12 February 2007

Census prosecution

Nik Haden, Wellington economist, is being charged by the Statistics Department, because of his alleged behaviour in relation to protests last year against the compulsion around filling out census forms. This protest was about one simple point – that the state should not require you, by threat of force, to fill out a form just because you happen to be in the country at a certain time. There would be nothing wrong with it being voluntary, but the concept of people actually being able to choose themselves is alien to statists. Like I said at the time, I never filled out the two before it and nothing happened, and well I was in London for the last one.

Most of the economy seems to work on the basis of surveys, such as the entire broadcasting sector. Imagine if you were legally required to fill in a TV survey form every year, or a radio one and if you did it incorrectly, you would be prosecuted? No, seriously. It IS like that.

It is a crime in Clarkistan, though it also was in Bolgeria and Shipleyvakia. When Katrina Bach was a Deputy Secretary at MED, a contractor had his contract summarily terminated for sending round the joke email about entering your religion as a Jedi – the sense of humour bypass clearly was a roaring success. By contrast, the UK Office for National Statistics was relaxed about it for the 2001 UK census, because more people filled it out because they enjoyed putting their religion as Jedi.

If you want to know who supports this sort of prosecution then you might ask one David Farrar. He said of this issue:

“as the census is used to in construction of electoral rolls etc, then my view would be that if you refuse to fill in a census, then you lose the right to vote.
AFter all if you want to be a non-person, then you can't demand rights.”

So filling in a census grants you rights!! So is the anonymous census actually used to match people to houses? Hmmm… What gets me is that yes, to many people this seems simple – fill in a form, what’s the big deal?

The point is principle, something that most people associated with a major political party sell like a whore, it is that I have the right to remain silent. The same should also apply to entering the country, given that many countries have virtually open borders (I crossed between Denmark and Sweden four times in two days and didn't have to show a passport, and as a UK resident (not citizen) I do not need to fill in any damned form when I arrive from anywhere in the world).

If I peacefully go about my day to day business, I have the right to not be forced to fill out a damned form because the state wants to assist itself with planning etc. Yes, if I want to vote I should go on the electoral roll and then let electoral boundaries be determined by who is on the roll, not the entire population.

I am quite agnostic about there being a census, but it should be voluntary. It is telling that the state can charge Nik Haden so swiftly, whereas if you are burgled or your car is stolen, you’ll probably never hear of it again. The efficient by which the state prosecutes those who threaten its taxes and statistics far outranks its efficiency in protecting the population.
Go Nik, defend this on principle. There is a right to protest against the census law, a right that few are interested in, but which does go to the heart of what a liberal democracy is. You shouldn't be prosecuted for protesting against a bureaucratic law.

No comments: