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Confidentiality Expires For 1940 Census Records 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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Confidentiality Expires For 1940 Census Records

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @05:35AM (#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:Keynsian Theories (Score:5, Informative)

    by starworks5 ( 139327 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @06:36AM (#39558113) Homepage

    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.

  • by uberdilligaff ( 988232 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @07:06AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @07:37AM (#39558379)

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

  • Re:As Krugman says (Score:5, Informative)

    by repapetilto ( 1219852 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @08:20AM (#39558605)

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

  • by georgenh16 ( 1531259 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @08:21AM (#39558615) Journal
    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.
  • by aslagle ( 441969 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @09:58AM (#39559431)

    Wow....just....I don't even know how to respond to the sheer number of fallacies in that paragraph.

    Instead, I'll focus on the biggest whopper:

    Russia became paranoid and autocratic as a defensive measure,

    WTF?!? Are you seriously saying that Russia *wasn't* paranoid and autocratic until *after* WWII? Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1922 on, and used that position to consolidate power. His centralized planning of the economy resulted in the famine that caused mass uprisings, which led Stalin to command the "Great Purge" in 1937-38.

  • by tnk1 ( 899206 ) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @10:41AM (#39560051)

    That would all make sense, if Stalin hadn't been planning all along to attack Germany, he just needed to wait longer for his forces to redeploy and his officer corps to rebuild after killing 90% of them. And yes, maybe he needed to ramp up production, but his military woes were really caused by the lapdog morons he put in command and his own micromanagement. I mean, he needed to dig up Zhukov after executing Tukhachevsky, the guy who pretty much invented the deep operations concepts that won the war for the Soviets. If the Red Army had had a reasonable tactical doctrine, as well as professional military leaders running the show, you can be certain that the Germans would not have gotten anywhere near as far as they did into the USSR. They may have even been repulsed.

    And let's not forget that the Red Army had absolutely no compunction about attacking the Finns during the Winter War. They even shelled some of their own troops to provide the reason for the invasion. The only reason Finland wasn't a Soviet Socialist Republic was the sheer incompetence of the Red Army staff, which is understandable because it was filled with lapdogs, and generals and colonels recently promoted from the lofty grade of lieutenant due to "staff rotation via gunshot to the back of the head".

    As for the USSR's economy, they had no concept of "sustainability" and "equality" in their economic focus, unless you consider that everyone in their sphere was equal in that they needed to do what Moscow said. If you were lucky, you'd be like Cuba, where you got subsidies so that you could continue to stay in power and piss off the Americans. That's nothing more than aid to prop up your friends, not economic equality. That's like saying we give aid to Pakistan because we think that they deserve equality and sustainability.

    There is also nothing new about Russia being paranoid and autocratic at any point. Russia has been paranoid and autocratic since before the reign of Ivan the Terrible, let alone during Stalin. They're still paranoid and autocratic, albeit to a lesser extent. The #1 reason that the USSR carved out its sphere of influence is that Stalin pretty much assumed that the Western powers would do what he would do, which is to say invade when they smelled weakness. And while Operation Unthinkable existed, it was a theoretical plan that was drawn up due to was assumed to be Stalin's next step (ie. invasion of Western Europe), not because they wanted to invade the USSR and take over. I should also point out there was a reason it was called "Unthinkable". For those who don't know, it was because they didn't want to do it, and they were pretty sure that they would either fail miserably or the victory would be at so terrible a cost that it would have been Pyrrhic at best.

    Of course, there were certainly many misunderstandings between the superpowers during the Cold War. And certainly the US got itself dirty playing in the mud with the Soviets, but I can't think of a single case where the US or the West legitimately considered an attack, or even a pre-emptive strike on the USSR that was not specifically for the purposes of defending against the gigantic Red Army presence in either Eastern Europe or their efforts to spread communist revolution around the world. As it stands, I think the fact there was no war is a testament to how both sides realized that it wasn't worth ending the world to spread their power via global war.

Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato