The great 19th century American writer and wit, Mark Twain, once said “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Not only has nothing changed since then, statistics have progressively worsened under the auspices of the various government ‘Ministries of Truth’ such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (CBCS) was the first bureaucratic monopoly on statistics in this country. The CBCS was established under the Census and Statistics Act in 1905, and was later replaced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) under the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act in 1975.
It was reported widely in the media last month, such as in The Australian, that the 2016 ABS Census reveals Australians are increasingly faithless, with 29.6% claiming no religion.
To be fair to the ABS, they provide a less churlish and disingenuous narrative on their website (than the mainstream Fake News do) where they state: “Christianity was the most common religion reported in 2016 (52%). Islam (2.6%) and Buddhism (2.4%) were the next most common religions reported. Nearly a third of Australians reported in the Census that they had no religion in 2016 (30%). The religious makeup of Australia has shifted slowly over the past 50 years. In 1966, Christianity was the main religion (88%).”
However, the ABS provides the following and unwarranted caveat prior to mentioning a key statistic for Christianity: “Reflecting the historical influence of European migration to Australia, Christianity …” This an unsubstantiated assertion that raises questions that the ABS may have both a biased worldview and inexact methodology, that they are neither transparent nor humble about. There are no such caveats prior to mentioning key statistics on say “Islam” or “no religion”.
The underlying worldview appears to be that Marxian-style historical forces, including the ongoing march of government-backed-science, will inevitably and magically lead towards less-and-less religion especially Christianity … but perhaps with an offsetting growth in Islam, at least until they too eventually see the light of Dialectic Materialism. Not unlike that of the Islamists, this anti-Christian worldview more-often-than-not goes hand-in-hand with a blind preference for control over freedom.
Other sources of evidence along with common sense strongly suggest that the size and trajectory of “Christianity” and “Islam” is significantly understated by the ABS, whilst “no religion” is significantly overstated. Regarding “Christianity”, there has been a spectacular growth of non-traditional churches like Hillsong not only the past 10 years but for much longer. Also, real-Christians have been significantly growing in numbers as cultural-Christians have been switching like Sheeple to “no religion”. Regarding “Islam”, the growth has been very significant the past 10-plus years through immigration. The latter has been encouraged in a Molotov-Ribbentrop style pact between Islamists and the PC-Left in their ongoing joint Culture War against Christianity and liberty.
Experience shows that almost all of those claiming to have “no religion” actually do have a religion or at least a faith – ie Secularism. 21st century theologian Ravi Zacharias, who is expert in all of the key Western and Eastern religions, points out that modern Secularism takes many forms including Atheism, Scientism, Pluralism, Humanism, Relativism and Hedonism. Any good Austrian School economist would add to this list Statism. This is the worship of government, as an asexual or sexually-fluid Mother-Father figure.
In terms of methodology, many sound economists have for some time been quite sceptical of the key economic statistics regularly published by the ABS such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Consumer Price Index (CPI) and unemployment. The former always seems way too high, whilst the latter two always seem too low.
Further regarding methodology, it is worth quoting two legendary economists who are both critics of the over-use of government statistics – ie Deirdre McClosky of the Chicago School and Murray Rothbard of the Austrian School.
Professor McClosky wrote in her essay The Cult of Statistical Significance: “Statistical significance is not the same thing as scientific importance or economic sense. … Statistical significance is…a diversion from the proper objects of scientific study. Significance, reduced to its narrow and statistical meaning only—as in ‘low’ observed ‘standard error’ or ‘p < .05’—has little to do with a defensible notion of scientific inference, error analysis, or rational decision making. … Its arbitrary, mechanical illogic, though currently sanctioned by science and its bureaucracies of reproduction, is causing a loss of jobs, justice, profit, and even life. Statistical significance at the 5% or other arbitrary level is neither necessary nor sufficient for proving discovery of a scientific or commercially relevant result.”
Professor Rothbard wrote in his essay Statistics, Achilles’ Heel of Government: “In a country and an era that worships statistical data as super-scientific, as offering us the keys to all knowledge, a vast supply of data of all shapes and sizes pours forth upon us. Mostly, it pours forth from government…[T]he great bulk of statistics is gathered by government coercion. This not only means that they are products of unwelcome activities; it also means that the true cost of these statistics to the public is much greater than the mere amount of tax money spent by the government agencies. Given a wholly free market, the amount of labor, land, and capital resources devoted to statistics would dwindle to a small fraction of the present total. … But, furthermore, statistics are, in a crucial sense, critical to all interventionist and socialist activities of government. Statistics are the eyes-and-ears of the bureaucrat, the politician, the socialistic reformer. Only by statistics can they know, or at least have any idea about, what is going on in the economy. Statistics, so vital to statism, its namesake, is also the State’s Achilles’ heel.…Thus, in all the host of measures that have been proposed over the years to check and limit government or to repeal its interventions, the simple and unspectacular abolition of government statistics would probably be the most thorough and most effective.”
To help restore some faith (no pun intended) in key Australian social and economic statistics, both Census and ongoing ones, the federal and state governments should establish an inter-governmental review of official statistics similar to what they did in the 1990s for the Hilmer Review. This should mainly look to removing barriers-to-competition in the Australian provision of statistics, with the secretariat based within the most skilled and trustworthy of agencies – ie the Productivity Commission (PC). To better inform such a review, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) should first perform an audit of the ABS regarding their practices and procedures.
Darren Brady Nelson is on the LibertyWorks advisory board, an economic policy adviser to One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts & a Liberty Evangelion