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Confidentiality Expires For 1940 Census Records

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the send-more-hard-drives dept.

Stats 311

Hugh Pickens writes writes "In spring of 1940, the Census Bureau sent out more than 120,000 fact-gatherers, known as 'enumerators,' to survey the nation's 33 million homes and 7 million farms. Now as the 72 years of confidentiality expires, the National Archives website buckled under the load as the 1940 census records were released and 1.9 million users hit the archives servers in the first four hours the data went public and at one point, the Archives said, its computers were receiving 100,000 requests per second. Data miners will have the opportunity to pick and chip through more than 3.8 million digital images of census schedules, maps and other sociological minutiae. What will we learn from this mother lode? The pivotal year 1940 'marked the beginnings of a shift from a depressed peacetime to a prosperous wartime,' says David E. Kyvig, author of Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1939. The vast data dump, Kyvig says, will allow historians 'to look closely at particular communities and how people within them were doing in terms of employment, income and material comforts.' The 1940 census was the first Census that looked deeper into the details of much of American life. 'As we see how the country evolved over the subsequent 20 years, where we have aggregate census data ... we ought to be able to see more clearly how government spending bettered everyday life, confirmed Keynesian economic theory and revealed that, before the war, the New Deal did too little, rather than too much, to stimulate the U.S. economy."" Get all 18TB of it while it's hot.

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correlation != causation (5, Insightful)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557873)

Just because the government was able to implement a Keynesian solution to that economic problem, does not mean that it holds the solution to every economic problem, for instance one that involves post - peak natural resource production.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

zippo01 (688802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557899)

Agreed, If you look hard enough for something, you will find it everywhere. That's all this is. Someone looking for an excuse to promote huge government stimulus and spending. The difference here is WWII. Unless you have that special set of circumstances this data is meaningless to make that argument. Just in case you are wondering here is the 216 digit number: 884509627386359275033751967 943067599621731590401694134 434007629683591574337516791 197615733475195375920401694 343151239621353184932676605 800621596380716399501371459 954387507655892533875618750 354029981152863950711207613. How many get the reference...

Re:correlation != causation (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558015)

It's from Pi and it crashed Euclid.

Re:correlation != causation (4, Insightful)

supadjg (842662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558061)

It's from Darren Aronofsky film "Pi", which has some great lines:

"Hold on. You have to slow down. You're losing it. You have to take a breath. Listen to yourself. You're connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had and some religious hogwash. You want to find the number 216 in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. 216 steps from a mere street corner to your front door. 216 seconds you spend riding on the elevator. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere."

"As soon as you discard scientific rigor, you're no longer a mathematician, you're a numerologist."

Re:correlation != causation (1, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558621)

. Someone looking for an excuse to promote huge government stimulus and spending. The difference here is WWII.

WWII was the hugest government stimulus and spending. It was government spending without limits, which at some point is what it took to get out of the first Great Depression. It helped that our competitors were all turned to rubble, but the Keynes effect was so great that we ended up with a recovery strong enough to allow us to help those competitors rebuild.

Keynes is not only good for the economy, it's good for the soul.

Re:correlation != causation (3, Insightful)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558681)

Keynes is not only good for the economy, it's good for the soul.

Really?? Before Keynes no country ever survived a depression?

Re:correlation != causation (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558719)

Not to mention after the war. The United States was the largest nation that had the least collateral damage. So the decades to follow while Europe and Japan was rebuilding the United States had a near monopoly on trade. The USSR was a threat however the way they implemented communism it created a situation where people didn't have that much motivation to build very competitive products, with a few exceptions mostly in weapons.
Combined with people living on rations for years, a government forced saving program. When the war was over, people had money, they wanted to spend it and with the GI Bill a lot of these people went to college and got better educated. As well as their time in the war gave a lot of these people discipline that they wouldn't have gotten else ware. While some of the Stimulus spending helped, but not so much in terms of spending but in the fact that it rebuild and improved key areas of the infrastructure.

Monopoly + (Disciplined + Educated) Work Force + With a lot of money saved up + Improved Infrastructure = Dominate Economy.

Re:correlation != causation (-1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558877)

The situation in the USSR had less to do with motivation, and more to do with geo politics than anything else.

The USSR was trying to become an industrialized nation during WW2, and they didn't want anything to do with the war originally, that is until Germany decided to invade them anyways. It was the USSR who actually won WW2 and took the heaviest losses, but to survive they had to move from light manufacturing to heavy manufacturing for war time purposes, and then had trouble moving back to light manufacturing afterwards. This was compounded by the fact that the american elite was mostly greedy business, as they had already proven by neo-colonialism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and dating back to even the compromises made by the founding fathers in the constitution. To them the USSR was a threat to their economic interests, as they had a completely different world view, that of sustainability and equality. USA and UK created "operation unthinkable" which was a strategic analysis for the invasion and nuclear bombing of russia, and instead decided they wanted to fight an ideological battle and focus on containment. Russia became paranoid and autocratic as a defensive measure, and since it was less developed had to spend more per GDP on defense, and became gradually marginalized as its trade policy advantages dwindled from the containment.

Re:correlation != causation (2)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559035)

I'm pretty sure what also helped was that the ability to produce overseas and import the crap instead of making it at home was severely limited due to the likeliness of transports being sunk.

Want to get the economy back on track? Get it back home.

As Krugman says (1, Troll)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557905)

We need a good war. Kill a few million and there's more money left for the survivors to pay for the credit bubble. We can't have creditors losing their investments, getting wiped out. Gotta keep those zombies walking.
 

Re:As Krugman says (0, Troll)

jcr (53032) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558029)

Krugman's exactly the kind of ivory-tower asshat who believes that there's such a thing as a good war.

-jcr

Re:As Krugman says (5, Interesting)

Shining Celebi (853093) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558541)

Krugman's exactly the kind of ivory-tower asshat who believes that there's such a thing as a good war.

No, he doesn't. He's said the right kind of war would help the economy, not that any war is a good thing. Krugman is consistently anti-war. He's also said an arms built-up to fight an alien invasion would be good for the economy and have great secondary effects (from research and whatnot.) He's also not seriously advocated that we arm up to fight an imaginary alien invasion.

But you can sit their in your smug, self-righteous libertarianism and keep pretending Krugman is a hack who hasn't consistently made very accurate predictions and the Nobel prize in economics is a fraud

Re:As Krugman says (4, Informative)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558605)

The economics nobel prize is pretty strange. It is actually the "Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel".

Re:As Krugman says (1, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558639)

But you can sit their in your smug, self-righteous libertarianism and keep pretending Krugman is a hack who hasn't consistently made very accurate predictions and the Nobel prize in economics is a fraud

He plans to do exactly that. At some point, their claim that black is white and up is down is all libertarians have.

Re:As Krugman says (3, Insightful)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559003)

The main claim is that government often creates more problems than it solves, then gets stuck in a loop of never ending quick fixes each generating more unintended consequences.

Re:As Krugman says (5, Interesting)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558045)

This is called "The Broken Window Fallacy", but is essentially a cornerstone of alot of economic policy, because rebuilding things (that were destroyed) creates jobs. In fact I hear alot about 'creating jobs', for example recent talks in my state for a casino, even though its a negative sum game. Even part of our throw away culture is defined by the measurement of GDP for economic success, since the sale of a single part contributes less than the sale of a whole new device. Now its no surprise that warfare, exploitation of and shipping resources around the world, may have not been the most efficient use of our time. But I have a belief that had the greedy capitalist pigs, not gone to war to protect their 'private property' from the 'communist looters', we would have ended up with a more 'free market' than we have now. Furthermore the more homogeneous development and lower diminished returns on both natural and human capital, would have increased aggregate human development and economic productivity, and probably have reduced the population and factored resource inefficiencies.

America has a god given right to demand a bigger piece of the pie, even if that means destroying some of it in the process, because were exceptional and gods chosen people. Which is essentially our 19th and early 20th century intellectual rhetoric, we found what was essentially virgin land that we exploited, in order to create our version of order in the world.

Re:As Krugman says (2)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558405)

This is called "The Broken Window Fallacy",

Actually there's a difference since War may involve killing lots of people.

If the number of people goes down but the amount of assets and resources don't go down as much, it means the survivors/victors have more.

Re:As Krugman says (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558463)

This theory assumes infinite resources. Reality is a polar opposite, as European nations discovered after WW2. The continent was literally plundered of natural resources that were strip-mined to fuel war machines.

Re:As Krugman says (1)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558739)

That situation sounds like the accounts I've heard of Europe in the Plague years. Survivors of the bubonic plague inherited the wealth of the dead, suddenly changing a lot of assumptions about feudal class relations.

Assets and resources went down quite a lot in WW2. I've read Marxist accounts that describe this as what really ended the Great Depression and led to the Long Boom of 1940-1972. Traditionally, Marxists expected economic crises to get worse and worse each time, with shallower booms and deeper busts. The idea is that over time, as assets accumulate, when you invest in new and improved production, you're spending a relatively larger proportion on assets like machinery, infrastructure, and so on, and a smaller proportion on labor. But labor is the part that actually creates new wealth, and is the real source of profit; so the profit margin tends to decline. To make things worse, the main thing you produce is more assets for further production. There are all sorts of complicating factors, of course. But the upshot is, one way to resolve an economic crisis is to destroy lots and lots of assets; then not only is there plenty of business to be had producing more productive assets, but the ratio of productive assets to labor has gone down, so the profit margin increases.

So I tend to think of modern capitalism as being largely based upon the fallacy of the broken window. Replacing broken windows is an opportunity cost for the community as a whole, but it still looks like a good deal for the glazier, and we've got a society run by glaziers.

Re:As Krugman says (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558781)

Are you sure you explained that properly?

Re:As Krugman says (1)

FoolishOwl (1698506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558811)

I'm at the eleventh hour of a twelve hour night shift, so it wouldn't surprise me if I blundered in the details. What strikes you as off?

Re:As Krugman says (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558947)

The idea is that over time, as assets accumulate, when you invest in new and improved production, you're spending a relatively larger proportion on assets like machinery, infrastructure, and so on, and a smaller proportion on labor.

Why is "asset accumulation" rather than increasingly productive technology seen as the cause for less money spent on labor? It takes ten man hours up front to build the machine then you only have to pay one man to run it long term. What about when new technology comes along making all the old assets irrelevant?

But labor is the part that actually creates new wealth, and is the real source of profit; so the profit margin tends to decline.

You just jumped into this point. I don't follow at all. What role does using resources in novel ways play in creating new wealth?

But the upshot is, one way to resolve an economic crisis is to destroy lots and lots of assets; then not only is there plenty of business to be had producing more productive assets, but the ratio of productive assets to labor has gone down, so the profit margin increases.

Why exactly does profit margin increase? (this is related to your earlier point)

So I tend to think of modern capitalism as being largely based upon the fallacy of the broken window. Replacing broken windows is an opportunity cost for the community as a whole, but it still looks like a good deal for the glazier, and we've got a society run by glaziers.

I'm sure this occurs, not so ready to jump to the conclusion it is a driving factor behind "modern capitalism" (by which I assume you mean corporatism)

Re:As Krugman says (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558941)

This is an accurate assessment of how modern capitalism operates, but i think the comprehension problem is that he skipped over alot of the labor theory of value, which is where alot of left/right disagreements occur and makes it hard to understand. I'll see if i can conjure up a better explanation.

Re:As Krugman says (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558819)

No, you are thinking money in terms of your own bank account as a limited fund system. An Economy isn't as much about how much money but how much of it is moving. The more people the more money that can be moving at any point and a stronger economy. Now what slows it down is people who stop moving their money around as much. Such as our current situation where the Banks had stopped giving loans, that causes the people who needs the loans to not make purchases right away and save up funds. So the flow of money isn't as fluid anymore it is building being saved up. Which when it passes a threshold of when this happens too much that the person who is trying to save the money isn't getting as much revenue from a combination of lack of expansion and other people not spending to save their own money.

A higher population normally helps reduce this problem by averaging out the savers with the spenders. But also with a larger work force you have more competition where you have higher quality people to choose from. It feels like it sucks for the common Joe having so many people to compete with jobs, However if they are willing to see where their skill sets are they can find a job at their level. And jobs are available because there are more people who are buying goods and services.

Part of the success of the Baby Boomers was the influx in population. Today we see those immigrants as pull on our society, however I am under the impression if their skin was a little lighter they would have been welcomed as an important pool to keep the US population up, so we can keep expanding.

Re:As Krugman says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558519)

What the fuck are you talking about? You clearly don't understand the broken window fallacy in the slightest, and opening a casino is in no way a negative sum game. Honestly your entire post sounds like a 13 year old trying to string together what he thinks is an "adult" sentence by running every other word through a thesaurus and picking the synonym with the most letters. And then of course sprinkling in a generous amount of meaningless libertarian rhetoric and name calling.

Re:As Krugman says (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558593)

Sounds like your the one who doesn't know what they're talking about, it doesn't make sense to you because you haven't learned it yet.

Re:As Krugman says (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559057)

America has a god given right to demand a bigger piece of the pie, even if that means destroying some of it in the process, because were exceptional and gods chosen people. Which is essentially our 19th and early 20th century intellectual rhetoric, we found what was essentially virgin land that we exploited, in order to create our version of order in the world.

Now I know that you're stating this in an ironic sense, but I actually got a letter -- this year -- from my US Senator stating that he still believes in American Exceptionalism, actually using that phrase or a slight variation thereof.

Re:correlation != causation (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557919)

Keynesian economics didn't end the depression, eliminating many of the idiotic New Deal laws did.

Of course bombing many of America's competitors into the stone age and bankrupting most of the others so it became the world's manufacturing base helped a lot too...

Re:correlation != causation (3, Interesting)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557983)

Keynesian economics did increase the total workforce participation, but your right about the destroyed industrialized countries being a part of it, so did the neo-colonialism of the late 19th and early 20th century. Now that we can no longer access such cheap resources, and don't have a significant advantage in manufacturing, we (and also Europe) are left with an inflated economic bubble that's collapsing. Simply put is that our total factor productivity is too low and resources too high, to be able to demand the amount of money that we expect from our labor. And though Keynesian economics might help by being able to tax unproductive consumption, it also hinges on the ability to target more productive investments, which is essentially trading consumer spending for capital expenditures. But even if you completely automate production of a thing, say for instance the mining of copper which now requires demolishing entire mountains, its not going to lower the price enough to make it as affordable as it used to be.

Re:correlation != causation (4, Insightful)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558107)

It's impossible to say what would have happened without the war.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558401)

if war > destruction
and destruction > loss of capital
and loss of capital > lower productivity
if war > non productive labor
and non productive labor > lower productivity
therefore war > lower productivity

we can say that war created technological advances, but its not only war that create technological advances, but capital expenditures themselves that do. I could write a logic calculus expression for it, but I'm too lazy to.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558503)

WWII, and maybe WWI, were exceptions as the country was already in an extremely low production state. Sending all those men off to war, opening up the factories, it was like bringing god knows how many people off of unemployment/layoffs into turn-key operations ready to go immediately.

We've since transitioned to where such factories and what-not are shipped over seas or sold as scrap instead of sitting. Wars are more forced overtime.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558693)

My understanding was that there was a low production state, partly driven by the protestant work ethic, to under consume and over save. Our economy wasn't designed around that paradigm, and people suffered as a result of the collapse of the economic system, as it created a negative feedback loop in the debt/interest based economic system. Of course the whole idea of compound interest in a financial system, which is tied to a physical world of finite limitations is absurd, but their solution was to tie individual psycho-social needs to consumer goods. Of course its easy to criticize in hindsight and harder to actually solve, but this is one of many examples of how greed has hindered social progress, stemming back to the founding fathers who also had to capitulate to private interests over the public good.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558907)

I find the phrase "under consume and over save" to be hilarious. Obviously if you can make do with less, you can make do with less! Why consume when you don't really need to?

Re:correlation != causation (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558565)

I think reality is more complicated than that.

Re:correlation != causation (1)

reve_etrange (2377702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558435)

It's impossible to say what would have happened without the war.

So what? [wikipedia.org]

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558815)

I don't get how government spending for a war, or government spending for infrastructure is different in any Keynesian way.

Re:correlation != causation (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558285)

Keynesian economics didn't end the depression, eliminating many of the idiotic New Deal laws did.

...

Which appears to be a lesson without HOPE of being learned, precluding CHANGE for the better....

Re:correlation != causation (1)

Y2KDragon (525979) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558323)

Right, because it was the US that started that war by invading Poland....

Re:correlation != causation (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558391)

Political parties in Germany got funding to stop the "Communists" - US funds did flow into Germany.
Small German political parties got funds for new trucks, rallies -
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar [guardian.co.uk]
The US invests in people - Latin America, Asia, Africa - the cold war was full of strong friendly dictators, keep going back a few more years...

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558881)

But the war stoked investment in Research & Development...

I just don't understand why this part gets left out. With some urgency it seems both individuals and nations can do great things, but when they get fat and lazy... watch out. If we could just leave the "war" part out. Hm... how might that work? Oh well! can't figure it out. Is dancing with the stars on?

Re:correlation != causation (2, Insightful)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557981)

/.is really trolling today. I've seen multiple stories on the 1940 census records release, and zero mentioned this discredited economic theory.

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558537)

It was not discredited. I'm not sure where you're getting that statement from.

"Advocates of Keynesian economics argue that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes which require active policy responses by the public sector, particularly monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle."

Are you seriously going to try to argue that that isn't exactly what happened in 2009 as a result of decreasing regulation and increasing private sector control? The housing bubble busted because the banks got greedy. QED?

Re:correlation != causation (2, Informative)

georgenh16 (1531259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558615)

I will argue exactly that: what happened in 2009 was a result of government social engineering forcing quasi-businesses Fannie+Freddie to give loans to people who couldn't pay them back.

If Keynsian economics "works" then why was the depression so long? Why do we still have unemployment above 8% after the "stimulus"?
The answer is it doesn't work, and FDR+Obama made things worse.

Every dollar the government spends is a dollar taken from the free market.

Re:correlation != causation (2)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558787)

While it is true that every dollar spent by government equates to a dollar from the free market, but that doesn't mean that the ROI on the money is less in all government spending programs than the money would have been in the free market. More specifically government spending is used for positive externalities, where the aggregate ROI exceeds the individual ROI (like firefighting, roads, education). Part of the reason why we have higher unemployment, is that the work itself is becoming automated and less necessary. As total factor productivity rises and resources become more expensive, there will become many more unemployed and poor people, and it will have nothing to do with obama or FDR or even bush.

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558789)

The crash wasn't caused by Freddie and Fannie alone. The private sector helped a lot spreading the chaos worldwide.

Also your example is the exact opposite of what Keynes proposed: Government should invest into a depressed economy and cut back investments in times of plenty - Freddie and Fannie didn't invest, but gave away the money in a Bull market.

Every dollar the government spends is a dollar taken from the free market.

That's only the case if the money government spends is being held up somewhere and it doesn't reenter the money cycle. George W. Bush's tax cuts are a good example of slowing down the money cycle.

Re:correlation != causation (5, Interesting)

jcombel (1557059) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558891)

not sure if trolling, or just revisionist

fannie+freddie were not forced by law to to give subprime loans. they were compelled by the market forces, as propelled by de/unregulated banks (2004 lowered Debt Capital Rule, unregulated derivatives and CDO market, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, DIDMCA, adjustable-rate mortages), which allowed the major institutions to over-leverage themselves while dealing out predatory ARMs.

if fannie+freddie had not existed the 2008 FC would have still happened in the private sector alone. northern rock, countrywide, bear stearns, lehman brothers, merril lynch would have still all collapsed/required government takeover. the (de)regulatory framework simply allowed them astronomic profits at substantial risk, with the knowledge that any failure would cause systemic collapse, thus requiring government action, thus mitigating any risk to the personal wealth of the execs and traders.

yes, fannie+freddie were headed by some fuckups that made decisions very similar to the large banks. but they were the decisions of private executives; these organizations were not compelled by law to seek inappropriate mortgages and then leverage them on the CDO market. they were compelled by high profits and low effective risk, just like the other speculative lenders.

Re:correlation != causation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558899)

so Fannie+Freddie caused the Euro problems ?

Re:correlation != causation (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558933)

The unemployment is simply a reflection of the available workforce not matching the needs of the employers. There's less and less low-qualified jobs, and that's a good thing. The problem is that the workforce is 20+ years behind the needs. We don't need more unqualified people. We need people who are educated and smart -- not on paper, but in reality. It's incredibly hard to find qualified people for many positions. Yes, in the U.S.

Re:correlation != causation (2)

David Greene (463) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558943)

Every dollar the government spends is a dollar taken from the free market.

No. Those dollars are used to hire contractors, etc., all from your "free market," which is just "the market." There is no separation between government spending and any other spending. It all goes to the same places.

Re:correlation != causation (1, Funny)

nicolas.bouthors (243330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558757)

Mandatory XKCD http://xkcd.com/552/

Re:correlation != causation (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 2 years ago | (#39559055)

Just because the government was able to implement a Keynesian solution to that economic problem, does not mean that it holds the solution to every economic problem, for instance one that involves post - peak natural resource production.

However, governments have dealt with this particular problem - scarcity - before through rationing.

Also, to put it bluntly, the choice is between the government or the same bunch of monsters who brought us this latest economic meltdown to line their own pockets; in other words, incompetence or malice. Competence is no good if it's working against common good; a blind chicken makes for a better ally than a hungry lion.

Nobody really likes the government, but the alternative is even worse.

Why was it confidential? (2, Insightful)

Henriok (6762) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557911)

OK it's somewhat sensitive information, but why was it confidential for so long?

Re:Why was it confidential? (5, Funny)

ClintJCL (264898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557973)

Because it's somewhat sensitive information.

Re:Why was it confidential? (1)

petman (619526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557977)

I'm stabbing in the dark, but it might be to ensure that most of the people surveyed in the census is dead, so any privacy issue is minimised.

Re:Why was it confidential? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557999)

The rumors of my death have been highly exaggerated.

Re:Why was it confidential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558191)

If they're hoping to make sure everyone's dead, then they shouldn't have picked 72 years.
I have living uncles born before 1940, and even their parents (read: my grandparents) are still alive in their 90s.

p.s. My grandfather who served in WWII died about 5 years ago.

Re:Why was it confidential? (2)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558571)

Our State Representative who served in WWII is only retiring this election because they redistricted him out of a district. He was very skilled in finding ways to apply being born/raised in the depression as an advantage.

But yeah, they should have waited a few more years (a decade or two) if that was their goal unless they had a hard percentage of estimated survivors as a trigger.

Re:Why was it confidential? (4, Informative)

uberdilligaff (988232) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558217)

Because that was the law under which the sensitive information was collected. The average US life expectancy in 1935 was 61.7 years, so 72 years would mean that the privacy issues would be moot for most of the folks enumerated in the Census -- they weren't expected to be around to complain 72 years later. The laws that established the Census go way back -- I don't know when the 72 years criterion was established. Life expectancy was even shorter the farther back you go.

Re:Why was it confidential? (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558383)

LOL human death back then, as now, was a bathtub distribution, like electronics parts. So most people died as little kids or elderly. Back then pretty much all preemies died as a general rule, for example, unlike now. All the "average" means is the ratio of how many died as a baby vs died as an old man. I'd guess that means about two kids died young for every 8 or so that died elderly, which seems to fit in with actual genealogical data I have on my ancestors...

The "real story" (in quotes because even pages of and pages of this stuff is still merely a summary of the real sources) can be read at

http://www.census.gov/history/www/reference/genealogy/the_72_year_rule.html [census.gov]

The exact number 72 was selected because in 1952 they wanted to give away the 1880 census information. Essentially declassify it by transfer from the BC to the NA. I think you can see the math there, 1952 - 72 = 1880 The exact 72 year range has stuck since then.

The legal BS behind the general range of "more than 70 years" was selected, as you'll read at the link above, because the census officers had to / have to take an oath to never release the data. Assuming someone lied on their application and got hired anyway at 10 (unlikely), and assuming that even in extenuating circumstances there are no govt employees of any sort over the age of 82 (unlikely), that means waiting 72 years means the oath takers successfully did their duty and while it was in their power, blah blah blah, they never released the data. Essentially its your usual govt corruption. Technically according to the rule of the law the folks who gathered your 2010 census data will Never permit the release of the 2010 census data .... Never ... of course they'll be dead or retired eventually at which point it'll be released anyway in 2082, assuming the country doesn't self destruct first, at which time the oath takers will all be dead or retired.

Its legal bullshit because if you're convicted of a crime by a judge, just because a judge dies or retires doesn't mean you're a free man. Another example would be the priest who married me and my wife about a dozen years ago by the process of signing the marriage license recently died... that does not automagically make us single. Also from my military experience the death of a guy who classified a document doesn't automagically free that document.

If someone invents an immortality treatment, we'll have to come up with some new legal technicality bullshit. But for now 72 years works and is the tradition.

Re:Why was it confidential? (4, Funny)

Skater (41976) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558717)

Essentially its your usual govt corruption.

I like how you just equated people following the law with government corruption. No bias here! Good show.

Re:Why was it confidential? (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558579)

In the UK they release census data after 1000 years ... we have recently got the 1911 census (we have them every 10 years but started in 1841)

Is this a reflection of expected lifespans in the US and UK ?

Re:Why was it confidential? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558925)

In the UK they release census data after 1000 years ... we have recently got the 1911 census

Wow. I missed 900 years or so. Where is my flying car?
Is this a reflection of expected lifespans in the US and UK ?

You UKers live a long freaking time.

Re:Why was it confidential? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558379)

Because if it had not been promised to remain confidential, people wouldn't have filled it truthfully.

Slashdot "news" (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39557939)

I heard about this last week(!) on AlJazeera(!)...

Keynesian solution my ass! (1)

olddoc (152678) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557987)

Why did you say "we ought to be able to see more clearly how government spending bettered everyday life" Why don't you say "we ought to be able to see more clearly how world war bettered everyday life" "Clearly in the 1990s and early 2000s there were too few wars rather than too many to stimulate the US economy" correlation !=causation Still I would rather have a 1940 size US government with a 1940 size budget and 1940 amount of federal regulations. (and a 2012 respect for civil rights)

Re:Keynesian solution my ass! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558025)

Still I would rather have a 1940 size US government with a 1940 size budget and 1940 amount of federal regulations. (and a 2012 respect for civil rights)

That "2012 respect for civil rights" and today's big government are intrisincally connected. It is big government that forces people to associate with folk they'd prefer to avoid, and takes away the right of local levels of government to manage local communities in the way the people see fit.

Good, decent people just don't want to have to deal with niggers. It's only with an oppressive behemoth of big federal government that forces them to. Better we go back to a smaller government that recognizes man's inherent freedom of association.

Re:Keynesian solution my ass! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558313)

Yes, this idiot was a troll, but such ideas left unanswered settle in and sound reasonable. Man's "freedome to associat" wasn't the problem. It was the "freedom to abuse" concealed under that "freedom to associate". The good, decent people up north and around the world "dealt with niggers". The agricultural industries of the American South benefitted economically from slaves tending their fields, and it was easier to hate them as subhuman because of their skin color difference.

But it's much easier to steal from the colored folk, and blame them for your woes, and use them as cheap labor in agricullture to support businesses, than to "associate" with them. The caste sytem remains common in many nations. You think those Indian engineers we get here with H1B visas are racially indifferent? They're all Brahmins!!!!! The lower castes don't get the education!!!!

Re:Keynesian solution my ass! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558969)

Modded parent up, honestly. You all see a troll, I see either "hilarious" or "insightful".
Funny because it's so unreasonable, or insightful because maybe sometimes big government DOES have it's uses (allows people to be forced into change that's actually good). I think the dialogue could be helpful in this regard. So, Troll or not, I applaud the parent for up and speaking out.

At face value, parent? What's your problem with "niggers"? Bad experience? I'm sorry to hear that.
  I've met "niggers" of every race (if you'll permit my usage) and I can tell you that with some education and a more stable lifestyle I'm willing to bet most of them want to participate in society and do something useful just like the rest of us. Or just post on Slashdot all day :P

now I'm going to run away from the ensuing flames.... eek!

Re:Keynesian solution my ass! (2)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558077)

I believe that government has a role to play in the economy, but not one that is in bed with the private sector, which is where most of the waste is derived from. However if your talking about it from a liberty perspective, there is essentially two forms of liberty (actually a plurality), the government and private sector both advocate differing varieties.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty#Freedom_as_a_triadic_relation

1940 regulation? (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558305)

Still I would rather have a 1940 size US government with a 1940 size budget and 1940 amount of federal regulations. (and a 2012 respect for civil rights)

  • Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

All of the above and more [withylaw.com] are from the postwar period. I don't think you can have it both ways: 2012 respect for civil rights is only possible through 2012 regulation. One could say the same about clean water, food safety, highway safety, and other important issues.

Re:1940 regulation? (1)

mjr167 (2477430) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558369)

I'm not sure what not discriminating against people has to do with regulating the price of electricity. Also, how does groping people in the airport promote civil rights? Can you please enlighten us?

You seem to implying that we would all be bigots if the government wasn't carefully watching over our shoulder to make sure we met our quotas.

Re:1940 regulation? (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558525)

I'm not claiming that all regulation is good. The examples you cite (regulating price of electricity, the TSA) are clear examples of stupid, counterproductive regulation.

My position is that without Federal law to suppress a host of discriminatory practices, the bigots would still be in charge. Without Federal law to prevent dioxin in the ground water, companies would still be dumping toxic waste. The quality of life we take for granted did not magically emerge as we all became enlightened. It required the big stick of government regulation to stop the elite from abusing the rest of the public.

Re:1940 regulation? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558483)

One could say the same about clean water, food safety, highway safety, and other important issues.

No, no one would not. Water: dirtier now than in 1940, full of chlorine and chloramines and yet STILL biologically unsafe. Highway safety: Ticket speeders, ignore left lane cloggers even in states where it's illegal. Food safety: They're actually arresting people and pouring bleach on food that people want to eat, while promoting processed foods which are inherently harmful with deliberate lies from the NIH.

18 Terabytes?! (4, Interesting)

ndogg (158021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39557997)

Someone gonna torrent that?

Re:18 Terabytes?! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558013)

I think you can get it from megaupload.com

Re:18 Terabytes?! (1)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558127)

Someone gonna torrent that?

Piraaaaaaaate!

Re:18 Terabytes?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558311)

You already are; you just don't know it yet.

Computers were receiving 100,000 requests per second.

Some former-USSR-country-not-to-be-named cracker probably accidentally wget the whole .gov from a few million USian bots.

Re:18 Terabytes?! (5, Insightful)

arth1 (260657) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558601)

No, the reason for the 100,000 requests per second is largely - drumroll - mormons.
No, I'm not kidding. Honestly.

Part of their religion is that they hold baptisms for dead people, so they allegedly get a chance to become mormons after their death, and thus gain greater rewards[*]. In order to do that, they engage extensively in genealogy. Really extensively.

Their accuracy isn't much to brag about, though. I discovered through a search engine that someone in the LDS church had done a baptism "for" my departed father. And got most of his details wrong, including his birth year and family relations. But now it's "official" as far as they're concerned.
They refuse to strike this from their records - I am "welcome to" submit correct information, but I don't want them to have that either. How about they stick to their own, and leave the rest of us alone?

But yeah, mormons cause a huge part of the traffic.

[*]: Like being reunited with one's loved ones, or becoming a Mr. and Mrs. God of a new planet. No, I'm not making this up. Religion is stranger than fiction.

Re:18 Terabytes?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558473)

Yes, came here for the torrent.. anyone hook me up?

Re:18 Terabytes?! (1)

sohmc (595388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558501)

I had this same question. My assumption is that should the gov't provide a torrent, the MPAA/RIAA/etc would get all up in arms that the administration is supporting copyright infringement. It's completely incorrect, but when has that ever stopped the MPAA/RIAA/etc from complaining?

So instead of "sharing the load" between servers, they just put the data on a server and said, "Good luck. We're all counting on you."

I'm sure some slashdotter somewhere has torrented it though. Too bad I'm at work and my company considers torrents "hacking."

Re:18 Terabytes?! (1)

Orgasmatron (8103) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558845)

It looks like the website linked is designed to avoid oversharing. There doesn't seem to be any way to export the data in bulk.

Keynsian Theories (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558083)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Keynes suggest government deficit spending during depressions and recessions... then pay it off when times are good?

I've never actually read his work so I don't know. This would make more sense than that an economist would recommend what is going on though.

Re:Keynsian Theories (5, Informative)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558113)

Technically speaking all money is now a form of debt, and what governments tend to do anymore is issue debt in their currency, and then inflate the currency to keep the debt/gdp level low enough to prevent default.

Its mathematically impossible for everyone to pay off all debt in the system that we currently have now, the inflation is what makes the active pursuit of money (and therefore production) obligatory.

Re:Keynsian Theories (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558119)

More precisely you can afford to go into debt, if the assets(public or private) created by the debt over time, creates a sufficiently low debt/asset ratio.

Re:Keynsian Theories (3, Insightful)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558129)

I have gathered that point, however there is more than one way to get rid of debt.

I think that is kind of tangential to what I was asking though. Keynes advocated "counter-cyclical" spending, correct? Inflate during recession and deflate during boom times (yes, people and businesses will default because of this policy). What we have instead is constant inflation.

Re:Keynsian Theories (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558239)

No one talks about keynes during boom periods. He is only trotted out during recessions to justify huge deficits.

Re:Keynsian Theories (1)

starworks5 (139327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558309)

Yes I believe that he did have a counter-cyclical argument, but trading business cycles for monetary cycles doesn't reduce volatility, which is in general worse than the constant inflation.

Re:Keynsian Theories (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558445)

It might if the people running things had perfect information and only good intentions. Anyway, so it seems your problem with keynes is that monetary cycles have been more volatile. Either way, I am still unsure what the historian in the OP was talking about.

Re:Keynsian Theories (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558805)

Keynsian is a bullshit method by pushing the problem into the future which only makes it that much worse. Pay now, or pay dearly later. That's because inflation is just a side-band form of taxation. Also, by targeting your budget into the future, you're actually effecting the present which in turn alters the very future you're trying to predict in the first place.

Re:Keynsian Theories (2)

TheMathemagician (2515102) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558371)

Pretty much. But people forget today that Keynes was specifically addressing the problems of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The world is so different now that it's by no means certain that Keynes himself would advocate the same solution for the current recession. I therefore tend to tune out anyone condemning a policy on the basis it's "Keynesian".

Re:Keynsian Theories (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558521)

It was brought up because there is a historian randomly praising Keynesian policy.

oh, swell (1)

eyenot (102141) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558179)

They never tell you THAT is going to happen.

Yeah, so, now you know why you're never going to see me in a census download.

Prosperous wartime (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558187)

The pivotal year 1940 'marked the beginnings of a shift from a depressed peacetime to a prosperous wartime,' says David E. Kyvig

Seriously? Prosperous wartime? For who? Bankers? Gunmakers? I doubt it was prosperous for the farmer that had his son sent to war, possibly even killed.

Re:Prosperous wartime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558687)

The farmer was selling more of his crops to feed the soldiers and factory workers than he was able to sell during the depression era prior to the war and therefore the war made him prosperous as well.

Census Violates the 5th Amendment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39558197)

You cannot be compelled by any Law to furnish to the State any information that could be used against you in a court of Law.

Since there is no statutory bar from the Census Bureau furnishing its data to Law Enforcement, the census clearly violates the 5th Amendment, and you cannot be compelled to participate.

Re:Census Violates the 5th Amendment (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558441)

How could your name and age be used against you?

Re:Census Violates the 5th Amendment (1)

ragefan (267937) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558743)

I guess if someone is dumb enough to list "Drug Dealer" as his occupation rather than "Unemployed".

To be worried about the Census Bureau having your name, age and address is stupid, Law Enforcement can already get it from the IRS, SSA, or state DMV databases, and that's just a few and they are likely much more up-to-date than the Census Bureau's data.

Help Needed: Data Administrator (2)

StoutFiles (2471680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558411)

Job requirements include typing/photocopying 18 TB's worth of sensitive data into digital format.

I question the received wisdom (1)

jdavidb (449077) | more than 2 years ago | (#39558583)

The pivotal year 1940 'marked the beginnings of a shift from a depressed peacetime to a prosperous wartime

Baloney. Wartime might appear more prosperous in that a lot of people were suddenly "employed" by the government who were previous unemployed, but everyone still lived under rationing and scarcity. Real economic recovery didn't happen until 1946.

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