How to Respond to the Census-Taker

UPDATED BELOW (05/09/10, 05/13/10, 03/31/11)

The census-taker has been to my door. He left a “notice of visit,” which includes a request to call him to arrange a time for my “census interview . . . it generally takes about 10 minutes.” His phone number isn’t in my local calling area, so a call to arrange an unconstitutional “interview” will cost me money. That’s adding injury to insult.

I won’t call him, of course, so he’ll drop by again. If he happens to catch me at home, I will be tempted to give him my 10-minute lecture about the unconstitutionality of the census, as it is conducted these days. The lecture addresses each of the 10 questions on this year’s census form, and the justifications for the various questions. Here’s the lecture:

The Constitution authorizes the census for the purpose of apportioning membership in the House of Representatives among the States. And it says in the Constitution that “the actual Enumeration . . . shall be made . . . in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” But the operative word is “enumeration.” It follows that Congress’s power to direct the “manner” of the enumeration is restricted to such matters as when and at what cost the enumeration shall be made.

Of the ten questions asked on this year’s census form, only question 1 is relevant to the constitutional purpose of determining the number of persons living in each State. The other nine questions are irrelevant, not to mention intrusive. If the right to privacy includes the right to kill an unborn or partially born human being (see Roe v. Wade, et seq.), surely it includes the right to refuse to answer unconstitutionally intrusive questions posed by the government.

I am therefore honoring the Constitution by answering question 1, and only question 1, which asks for the number or residents at my address on April 1, 2010.

The Census 2010 website offers reasons for asking questions 2 through 10. Here are my views about those questions:

2. This question – about persons not included in the answer to question 1 — does not apply to me. In any event, there would be no need for question 2 if question 1 were posed correctly.

3. Now you want to know about the ownership of my house. Why? Because the question has been asked since 1890 and the information is “an indicator of the nation’s economy” and “the data are . . . used to administer housing programs and to inform planning decisions.” As I will point out several times, the longevity of a question does not make it a legitimate one. Moreover, (1) the question has nothing to do with the constitutional purpose of the census; (2) decennial home-ownership data is practically meaningless, except possibly as an excuse for the government to underwrite risky mortgages and trigger yet another financial meltdown; and (3) there is no constitutional basis for the federal government’s involvement in housing programs. (Regarding this and several subsequent questions, I refer you to the Constitution, with which you may be unfamiliar. You should take special note of the powers of Congress, which are enumerated in Article I, Section 8.)

4. You want my phone number so that you can contact me if some of the information I provide is “incomplete or missing.” Well, you don’t need my phone number because I’ve answered question 1, which is the only information required for the constitutional purpose of the census.

5. Now you’re asking for names. One ostensible reason for the question is to help the respondent remember the number of members of a large household. But that’s just an excuse for unconstitutional prying, given that the instructions for question 1 could suggest that the respondent for a large household  could work from a (private) list of names when answering the question. The other ostensible reason is “if additional information about an individual must be obtained to complete the census form.” The problem, of course, is that an enumeration for the purpose of allocating seats in the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t require information about individuals; it simply requires a count of them.

6. The census has been asking about gender since 1790. So what? The federal programs and laws cited as justification for the question are as unconstitutional as the question. And since when is it the job of the federal government to collect data for “sociologists, economists, and other researchers”?

7. You’ve asked for age and date of birth since 1800. Again, a big “so what?” – does my age affect how many of me there are? And, again, you refer to federal programs for which the data are required; all of them – including Social Security and Medicare — are most assuredly unconstitutional.

8.  Am I Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin? More unconstitutional stuff, mainly designed to enable (or force) various governments to discriminate for certain racial/ethnic groups.

9.  My race? Yeah, it’s been a question since 1790, but that was when a slave counted for 3/5 of a white person. The question has been irrelevant since the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Regarding the various programs and laws cited as justification, see my comments about question 8.

10. Do I sometimes live or stay somewhere else? Well, you wouldn’t have to ask if you framed question 1 more precisely. In any event, what does the question have to do with the enumeration of the number of persons at my residence on a certain date?

I would, of course, assure the census-taker that he’s a good fellow, toward whom I harbor no ill will. And I would explain to him that I’m just sharing with him the views that I will impart in writing to the head of the Census Bureau and various members of Congress. I will wish him well, and express my hope that he is able to find a good job at the end of his stint as a census-taker. But I will answer only question 1.

UPDATE (05/09/10 @ 3:59 p.m.)

Well, the census-taker dropped by while my wife was working outside, so she handed him off to me. I spared him the 10-minute lecture and gave him the bottom line: the answer to question 1.  I told him that I’d send the Census Bureau an explanation of my refusal to answer the rest of the questions. End of discussion. What will happen next? Stay tuned.

UPDATE (05/13/10@ 10:08 a.m.)

Do not — I repeat, do not — respond to the census-taker in this manner:

Williamson County [Texas] sheriff’s officials have charged an attorney with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, saying she fired five shots when a U.S. Census Bureau worker visited her home Saturday [May 8, 2010], court records show.

Carolyn M. Barnes, 53, could face up to 20 years if convicted of the second-degree felony. She was being held in the Williamson County Jail on Wednesday afternoon with bail set at $50,000 .

Williamson County sheriff’s office Sgt. John Foster said the census employee, Kathleen Gittel, went to Barnes’ home on Indian Trail, just north of Leander, about 5:40 p.m. to collect information.

After Gittel identified herself as a census worker, Foster said, Barnes came outside with a handgun and told Gittel to get off the property.

Gittel “was apparently not getting off of her property fast enough, and Ms. Barnes decided to shoot five rounds in her direction,” Foster said. He said Gittel was not injured.

. . . fortunately.

The census-taker is just doing a job for money. He or she probably has no views about the constitutionality of the census, as it is conducted, and is not responsible for the questions on the census form. It is wrong and counter-productive to loose your wrath on the census-taker.

As for Congress, the president (and his minions), and the courts, express yourself in votes, words, nonviolent deeds, and contributions to the defenders of liberty (the Tea Party movement, the American Conservative Union, and the Club for Growth).And do it while you can.

UPDATE (03/31/11 @ 11:00 a.m.)

So far, so good. It has been 12 months since I refused to submit the questionnaire for Census 2010, and almost 11 months since I refused the 10-minute interview. Not a peep from the Census Bureau or a federal marshal.

Not All Sheep

In “A Nation of Sheep,” I expressed my disappointment that the mail participation rate for Census 2010 is the same as it was for Census 2000. But not all residents of all States were equally compliant. The following table sorts the States by the changes in their participation rates between 2000 and 2010:

Change in Mail Participation Rate, by State (percentage)

State Census 2000 Census 2010 Change

Wyoming 72 68 -4

Colorado 73 70 -3

Montana 70 67 -3

Nebraska 79 76 -3

North Dakota 76 73 -3

Oklahoma 69 66 -3

South Dakota 78 75 -3
Alaska 64 62 -2
California 73 71 -2
New Mexico 65 63 -2
South Carolina 65 63 -2
West Virginia 66 64 -2
Arizona 68 67 -1
Arkansas 68 67 -1
Connecticut 75 74 -1
Idaho 75 74 -1
Iowa 79 78 -1
Louisiana 65 64 -1
Massachusetts 74 73 -1
Missouri 74 73 -1
New Hampshire 71 70 -1
New Jersey 73 72 -1
Ohio 77 76 -1
Wisconsin 82 81 -1
Kansas 75 75 0
Maryland 74 74 0
Michigan 77 77 0
Mississippi 67 67 0
Nevada 69 69 0
Oregon 74 74 0
Pennsylvania 76 76 0
Delaware 68 69 1
Georgia 69 70 1
Maine 65 66 1
New York 66 67 1
Rhode Island 70 71 1
Texas 68 69 1
Hawaii 64 66 2
Illinois 73 75 2
Indiana 76 78 2
Minnesota 78 80 2
Utah 72 74 2
Vermont 65 67 2
Washington 72 74 2

Florida 69 72 3

Virginia 73 76 3

Alabama 66 70 4

Kentucky 70 75 5

Tennessee 69 74 5

North Carolina 66 74 8

Source: download.

I have highlighted the States in which participation rates changed significantly (i.e., by more than one standard deviation from the mean). Kudos to the residents of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Honorable mention to the residents of the next seventeen States with negative numbers: Alaska through Wisconsin. Scorn for the lamb-like residents of the thirteen States from Delaware through Washington. And a hearty b-a-a-a to the sheep-like denizens of Florida, Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

A Nation of Sheep

The mail participation rate for Census 2010 has reached 72 percent, matching the Census 2000 rate. By the time the census-takers are done with their canvassing and re-canvassing in July, the vast majority of American households will succumb to the Census Bureau’s unconstitutional prying by divulging information that is none of the government’s business.

Bah! Or, I should say, b-a-a-a!