Monday, May 21, 2012

Today in Republicans don't understand science

At least this time it's something that isn't too easy to wrap your head around:

But last week, the Republican-led House voted to eliminate the survey altogether, on the grounds that the government should not be butting its nose into Americans’ homes.

“This is a program that intrudes on people’s lives, just like the Environmental Protection Agency or the bank regulators,” said Daniel Webster, a first-term Republican congressman from Florida who sponsored the relevant legislation.

“We’re spending $70 per person to fill this out. That’s just not cost effective,” he continued, “especially since in the end this is not a scientific survey. It’s a random survey.”

In fact, the randomness of the survey is precisely what makes the survey scientific, statistical experts say.

Randomness is part of what ensures that you aren't taking too big much of your sample from a specific location or group of people, which would skew the data. Not understanding this isn't the worst example of Republicans not understanding science. But when you are going to take the time to criticize this important thing then you should know what you are talking about. As bad as him wanting to get rid of this based on his poor understanding of science is, I thought this was really bad:

Target recently released a video explaining how it used these census data to determine where to locate new stores. Economic development organizations and other business groups say they use the numbers to figure out where potential workers are.

Mr. Webster says that businesses should instead be thanking House Republicans for reducing the government’s reach.

“What really promotes business in this country is liberty,” he said, “not demand for information.”

Mr. Webster and other critics have gone so far as to say the American Community Survey is unconstitutional. Of course, the basic decennial census is specifically enumerated in the United States Constitution, and courts have ruled that this longer form of the census survey is constitutional as well.

You can see that he hasn't actually read the constitution. The founders put a census in the constitution because they understood that a democracy requires information. The gov't needs it for representation purposes, along with all of the things the article describes. And the people need it in order to make decisions about their representatives and policies. Plus, businesses need information so that they can maximize their assets.

The availability of information about the world is essential to both democracy and capitalism. Both systems need information in order to keep them legitimate. Since one of the outcomes of both of those systems is liberty and you need information to keep them going, demand for information is part of liberty. Though like the idea of gathering information and the importance of randomness in surveys, I don't think Mr. Webster understands liberty.

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