The laissez-faire approach has been both a strength and weakness of American statistical policy, but it makes planned development of a system of social indicators virtually impossible. Some statistical functions have been performed by special agencies closely tied to policy and operational aims of government so they have been able to work closely with analysts and respond with useful data. Other more general purpose functions are performed by the Census Bureau which has developed considerable expertise in data collection. The objectives and strategy of the bureau officers may have been effective for advocates of particular views, but they were disastrous for a statistical agency. Such openly partisan reporting was not likely to be tolerated long by the politicians who had set up the agency, nor were the statistics themselves likely to be trusted. The fundamental characteristic of US statistical policy is that the processes of creation and use of data occur without central planning.