The Statistical Agencies of the Federal Government: A Report to the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government

By Frederick C. Mills; Clarence D. Long | Go to book overview

4 APPRAISAL

THE SYSTEM OF STATISTICAL AGENCIES OF GOVERNMENT FROM which we derive information concerning the structure and processes of our national life has been built up without premeditation in response to a diversity of special needs. Collections of statistics on population, births and deaths, foreign trade, production of primary and manufactured products, natural resources, prices, wages, profits, and national income have been begun at different times since the birth of the nation, to serve varied purposes. Fortuitous factors, passing emergencies, and special interests have played their parts in this development. The statutory bases of the present activities of statistical agencies-some specific, some blanketing wide sectors of national life, some ambiguous, many of them overlapping-reflect the special and unrelated needs that gave rise to the original reports.

Today the activities with which these reports deal are related as they were not when many of the reports were initiated. A closely knit national economy has replaced the diversified and independent or semi-independent producing and consuming units of an earlier time. The operations of the central government have broadened and touch the lives of citizens more extensively and more immediately than they did when many of the reporting agencies were first established.

These and other changes in the underlying processes of national life, making at once for more unified and more complex living and working conditions, have materially modified the needs that are served by a statistical reporting system. We have stressed the bearing of statistical information on contemporary decisions and policies rather than upon historical reviews, and the corresponding changes that have occurred in the techniques employed by statisticians. For these purposes comparisons and interrelations are important. Not only are reports needed that encompass the whole range of

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