- I'd like to introduce Kenneth Prewitt, director of the
U.S. Bureau of the Census, to Moses, a Masai elder in the remote Loita
Hills of Kenya.
- At the time I knew him, Moses owned a herd of upwards
of 100 cows, by my count. He took great joy and satisfaction in them; cattle
are the only wealth that means anything to the Masai. Moses knew each of
his cows by name, by appearance, even by the place in the line of march
she would assume when the herd traveled to water at the river. But when
I asked Moses how many cows he had, he became mysterious and evasive. The
Masai, like many other people around the world, hate to enumerate. They
believe that if the number of cows, for example, is known, it might be
easier for someone to place a curse upon them. The Evil Eye likes to work
with numbers, much as a social scientist does. The Census Bureau would
never get anything out of Moses.
- The world is divided between 1) those who, like Moses,
resist all quantifications as being vaguely menacing, even evil, or at
least as being what we, in advanced societies, call invasions of privacy;
and 2) those with the social engineer's ambitious turn of mind. I side
- My short form of the United States Census 2000 arrived
in the mail the other day, in an envelope that warned: "YOUR RESPONSE
IS REQUIRED BY LAW."
- Not a friendly beginning.
- The form started by asking "1. How many people were
living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1,
2000?" All right. It's not April 1 yet, but never mind. The Constitution
says the government should count the citizens from time to time.
- But then the bureaucratic oyster-shuckers begin to work
the blade between the shells and into the private life: name, phone number,
sex, date of birth. Grumble. Okay, the IRS has all this anyway. And so
- As we came to questions eight and nine, however, my adrenaline
began to flow. The shuckers wanted to know: Is "Person 1" Spanish/Hispanic/Latino?
Mexican, Mexican-Am., Chicano? Puerto Rican? Cuban? White? Black? American
Indian or Alaska Native? Asian Indian? Chinese? Filipino? Japanese? Korean?
Vietnamese? Native Hawaiian? Guamanian or Chamorro? Samoan? Other Pacific
- Why not also ask: Turkish? Bulgarian? French? Basque?
Nepalese? Maori? Egyptian? Sicilian? Finnish?
- The only decent answer is "American." Refuse
to cooperate with a racial inquiry that in its implications is bizarrely
reminiscent of Nazi practice or of the blood rules of South African apartheid.
The Census Bureau, in trying to count Americans, seems to have misplaced
the entire meaning of America. The long form of Census 2000, sent to one
in every six households, is considerably more intrusive, filled with questions
about personal finances and even household plumbing.
- The intentions of the census are allegedly benevolent.
I do not believe it. In the first place, racial sifting and enumeration
and categorization are inherently wrong. If the purpose is to provide a
citizen count in order to determine congressional districts ,Äî
fine. But, insidiously, we are told it is necessary to have all the detail,
racial and otherwise, in order to apportion some $182 billion in federal
government funds. In other words, we are being bribed with $182 billion
of our own money ,Äî bribed to accept intrusions that should
trouble not only anti-government crackpots but anyone concerned about the
way that social engineers, basing their work in the bogus but widely accepted
assumptions of the social sciences, endanger freedom.
- The social scientist's false assumption is this: That
human beings and human behavior can be measured, quantified, predicted
and manipulated in the same way, with the same rigor, that prevails in
the natural sciences. It is not true. No end of evil and stupidity have
proceeded from the premise, an essentially utopian conceit responsible
for various totalitarian idiocies (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, for example) and
lesser home-grown follies of social engineering like Pruitt-Igo, the nightmare
high-rise ghetto in St. Louis that had to be blasted to rubble in 1972,
only a few years after its erection by the visionary social engineers of
HUD, who had all the numbers and social theories on their side.
- Side with my friend Moses. Beware the Evil Eye
- Copyright 2000 TIME Inc.
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