Census Statism in Turkey

So I get my daily update from Free-Market.net last week and see the following headline: "Turkey puts entire nation under house arrest in order to conduct census." I go to the Washington Post URL given and find this in a story entitled "Turkey, Serious About Census, Orders Citizens To Stay Home":

"Virtually all of Turkey was under a dawn-to-dusk curfew today as 950,000 government workers fanned out across the country to take the official 2000 door-to-door head count. No one was allowed to leave home from 5 a.m. until about 7 p.m., so the streets of this usually jampacked city of 10 million people were eerily deserted.

Threatened with three-month jail sentences if caught off their property without permission, fishermen hung up their nets, traders at Istanbul's famed bazaars shuttered their stores and barely a car could be found moving on the usually traffic-choked streets."

Confinement or confinement-got to love those options. (Tyrannies beget self-serving policies.)

Ok, this is small stuff relative to dekulakization or the Great Leap Backward. For those who cherish liberty, though, that's beside the point. As a college professor of mine would often say, "It's a difference of degree, not kind."

The kind in this instance is the State asserting sovereignty over the citizen, which inverts the appropriate hierarchy of citizen-supremacy. Specifically, the Turkish government strikes at the most basic autonomy of those within its borders: freedom of movement. The census that prompted this imprisonment highlights the draconian methodology of this state-aggrandizing practice. (It also brings to mind Murray Rothbard's observation in "The Anatomy of the State": "While other individuals or institutions obtain their income by production of goods and services and by the peaceful and voluntary sale of these goods and services to others, the State obtains its revenue by the use of compulsion; that is, by the use and the threat of the jailhouse and the bayonet." The revenue in this instance is personal data.)

It's philosophically extraneous that Turkey didn't execute census-objectors or perpetrate some other enormity. When the State abridges physical self-determination, it entails the potential to abridge every freedom subsidiary to that fundamental right. The power to circumscribe motion makes the State a proprietor. Put bluntly, bondage has begun. Dictate to people when they can and cannot move and you have established the basis for an omnipotent regime.

The short duration of Turkey's imprisonment also fails to mitigate matters. The totalistic conduct is there whether its duration is one day or one decade. The tendency to rationalize such egregiousness – "Aw, c'mon, it's just one day"-cultivates the capitulation so conducive to its entrenchment. Specifically, since the State is very much a predatory entity, it intensifies encroachment in accordance with the timidity or fatigue of a populace.

Edmund Burke, appreciating the human condition, observed that slavery is a weed that grows in every soil. Our consideration of Turkey should be informed by this wisdom.

November 4, 2000

Myles Kantor lives in Boynton Beach, Florida.