Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In response to Searching for Liberty's "Advice on filling out the Long-form Census"

Original Post

The response after the jump is based on all information up until my comment on the original post that reads:

"My rebuttal is getting rather long, when I finish it I'll post it on my blog."

Oh you mean the same Shirley Sharrod who in 1986 chose to not provide all the help she should have provided to a white farmer based on his race?

The one that wasn't working for the USDA when she did this?

Who then realized her mistake and went back and befriended that farmer's family and helped them retain their farm.

And then 24 years later lost her job because some jackass over at Fox decided to cleverly edit out the part where she remedied her error.

Yep I'm aware of her, and how there's a difference between systemic racism and individual racism.

As for open minds: have an open mind enough to consider the difficulties of the people who need the benefits from these social services.

And good job ignoring the systemic difficulties of other cultures by raising the model minority argument.  
Yeah, there weren't thousands of Chinese people who needlessly suffered and died poor at the hands of discrimination.  Immigrants aren't carefully selected for factors such as their existing wealth, education, employability, being already hired for a job, etc.  No that couldn't possibly have something to do with their relative success when compared to the Aboriginal peoples whose way of life was all but wiped out.

You know that I've an open mind to opposing points of view.  I welcome them to challenge and test my understanding and beliefs about reality.  But in this case you're arguing that systemic disadvantages that exist ought to be left to individuals to sort out for themselves.

Even if I don't have statistical data, I know that your opinion is wrong.  I need only look to history: people have biases, prejudices, and preconceptions.  Simply declaring that racism is over doesn't make it so, no matter how much you want to believe it. 

Two generations of my ancestors were nearly worked to death building the CPR only to be shipped back to China.  My grandfather had to come to Canada with his older cousin who was 11.  Neither of them would have survived without the support of the existing Chinese community.

His modest success was an exception to the rule, and even that was largely due to the fact that he didn’t speak with a Chinese accent.  His comparative ‘whiteness’ gave him enough of an advantage to be more successful.  He could get a loan to start a business because he was mistaken for white when he called the bank.

Simply put, what gives you the knowledge and experience to declare what is good for people who have it harder, who aren’t healthy and able bodied, who have to deal with racism on a regular basis?

How is it that you know better than they do what’s best for them?

Why is it that your position of privilege gives you the right to prevent the government from collecting accurate data to help your fellow citizens in need?

All people may have some racist tendencies but the difference is that some people work to identify, acknowledge, and correct those deficiencies.  Even though I live a comfortable lifestyle, I still will mark my ethnicity correctly on government documents because I know that it will help to support the same communities that made it possible from my grandfather, and therefore me, to be successful.

And as for your comment that “we’re all black,” that doesn’t mean that you have the experience or understanding of the culture, stigma, and identity of an African person.   To presume that you do denies the lived, cultural, and historical identity of African Canadians.  It is to declare their hardships irrelevant, and to presume that they ought to assimilate into your own culture because it is superior.

Minorities need government recognition and protection, otherwise they cannot flourish.  For centuries minority religion and cultural practices have been outlawed and discriminated against.  Only with the enlightenment and the rise of science have we been able to use facts to fight prejudice.  Only with knowledge have progressive notions of equality arisen and taken hold.  It’s has ended slavery, it has given women the right to vote, it has given us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Knowledge can be interpreted into truth, or misinterpreted into lies; ignorance can only tell us what we’ve already think we know.
And now you and other closed minded Neo-conservatives seek take back the enlightenment and presume that they and the majority know better than facts.  I oppose your opinion so vehemently and categorically because at its core it says that minorities ought to rely on the good judgement of the majority to decide when, how much, and what kind of ‘equality’ they should get.

No thank you.

Before I am minority, before I am even Canadian, I am a human being and like all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  The simple fact of the matter is that there are systemic factors that are beyond the control of individuals that treat some groups with less dignity than others.  There are no peaceful means other than through government initiative to remedy such problems.
If liberty is about all people being able to live in a society where their lives are as free as possible then that means we have to accept some intrusions, to avoid larger ones.  The intrusion caused by taking 15 minutes to fill out a survey that, if filled out truthfully, will positively affect the lives and liberty of millions of your fellow citizens has to be considered worthwhile.

So proceed with your argument if you must, but it is intrinsically pejorative, privileged, small minded, and cold hearted of you to suppose that census data is useless because it infringes on your right to privacy.   At the end of the day your privacy over basic information such as what ethnicity you are or how much unpaid childcare you do is a grain of sand when compared to the rights of those without all of your advantages to have a fair chance to be successful.


  1. *standing ovation*

    I just want to say a word about the kind of people government services are meant to help. It appears that Harvie thinks that government services are mostly taken advantage of by the lazy and stupid.

    I am a supervisor at a call centre. We employ many people who are on the margins of society; quite a few of them are or have been two steps from the street. A call centre job is easy to get and easy to keep, but they don't work at the call centre because it is so easy and they are too lazy to do anything else. They are more eager for work than anyone. Marginalized people work at my call centre because they cannot get any other kind of job. There are people who have behavioural and mental disorders who can't afford treatment, whose inconsistencies would not be tolerated at any other job. There are kids who were kicked out of their home and can't afford to pay their way through school and get the qualifications needed for a better job. There are immigrants who are horribly over-qualified but can't find work in their field. As I've said, these people work as much as they can, but because the nature of the job is seasonal and work is not guaranteed they are still eligible for EI, which a lot of them depend on to make ends meet. Minimum wage is not a living wage, especially for people who have a family to take care of. If it weren't for government services these people would literally be on the streets.

    I come from a privileged background. My family was never what you'd call wealthy but we did live in a very nice area. I babysat for a lot of families that owned multi-million dollar homes. My family also belonged to something like a country club. I have also lived in a low-income neighbourhood (actually really near the Toronto "slum" Michael Moore visited in Bowling for Columbine, which is actually a housing co-op). I've also worked in a community centre in a low-income area, and I've tutored at a high school adjacent to the second most violent neighbourhood in Toronto.

    I have met and known and worked with many people who depended on government services, whether it was EI, or government assisted housing or healthcare. They are just as hard-working, devoted to their families, and generally good people as all the wealthy people I've known, if not more so. And the wealthy people I've known are just as flawed as the poor ones, if not more so. People don't use government services because they're lazy or selfish, they use them because they need them. Without government services a lot of the poor people I've known would have been destitute, no matter how hard-working they were. People have a better chance of improving their circumstances and becoming more productive members of society because of government services.

    That was a very long post, but I just want to make it abundantly clear to Harvie (if he even reads this) that when he says government services are useless, or they're just "handouts" encouraging people to be lazy and live off the dime of good, "hard-working" Canadians, HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT HE'S TALKING ABOUT.

  2. You, Christina, deserve a standing ovation of your own.

  3. Wow, I can't help but echo Marissa's comment, that was excellent Christina. I hope that this helps Neo-Cons will see the error their ways, but I can't help but feel that a closed mind in impervious to reason.

  4. So.

    The argument is that the census allows us to obtain a clearer picture of the disadvantaged, as without it, the government can't impose sufficient will upon the population to rectify that disadvatange.


    Let's assume, for the moment, that government intervention in a significant way, beyond simply make laws to prevent discrimination and educating the public about how discrimination handicaps all of us.

    Let's assume that social engineering on a significant scale is a good idea.

    The argument I keep hearing and seeing is that unless the census is manditory, certain disadvantaged groups won't fill it out, and THEIR needs will not be met.


    "I need your help, but I can't be bothered to fill out a census form for my own advantage unless I'm threatened with prosecution."

    I weep for the society of my children's children.

  5. I like how you don't seriously acknowledge the arguments made against you but just make up something new.

    The argument I keep hearing and seeing is that unless the census is manditory, certain disadvantaged groups won't fill it out, and THEIR needs will not be met.


    "I need your help, but I can't be bothered to fill out a census form for my own advantage unless I'm threatened with prosecution.

    If only disadvantaged groups filled it out it wouldn't be statistically accurate, genius. The government wants an ACCURATE assessment of the population. If only disadvantaged people filled it out then the data would suggest that we are a country of working poor.

  6. How is that information and social engineering working out for female babies in China?

    I understand Central Planners believe they have the best interests at heart.

    Many apologists sprung forth after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

    Did any of you notice the countries that have Central Planners need walls and men with guns to keep their happy citizens in?

    Why are people flocking to Canada, the maple syrup, Celine Dion?

    Look it up, being a Liberal meant Liberty, small and accountable govt.

    BTW how do you justify "coercion" as a necessary trait for the accuracy of the Census long form today?

    All those voluntary polls paid by our tax dollars on the CBC telling us who is in the lead, what issues matter are bunk because they are not mandatory?

  7. To expand on Christina's comment:

    A random sample of the population of a certain size is accurate to approximately 3%, 19 times out of 20, which is considered an acceptable margin of error. The survey's accuracy is assured by the sample size and the randomness with which participants are selected. Surveys done over the phone have a much higher response rate; you get people who would not otherwise participate in a survey through the mail - people who would have procrastinated, or forgotten to mail the survey in, or don't have time to read one, or have trouble saying "no" when they're speaking to a live person, or agree to do it just so their phone will stop ringing.

    A survey to which only disadvantaged groups respond is by definition not representative. You need a certain response rate to make a survey representative, and hence useful. The higher the response rate, the higher quality the data. One way to ensure a high response rate is to make the survey mandatory.

    People, learn how statistics and surveys work before you start spouting off about them.


    And the top four happiest countries in the world, as rated Forbes (a business magazine) are nordic countries, which are social democracies. What's your point?

  8. @Canadiansense

    Yes there are many examples of authoritarian regimes with centrally planned governments who make stupid decisions that oppress their people and then need walls and guns to maintain order.

    But you're making the classic mistake of confusing authoritarianism with socialism. It is the former of these that is the problems. A government that does what it wants in order to maintain and strengthen its own power base.

    Socialism is an idea on how the socio-economic world ought to be ordered. Its presumes that individual people live longer, healthier, happier, and more productive lives when a society works for the collective good. This means that any real socialist country will also be a democratic one.

    What you've done is raise some point about how lots of authoritarian regimes say they're socialist, then conclude that since they're horrible governments socialism must not work.

    That kind of argument is bogus for two reasons. First it presumes that a country claiming to be socialist makes it socialist, which we know isn't the case because no one takes places like China seriously when they claim to be a democracy.

    Second it presumes that this particular point is the only factor that has led them to be a oppressive government. Not other factors like poverty, colonialism, history, etc.

    Lets see what else would have to follow, if we use your same logic.

    China says they're a democracy. Since they're an oppressive government this proves that democracy don't work.

    I say that a bicycle is a car. If I getting into a crash with it, and then it proves that all cars are unsafe.

    Some uninformed conservative moron tries to disprove socialism by conflating with authoritarianism. This proves that all conservatives are morons.

  9. Well. Now that my last comment has been totally misrepresented.

    No one is suggesting that the dominant population will not fill out the census. And you know that.

    Specifically, from CBC News July 23:

    Participation rates among northerners, particularly disadvantaged northerners and Inuit, will drop dramatically, making it difficult to assess educational, housing and social needs, officials across the North say.

    "We'd end up with, you know, challenges with the immigrant population not filling out the forms, potentially First Nations communities not filling out the forms, and people in low income not filling out the forms," said Greg Finnegan, director of the Yukon Bureau of Statistics. "That would be the expected situation. We do a lot of survey work in Canada and the evidence all points to that."


    My point is completely valid.

    The problem is the people who want help won't be bothered to fill out the census if it's voluntary.


    Go ahead and criticize how insensitive I am for not "forcing them" to help themselves.

    People will rise (or fall) to the expectations we place upon them.

  10. Depression, apathy, language barriers. Have you ever dealt with those things?

  11. Also, more people in general will do the survey if it's mandatory. Higher response rate = good thing. The point still stands.