect of a mandatory census, the invasion of privacy and the time lost filling out the forms.

That being said, I wouldn't argue that there's no utility to be found in the census data, it's just a question of balancing trade-offs (which is why I don't necessarily object to a cost-benefit analysis..though I might, depending on the definition of "costs" and "benefits").

By the way, I imagine that this is partly a matter of laws having changed since 1901, but if you're able to look up your ancestors' census information, why should we be confident that our decendants won't be able to look up ours? (Though, perhaps this is a question best directed at someone else.)

Jonathan -
- my ancestors and ancestor-in-laws lived in England. The English censuses (censi?) are on-line from 1901 back right through to the mid 1800s.
- I'm pretty sure the census has a box that you can tick that says something along the lines of "I agree to allow my information to be released in 92 years" If you tick that box, it will be released, if you don't, it won't.


Frances,

You did write about an English row-house. I should have picked up on that; my mistake. Thanks for clarifying.

Nonetheless, 92 years is too soon! I demand it be changed to 93!

Nonetheless, a robust libertarian philosophy needn't be so facile.

How is it facile to state simply that we're against the census? I mean, I support the removal of the long-form. But I'd also support complete scrapping of the census.

It violates my basic assumptions about morality. It therefore follows that I am generally unconcerned about any supposed benefits.

I don't think letting neo-Nazi's scream anti-Semitic epithets benefits society either. Or even radical Imams preaching hatred for our "decadent' lifestyle. But my basic assumptions about morality tell me I have no right to legislate away their rights to do those things.

All of you people criticizing me are pretty much saying, and correct me if I'm wrong: "you're not going to get to live in your libertarian utopia, so you might as well give up and be more legally positivist and utilitarian in your ethics, and make constructive arguments on how to make government more efficient in a social democratic (read: anti-libertarian) framework.". Which isn't an argument at all. It's just an insulting and condescending way of saying you reject libertarian ethics, and the arguments that stem forth.

You're pretty much just patting libertarians on the head and going "that's really cute, but libertarianism isn't a serious position, anymore than magic beans and beanstalks exist".

And that's not an argument. It's just showing how much of an asshole you are. =)

All of you people criticizing me are pretty much saying, and correct me if I'm wrong: "you're not going to get to live in your libertarian utopia, so you might as well give up and be more legally positivist and utilitarian in your ethics, and make constructive arguments on how to make government more efficient in a social democratic (read: anti-libertarian) framework.".

You're wrong. See my question a few spots above.

Or to put it differently - this policy increases liberty in some ways and decreases it in others (in terms defined by libertarians), so why do libertarians automatically support it?

Mike Moffat,

Well, I already addressed your question a priori. Not all libertarians consider taxation simple theft. Read my comments above in response to Jane.

You're question is basically a straw man as such; you're arguing against the anarcho-capitalist view, and expecting me to drum up a defence of a position that I do not hold. Go and read John Rawls, Frederich Hayek, Milton Friedman, or more contemporarily Will Wilkinson, or even myself for that matter (https://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2009/05/the-church-of-property.html) -- before attempting the simple reduction.

An no, summarily, taxation can be justified within a different set of principles that are extraneous to an economic cost-benefit analysis. And they are. Even statist libertarians like Friedman, emphasized the importance of individual choice as supreme. Which is why he advocated for self-directed social assistance, privatized social security, school vouchers, and a negative income-tax / minimum income, instead of a minimum wage.

All libertarian arguments do not simply reduce to the anarcho-capitalist or even a propertarian position. If you're making this assumption, all of your following assumptions are faulty.

So spending millions of tax dollars on a voluntary census does not violate any libertarian principles at all?

Scenario 1: I refuse to fill out census. I'm threatened with jail time.

Scenario 2: Census made voluntary but taxes increase. I refuse to pay this tax increase. I'm threatened with jail time.

Neither policy is inherently libertarian. That's the facile part of this - that libertarians refuse to acknowledge the loss of liberty attached to the new policy.

Well, they do. Considering the purpose of the census is to provide for better social services, which I do not believe the government should be delivering in the first place, it's pretty easy for a libertarian -- of almost any stripe -- to identify the census as an inappropriate endeavour on the part of the government.

We don't believe the government needs this information to plan housing, schools and education. We actually believe there's this other thing, called *shudder* the free market that can react to demand changes far more efficiently than government can. And does.

Neither policy is inherently libertarian. That's the facile part of this - that libertarians refuse to acknowledge the loss of liberty attached to the new policy.

Well, this will come as a shocker to you: but many libertarians don't consider tax reduction to be the number one most pressing concern. In fact, most real libertarians who aren't just conservatives calling themselves libertarians, believe things like the war on drugs, foreign policy, due process rights, free speech rights, etc. all supersede the need to reduce taxes.

You're setting up false dilemma here, and you're begging the question. Your entire proposition is logically fallacious.

I don't have to choose between your two options. Those aren't the only positions.

"We don't believe the government needs this information to plan housing, schools and education. We actually believe there's this other thing, called *shudder* the free market that can react to demand changes far more efficiently than government can. And does."

That's a completely different argument. Census data is used to also to eliminate non-working government programs, as I have described in a earlier blog post.

That and the policy does not suggest *eliminating* the long-form census, rather making it voluntary.

There's a big bait-and-switch here - libertarian arguments for the proposed policy are using arguments for some other policy.

If you want to know why people see the libertarian arguments here as being facile (and this is coming from someone who has an admitted libertarian streak), it's due to the refusal to examine the policy being implemented, not some imaginary policy that libertarians would prefer was being implemented.

As for the argument for scrapping the long-form census altogether - I think there is a very good libertarian argument to be made there. But that's not what the government proposed.

"Well, this will come as a shocker to you: but many libertarians don't consider tax reduction to be the number one most pressing concern. In fact, most real libertarians who aren't just conservatives calling themselves libertarians, believe things like the war on drugs, foreign policy, due process rights, free speech rights, etc. all supersede the need to reduce taxes.

You're setting up false dilemma here, and you're begging the question. Your entire proposition is logically fallacious."

I'm not, though. What I'm suggesting is that there is liberty being added and liberty being taken away. You can still believe that, on net, this is a good move from a libertarian point of view (the pluses outweigh this minuses). But I have yet to see anyone make that argument.

"But that's not what the government proposed."

When did I ever say I support the government's arguments? I went on national television and said they only reason they were even doing this was for purely self-serving reasons. This is probably the fourth time I've qualified this.

Forcing me to answer to that, is nonsensical. But it pretty much speaks to the whole association fallacy that's being made here about libertarians, and why I'm offended by it. I can find someones actions favourable, independent of whether I believe the motivations for their arguments are sound. To try and argue otherwise is syllogistic nonsense.

"When did I ever say I support the government's arguments?"

I didn't say argument - I said proposal. It's possible to support the proposal without agreeing with the government's arguments.

We've been debating the merits of the Conservative proposal/new policy. Stephen Gordon's post is on the merits of the new Conservative proposal If you want to discuss the merits of some other proposal, that's fine. But it's not what Stephen and I have been discussing, nor is it the issue we have with people/institutions such as the Fraser Institute.

"I'm not, though. What I'm suggesting is that there is liberty being added and liberty being taken away. You can still believe that, on net, this is a good move from a libertarian point of view (the pluses outweigh this minuses). But I have yet to see anyone make that argument."

The net add to liberty is I am not forced to take time out of my day under threat of fine and imprisonment to divulge my private information and the private information of my family. At least with taxes, I can hire a bloody accountant, write them the cheque and have them more or less leave me the hell alone.

I already buy into the need for the necessity of taxes. I don't buy into the need for the necessity of the census. In fact I reject it's necessity, and consider it's intrusion immoral. It doesn't have to get much more complicated than that.

I don't measure my liberty in dollars and cents. A wasted tax dollar is not equal to a loss of privacy. This is what I was getting at on CBC when I said "libertarianism is not synonymous with fiscal conservatism". Libertarians do not measure their liberty in terms of taxation. That's one factor in a constellation fo factors.

"The net add to liberty is I am not forced to take time out of my day under threat of fine and imprisonment to divulge my private information and the private information of my family. At least with taxes, I can hire a bloody accountant, write them the cheque and have them more or less leave me the hell alone."

Ever been through a CRA audit? I have, and trust me, that's not what happens.

I have as a matter of fact. And I have a lot of criticisms about the process. But your making the irritating assumption that libertarians are just these greedy capitalists who measure their freedom in personal wealth. In fact, it's beyond irritating. It's basically rooted in a misplaced value judgement about the personal motivations of libertarians.

For instance: I think a kid being arrested for smoking marijuana is a far worse encroachment on liberty than Dalton McGuinty imposing a $600 "health premium" on me. It's pretty much incomparable for me. And given how much money I donate to organizations that fight against these laws, libertarian and otherwise, my money speaks for itself.

"But your making the irritating assumption that libertarians are just these greedy capitalists who measure their freedom in personal wealth. "

No I'm not. Again, read what I wrote:

You can still believe that, on net, this is a good move from a libertarian point of view (the pluses outweigh this minuses).

What I believe is that libertarians, for the most part, aren't arguing about the policy being proposed - rather they're arguing about some other policy they'd prefer.

No, we're saying we welcome removing the mandatory long-form, with fine and jail penalties. And I'm saying that satisfies my definition of an improvement in liberty. And you're rejecting that and moving the goalposts, demanding that I make a better libertarian argument based on a cost-benefit analysis. Which is to ask me to justify the position to a standard that I'm fundamentally unconcerned about to begin with.

And that is classic petitio principii.

"No, we're saying we welcome removing the mandatory long-form, with fine and jail penalties. And I'm saying that satisfies my definition of an improvement in liberty. And you're rejecting that and moving the goalposts"

Again, no I'm not. What I'm suggesting is that there are pluses and minuses from a libertarian perspective. You can believe the pluses outweigh the minuses, but you need to look at the *net* effect, not the *gross* effect on liberty.

Seriously, this isn't that hard. If you're going to throw up logical fallacy flags up twice a message, can you please use them correctly?

I'm not using them correctly. You're asking me to quantify the removal of the long-form census in pluses and negatives. It's not a mathematical proposition for me. My worldview is built upon a set of asserted natural rights, not on a measured utility of those rights.

The fallacies are accurately used, because your demanding a proof that my ethical calculation is unconcerned with. In the same way the Marxists are unconcerned with whether or not Coca-Cola runs an ad campaign during the Superbowl or during sweeps week. Their view of Coca-Cola holds independent of this.

I've given you my calculation for why I welcome this development. That's all I have to give you. You're trying to force me down the path of using consequentialist reasoning -- which you're obviously most comfortable with. And I'm not biting because I've evaluated this position on deontological grounds.

You're failing to realize that you're up against a first principles problem in asking the question. And that's why your arguments are fallacious.

Stephen, I don't think you deserved to have your comment threads filled with the usual fact-free faith-driven sweaty-palmed fanboy libertarian arguments, as I must *applaud* you on this post in general. Regarding the likes of this...

Though I'm hesitant to grab the flag and answer for all "libertarians", I would suggest that the issues are the coercive aspect of a mandatory census, the invasion of privacy and the time lost filling out the forms.

You know, having to fill out a form once every five years for about half an hour to answer simple demographic questions - or to have to fill out a longer version 2 or 3 times in your lifetime - is not an adequate example of "lost time" to justify elimination of the census, long or short. Privacy concerns are similarly unjustified - the data is available in aggregate form only and will be untraceable back to you individually. Do you consider tax forms an egregious invasion of privacy as well, much less credit reports or banking information? You are "on file" somewhere, and with far more detail than is ever sought in the census. Why, my bank has records of my spending habits going back years.

These kinds of statements are why libertarians should not and are not taken seriously by, well, serious people. Or anyone who has anything better to do than wax on poetically about the magical power of the "free market". Why is it that libertarians seem get into such a fuss over such trivial matters? Life's too short to whine about every little supposedly "coercive" thing, and many - including myself - that citizenship carries with it certain duties that include things like the census. But I know there's no room in your narrow philosophy for such things.

And this:

But the purpose of the census is, let's face it, to collect information to be used in forming economic regulation, healthcare delivery, education delivery, housing programs, bilingualism programs, etc. All things, which libertarians pretty much universally believe is outside the legitimate functions of government.

Census data also figures heavily in business planning and marketing because, you know, it helps to know something about your customers. And, quite frankly, your brand of libertarianism is so ideological and lacking in common sense or pragmatism that it scarcely deserves reply. I've got news for you, though - government ain't going anywhere and most people do not care about your interpretations of Rawls or Friedman. People like public health care and schools, and other such egregious affronts to liberty like libraries. If you want to live in a country with poor public services and so severe a lack of common sense of security that houses have barbed wire (or electrified!) fences, by all means, move to Mexico.

Thank you Stephen.

What is the drop dead date for this? That is on what date must Parliament pass legislation enforcing the long form census, and how much lead time is required for the opposition to get it on to the order paper and through the process in the teeth of government obstructionism?

I understand you are not an expert on these issues, but if you are going to pick up the leadership in this fight you want to know these things.

Libertarians need to be just ignored. As you point out their connection with reality can only charitably be described as tenuous.

"Census data also figures heavily in business planning and marketing because, you know, it helps to know something about your customers."

This information is available through privately collected means. Companies like infoUSA, Dun & Bradstreet, Edith Roman, make millions and millions of dollars collecting this information and selling it to companies.

"And, quite frankly, your brand of libertarianism is so ideological and lacking in common sense or pragmatism that it scarcely deserves reply."

How am I unpragmatic? What would an acceptable "brand of libertarianism" be? One that accepts the status quo. Oh, wait...

"eople like public health care and schools, and other such egregious affronts to liberty like libraries. If you want to live in a country with poor public services and so severe a lack of common sense of security that houses have barbed wire (or electrified!) fences, by all means, move to Mexico."

... yep.

"You're failing to realize that you're up against a first principles problem in asking the question. And that's why your arguments are fallacious."

Again, no I'm not. What I'm suggesting is that those FIRST PRINCIPLES cut both ways on this particular case.

I'm arguing from a first principles position, just as you are! Why do you fail to see that?

Help me out here... you seem like an intelligent guy. How can I make it clear to you that I'm discussing first principles as well?

"My worldview is built upon a set of asserted natural rights, not on a measured utility of those rights."

I understand that. What happens in a situation where an action would remove a violation of rights on one hand but cause a new, different, violation of rights on the other hand. How would you reconcile that?

Also how is this: "I think a kid being arrested for smoking marijuana is a far worse encroachment on liberty than Dalton McGuinty imposing a $600 "health premium" on me." not an examination of greater vs. lesser encroachments of liberty?

Anyhow.. I think I'm just about done with this thread. I'll let Mike Brock have the final word.

"I understand that. What happens in a situation where an action would remove a violation of rights on one hand but cause a new, different, violation of rights on the other hand. How would you reconcile that?"

It would be interesting, and you attempted to mount an argument where such was the case -- that I would end up paying for less effectual census. I responded essentially saying that I'd trade the money for the improvement in privacy and not having a positive responsibility on that point. Thus, your point became moot at that point.

Since I'd rather lose the few dollars of taxes than be forced under threat of imprisonment to fill out a form of private information, what becomes of your point? I've given you my calculation. You then asked me to articulate a better argument against it. Which was, as I said, as you formed it both begging the question and moving the goalpost.

And of course we're all arguing from first principles positions. That comes naturally. Those first principles inform our entire way of thinking. What I'm saying is we have different first principles. And thus, any resolution to this debate would be impossible without resolving those differences. I mean, tactically and politically compromise can be found, but philosophically... probably not.

And if you think that all politics and philosophy can be derived from a bunch of first principles, you should probably wake up and realize that life cannot be thought of like mathematics, and even math falls well short of such idealized formal thinking.

Simply put, you can define a bunch of first principles based on anything, but the assertion of a set of axioms doesn't make that set complete or exhaustive or robust compared to other sets of first principles or, crucially, empirical observation and experimentation. Reading a variety of philosophical works is a nice past-time, but the kind of libertarian philosophy espoused here is adolescent at best. The real world has real problems that aren't addressed by fantastical ideologies nourished by people leading comfortable lives in one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

"This information is available through privately collected means. Companies like infoUSA, Dun & Bradstreet, Edith Roman, make millions and millions of dollars collecting this information and selling it to companies."

The companies you mention compile statistics on businesses, not individuals. However, if you want to argue that the private market can do the same thing with individual information, then we are likely back to the stats argument. If they are doing it correctly, companies that collect additional information and sell it for profit will use censuses to correct for sample selection bias. Without the benchmark of the census, surveys become both increasingly expensive and less useful, and the market will be less likely (not more likely) to provide the information.

Josh,

You're making the fallacious assumption that I am not pragmatic. That, I pursue an all or nothing agenda.

My whole purpose here was to take issue with the author's assertion that that libertarians are towing the Conservative Party line. This has been demonstrated to not be the case.

Curious. How far does your pragmatism go? Is it infinite? If you were living in an authoritarian state, would your pragmatism bend so far as to criticizing those who demand freedom as not being "pragmatic". I'm guessing not.

I love when "pragmatists" dismiss positions for being do "ideological". I often wonder what political discourse would look like in such a world, where radical ideas like, I don't know: women's rights, gay rights, universal suffrage, etc. were dismissed as being far too "ideological". And it's not like people didn't make those arguments at the time.

But I'm guessing you don't really have the muster to debate these things on a substantive basis, which is why you reached straight for ad hominem argumentation.

"The companies you mention compile statistics on businesses, not individuals."

This is not true. The companies do customer list matching. I know, I've been involved with it. A company comes along with a customer list, and they get their list matched against other lists. When you agree to "share you information" for whatever purpose, the company will often go to these companies to get additional details on you.

For instance, a company like Telus might come along and be interesting in figuring out if you buy lots of technology. They might buy this information from Air Miles, or from a list matching service.

I've seen some of these customer compendiums working int he direct marketing industry. And you'd be surprised how insanely detailed some of this information is. Far more detailed than the census data in many cases. The algorithms they use for list matching can deduce whether you're living with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Around what time your started cohabitating, and how your spending habits changed.

The tentacles of private information collection are extensive and far beyond the scope of the census. Trust me.

So, your response against supposed ad hominem attacks is to intimate that I'd criticize people "demanding freedom" in an authoritarian state? I trust this doesn't include people whining about the Great Coercion of the Invasive Census. Pragmatism, incidentally, requires balancing of sometimes conflicting principles to achieve desirable ends. The census is a negligible responsibility that affects my liberty in no significant way. Filling out a form! The horror! Yet its elimination will have demonstrably negative effects on the formation of just about any kind of public policy, be it health care, education, crime, policing, language services, immigration, and dozens of other applications. Are you saying that good public policy is a bad thing, or that - given the existence of public health care and education - it should be made worse and less efficient by the elimination of the census? What's better, a government that does things you don't like efficiently and effectively or one that does the exact same things only with less efficiency and effectiveness? Which one would be more prone to wasting *your* money? Hmm? Answer.

The fact that you grant even the government's inconsistent arguments about privacy and "coercion" is the problem. I don't buy this first principles nonsense anyhow - it typically sounds more like you've arbitrarily labelled something "coercive" while making exceptions for many other things, "minimum state" conceptions included. Complaining about the census isn't pragmatic, but it is absolutely laughable. Sadly, we are currently governed by such laughing-stocks.

What exceptions have I made?

And you're right, having government be more efficient is not really on my priority list. A less efficient government is one that's probably not spending as much time regulating my life. You know, Nazi Germany was lauded for it's efficiency. Their record-keeping was superb, and efficiency at accomplishing state goals renowned. However, I'm thinking that many who died in the Holocaust had wished the government wasn't as efficient.

Just saying.

Mike - Nazi Germany? And you wonder why you're not taken seriously.

Jane, what's wrong with the point? It's a salient point that demonstrates the downside of a highly efficient government. It's a theme that been mirrored in literature, like Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale tale for instance; the inherent danger of having a well-informed and empowered government.

Libertarians sometimes have a saying: "we'd like the government to be so small that we can drown it in the bathtub if necessary".

Whoops. There goes Godwin! Bye, Mike.

My whole purpose here was to take issue with the author's assertion that that libertarians are towing the Conservative Party line. This has been demonstrated to not be the case.

Um, how? By working your way through the CPC list of census talking points?

Again, since we're throwing around logical fallacies, Mike Brock should really look up the Theory of the Second Best. Mike B is making a first best argument: in the absence of other distortions, removing the census is freedom enhancing. Mike M and I are making the second best argument: In a world with a big government, removing the census is not freedom enhancing. Removing it makes things worse because it makes the first distortion (government) worse.

Please note that this isn't an argument based on the premise that big government is right or good. It is an argument premised on the *fact* that we have big government.

When you go on to say that we just shouldn't have a government that does health and education and other things, that's a fine thing to say, but it has no relevance for the current policy debate, which is, should we remove the census or not, given that we have G/Y of 40%.

So, yes, I am patting you on the head and dismissing you for telling me about what policy option you would choose for the census in the absence of big government. That is simply a non-sequitur. Shall I tell you what we ought to do with the census if we had a marxist society? It is indeed a fun parlour game, but only that.

"Whoops. There goes Godwin! Bye, Mike."

Do you know what Godwin's Law is?

From Wikipedia: "Godwin's law is often cited in online discussions as a deterrent against the use of arguments in the widespread reductio ad Hitlerum form. The rule does not make any statement about whether any particular reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only asserts that the likelihood of such a reference or comparison arising increases as the discussion progresses."

And...

"However, Godwin's law itself can be abused, as a distraction, diversion or even censorship, that fallaciously miscasts an opponent's argument as hyperbole, especially if the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate."

Kevin,

As an economist, can you point to quantifiable evidence that the census data improves the efficiency of government? Can you prove that the statistics are not misused in any way, to justify new and bigger government programs? Do you honestly believe that service delivery needs cannot be deduced by other means that don't require people being forced to divulge private information under threat of imprisonment?

Also, only about 53% of people say they are willing to answer embarrassing personal details honestly, if it all. So does the mandatory nature, truly produce cleaner data than can be gleaned through other means?

If you can't tell how many bedrooms a dwelling has, you can't protect aginast future pandemics. @#$%-ing CPC/AB idiots.

Kevin,

Since you want me to research the Theory of Second Best, which you might already realize I'm probably familiar with. I'd also be interested in hearing your thoughts on the Economic Calculation Problem.

Mike B:

1) if you want examples of empirical research that shows government programs are not well designed and in many cases ought to be privatized go look at Marty Feldstein, who has spent a career doing so. With data. Failing that, I humbly offer my own CV, which has numerous papers that have been used to advocate for smaller/more efficient programs. No, I cannot prove that statistics are never used for bad things. That is a silly request to make.

2) You may be familiar with the theory of the second best, but I see no evidence you are. I went with the evidence.

3) Your suggested reading list leads me to believe you are mistaking me for some big government advocate. I think government does a lot of things poorly. I also think that it would be even worse if they had bad data, and if I didn't have data to hold them to account for their poor choices.

Sorry, I'll rephrase. Without household social distancing stats (and hospital stats, IDK if these are/will-be Census or some other unbiased survey), you can't protect against future pandemics. #$%&-ing CPC/*Prairie* idiots.
I'm still waiting for oil sands and banks to manufacture face masks in lieu of starved health budget.

" if you want examples of empirical research that shows government programs are not well designed and in many cases ought to be privatized go look at Marty Feldstein, who has spent a career doing so."

This data could only exclusively be obtained through a mandatory census?

No, I cannot prove that statistics are never used for bad things. That is a silly request to make.

It was a big of a negative proof fallacy on my part. But it's a little hard to maintain full composure in the face you if you basically admitting to ad hominem. The more salient point on this issue was my introduction of the Economic Calculation Problem.

I repeat, what are your thoughts on it? I don't want to put any words into your mouth on this, so I'm bringing up the argument that government cannot make efficient economic decisions due to an inability to collect information and interpret it in real-time. Considering the census data is a dated by the time it's tallied, and becomes sufficiently more and more dated as time progressive, you might call into question the whole endeavour. Especially if the the subsequent census data reveals any surprising or counterintuitive indicators. Then you get into the problem of having to deal with the fact that acting on the statistical data alone may be more distortionary.

Forgive me for not being charitable on my part by assuming you're a big government advocate. But you shouldn't really expect charity from someone who you're talking down to. Social morays and all that.

Actually, I should clarify, you weren't just admitting to using ad hominem. You were admitting and re-affirming it.

Wilkinson is Canadian now, we should just ask him. But because he's working on liberaltarianism, maybe he won't represent the 'fan-boy' libertarians.


Just wanted to interject to say ...

Stockwell Day ... blargle... unreported crime ... yargle ... statistics... blargle

Why wouldn't you want data to keep doofuses like this from making pointless and expensive public policy based on voices in their head?

And the image of social morays has me a bit freaked out.

"Wilkinson is Canadian now, we should just ask him."

I have his phone number. I could call him up. =)

Mike Brock,

Regarding your 10:25 comment, Stephen wrote:

Jonathan, Mike: any discussion of the census decision that makes no mention of its costs in terms of its effect on responsible governance gets dropped into the sweaty-palmed fanboy bin.

I think any discussion of the census decision should take into account the costs. Ignoring those costs seems, to me, facile. Saying there are greater benefits (like not having the government trample liberty) is fine. I'm not objecting to that.

To be clear, I'm not taking a swipe at your arguments. I find the type of fan-boy libertarianism of which Prof. Gordon speaks is found mostly from conservatives donning libertarian garb for this particular issue (which will then be shed when it comes to drug policy, torture, immigration, etc). I think it's fair to say that Tony Clement has been dancing around as a facile fan-boy libertarian (I've never inspected his palms...).

I also think that you and Mike Moffat are arguing past each other a bit. I feel quite comfortable agreeing with both of you, for the most part.

Jonathan,

"To be clear, I'm not taking a swipe at your arguments. I find the type of fan-boy libertarianism of which Prof. Gordon speaks is found mostly from conservatives donning libertarian garb for this particular issue."

Well, he just re-accused me of being a CPC talking head. Which is pretty funny considering how anti-Conservative Party I am at the Western Standard and in my radio and television interviews. In fact, I took the opportunity on CBC to slam the Conservatives for the Toronto G20 Summit. And anybody who's watched that video could not honestly come away with the impression that I was speaking for the CPC.

Mike B’s fear of efficient government, should read Cowen’s pick for best blog post of the year.
Joseph’s Heath theory is that because the welfare governments became so large they had to become efficient. I feel that making government inefficient to justify their prior convictions is bad faith conservative governance.
Also I wanted to underscore the importance of Josh’s comment, about axiomatic systems being limited, this is huge.

Police could be more efficient at catching criminals if we could just put up CCTV everywhere, and monitor all our emails, SMS messages and if they didn't have to follow due process. Think of all the time police waste having to uphold our due process rights; we could improve public safety by chopping off habeaus corpus, dropping the articulable cause requirement for searches.

It's such a minor inconvenience to have a cop search your bag on the street for a few seconds every once in a while.

It's also a minor inconvenience to have the government scan your emails and text messages for any indicators that you're engaged in illicit activity, especially if you have nothing to hide. Government could spend less money on policing if only some individual rights could be curtailed and enforcement made a little more efficient.

Mike B,

Yeah, that was an unfair swipe by Prof. Gordon's.

"There is simply no way that any useful data will emerge from this exercise. This is so fundamental a point that the Chief Statistician resigned rather than let Tony Clement publicly suggest that he and the professionals at Statistics Canada believed otherwise."

"No way" is a too big for me. I think, with work and intelligence, the problem can be fixed (not perfectly though), using the amount of non-census information detained by governements.

Or maybe we should not do any census at all! You know what, even mandatory census produces flawed results because of flawed obligated respondents that answer anything in the census but the truth!

"Let's now turn to the ostensible reason for making the long form voluntary: the well-rehearsed horror at the possibility that someone might be jailed for not revealing the number of bedrooms in their homes. (Can someone explain to me why this is such a big deal? We're a family of five, with four bedrooms. Have I somehow set myself up for blackmail?)"

Why putting someone in jail to not answer a census?

"We should first dispense with the zombie meme of "Many countries have dropped the census, so we can too." This has been blown away any number of times, but it insists on lumbering across the political landscape in search of brains.

Yes, there are several examples of countries - especially in Scandinavia - that have abandoned the traditional census. These countries maintain databases that keep track of all interactions between the citizen and the State, so a census is simply redundant: the government already knows everything there is to know about you. For example, they know where you live, they know when you moved there (all movements must be registered with the police), and they know from the zoning registries just how many bedrooms and bathrooms you have. They even know your high school trigonometry marks - why bother with a census? If you're concerned about issues such as privacy and state coercion, these are not counter-examples that you should be citing."

I agree with you on this. This in not an acceptable alternative to mandatory census. It's worse and it illustrates the blatant hypocrisy of Big Governement Conservatives.

"If our government was really serious about privacy and state coercion, they wouldn't be pointing to the Nordic registry model as an alternative to a mandatory census."

I agree!

"If, in your mind's eye, you see yourself storming the Bastille in order to liberate the foes of tyranny, no-one has ever been jailed for not complying with the census."

I agree, but it's inacceptable to have that kind of law.

"But, as has become crushingly clear over the past few weeks, the census is the irreplaceable cornerstone of evidence-based policy evaluation. Making the census voluntary offers the smallest possible gains in terms of civil liberties, at the greatest possible cost in terms of responsible governance."

But, in itself, it's a a gain for civil liberties. But I understand your critics about confused statist-libertarians.


"If you really believed that our government was motivated by libertarian principles, the news from the past couple of days should have disabused you of this notion. It turns out that our freedom-loving government's highest priority is to build prisons in order to incarcerate those who participate in activities associated with drug trafficking and prostitution."

I agree with you on this. In fact, adult drug trafficking and adult prostitution are victimless non-crimes! Again the hypocrisy of Big Government Conservatives...

"Yes, my libertarian friends, our government is intent on tracking down informed, consenting adults engaging in freely-arrived-at exchanges of goods and services at a mutually-agreed-upon price, and putting them in jail. And thanks to your unflinching support, it can do so in the name of civil rights and freedoms!"

100% agree with you on this! Maybe you're more libertarian that what I thought...

You and Moffat are the first to argue in favor of a mandatory census with real arguments.


P.S.: I love your writing style! Love that type of vitriolic piece! :)

"You and Moffat are the first to argue in favor of a mandatory census with real arguments."

I'm not even arguing for a mandatory census per se - I'm just stating that the old policy is preferable to the new policy.

Keep in mind, a couple weeks ago I argued to make the census voluntary by eliminating the jail time/fine and replacing it with an 'opt out' fee.

"a couple weeks ago I argued to make the census voluntary by eliminating the jail time/fine and replacing it with an 'opt out' fee."

Oh sorry, I agree! You're right on this. My bad.

"I'm not even arguing for a mandatory census per se - I'm just stating that the old policy is preferable to the new policy."

Okay, I understand more your point.

...but I disagree with the fee.

"...but I disagree with the fee."

Well, I disagree with the extra taxes you guys want me to pay to make the census voluntary. And unlike a fee, I don't have a choice - I *have* to pay it.

"Well, I repeat my question: why would a libertarian, who fundamentally does not acknowledge the right of the government to compel me to do such a thing, look at the question as a matter of economic costs and benefits?"

I agree with Mike on this, It's not just a question of costs and benefits.

And you know what, maybe you're right with only the cost-benefits premise!

"Well, I disagree with the extra taxes you guys want me to pay to make the census voluntary. And unlike a fee, I don't have a choice - I *have* to pay it."

"You guys" is not me. "You guys" is Big Government Conservatives and confused vulgar libertarians. And you know what, your idea is not so bad if you compare to Big Brother-Style databases or the "jail-mandatory" option.

@Mike Brock

"Very few libertarians that I know support the Conservative party. And even those who do, in a nominal sense, do so on an argument -- which I reject -- that they're the "best of the worst". But not that they're our political brethren. I imagine the three libertarians (myself included) who have shown up, won't be the last to stick you with this sort of rebuttal."

Maybe you point out THE big problem in this debate. It seems that you're not a confused vulgar libertarian that sees Maximum Berné as the pinnacle of minarchist-libertarian government.

No way Conservatives are good for libertarian and anarchist principles!

"And you know what, your idea is not so bad if you compare to Big Brother-Style databases or the "jail-mandatory" option."

In other words, because *you're* uncomfortable telling the government how many bedrooms your house has, *I* am forced to pay more money.

Am I the only one wondering who the libertarian is here?

Sorry, but I repeat: your idea IS NOT SO BAD if you compare to Big Brother-Style databases or the "jail-mandatory" option.

I am not sarcastic.

"In other words, because *you're* uncomfortable telling the government how many bedrooms your house has, *I* am forced to pay more money."

And you know what, many people will not tell the truth on this if the census is mandatory.

@Mike Brock

What's your real political position? Libertarian, anarchist or minarchist?


I think the point is that libertarians won't be making any constructive contributions to this debate. I'm definitely sympathetic to libertarian views, but I get exasperated when it is rigidly applied (ie, cost/benefit is irrelevant in situations where there is any state intrusion whatsoever). That philosophy is so far removed from our reality that it's hard to take it all that seriously.

And in Stephen's defense, I think he was not really criticizing 'true' libertarians, but the facile libertarian argument against the census, replaced with a mandatory short form and optional long form.

@Mike Brock

"So, this is an interesting observation, Jane. And certainly, if I supported a stateless society, I'd be an anarchist. Not a libertarian. But I think you've missed the point a little"

Okay, I see, you're a statist minarchist, and your confused position is one of the reasons why Gordon and Moffat can easily argue with you, using the Conservative-Libertarian association concept, in this issue.

Statist minarchim is a great delusion:

https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/why-minarchism-is-the-greatest-delusion-part-13/

https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2007/09/06/194/

https://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/why-minarchism-is-the-greatest-delusion-part-33/

"ie, cost/benefit is irrelevant in situations where there is any state intrusion whatsoever"

Not exactly, cost-benefit is not the only relevant argument, but this argument is relevant.

"And in Stephen's defense, I think he was not really criticizing 'true' libertarians, but the facile libertarian argument against the census, replaced with a mandatory short form and optional long form."

His position on drugs and prostitution makes think you're right on this, Andrew.

you're a statist minarchist

Nope.

A few points for Mike B:

If you really wanted to convince me that you hadn't gone into the CPC tank on the census file, then you shouldn't have recited Tony Clement's July talking points. Just saying.

And you should really have checked this site out before attempting to instruct us in the Miracle of Markets. There are several trained economists here, and we know all about the First Welfare Theorem. We also know about the Second Welfare Theorem, the problems posed by externalities/spillovers, missing markets, asymmetric information and many other things besides. Most of the time, markets work fine, but there are many important cases where markets fail. It is a common failing of libertarians that they do not drink deep enough from the Pierian spring of economic thought.

Pointing to the Calculation Problem simply means that you don't understand the problem we're pointing out. No one here is advocating central planning, and again, a little research on your part should have made that clear.

My point is that you have sold your approval too cheaply. The govt gave you the teensiest crumb it could imagine, and it's using you as free labour to sell its dimwit policy. How many of the past 24 hours have you spent on this site? How many would have been more profitably spent decrying the tough-on-crime agenda?

"How many would have been more profitably spent decrying the tough-on-crime agenda?"

You seem to erroneously assume I haven't. Example: https://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2010/08/stockwell-day-still-wrong-on-crime.html

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