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Census 2010

Before I go on, let me list a summary of the questions asked on this year's census form [1].

  1. How many people live in your house?
  2. Are there anyone living with you but not included?
  3. Is the house owned (scot-free or under mortgage) or rented?
  4. What is your telephone number?
  5. What is your full name?
  6. What is your sex?
  7. What is your age and date of birth?
  8. Are you Hispanic?
  9. What is your race?
  10. Do you sometimes live somewhere else?

The house questions are somewhat unique to this census, given that so many people have lost theirs due to the mortgage lending collapse of 2008, whose effects are still being felt. But most of the other questions are common to the past two or three censuses.

I worked for the 1990 census as an edit clerk. The work itself was monotonous but bearable for a couple of months. My co-workers included some total bores and poltroons: The U.S. government has never been picky in who it hires. But mostly I got along. I left the job when the percentage of bores rose to 100% for the remaining late evening shift, and the work shifted to scans of forms into a ever-malfunctional computer — a DEC computer, back when DEC was in its death throes.

Anyway, I can remember some of the stuff asked on the short and long forms. Those long forms were very long, with questions like how many did you earn, how much did you pay in taxes, where do you work, do you own your own business. I reviewed one long form by the guy who owned a book store I used to frequent, and another by a family whose daughter was a classmate of mine in high school — and still lived at home back then.

This is why I find ridiculous the reasons some people today have for wanting nothing to do with the census.

I can understand something of why they find the census today offensive. As the original United States grew old, died and emerged as the country we know today, it began to abuse its constitutional powers, including the power to conduct the census and use its results. This Slashdot article mentions the roundup of Japanese-Americans in 1943 and the threatened roundup of Arab-Americans in 2003, both using census data to locate them.

I would add that the use of census data to distribute tax money for any purpose, and even the asking for race and ethnicity data, are technically unconstitutional. These have nothing to do with the apportioning of congressional districts, which is why the Constitution mandates a census every ten years (article 1, section 2, clause 3). But such behavior is integrated into the government of the current United States; and it is most unlikely that the U.S. government will ever repent of these evils.

In the meantime, the author of the article [2], from which the Slashdot article is based, advises us NOT to answer questions of sex, race, ethnicity, and housing:

The more information the government collects on people, the more control it will have over them. The Constitution requires that the population be counted every 10 years to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. All the census really needs to know is how many people live at each address. Citizens should refuse to answer any census question except for the number of residents. A partial boycott of the census questionnaire is a tiny but important step to safeguard our remaining liberties.

This sort of attitude is common among tea-partiers and other far-rightists, who refuse to turn in their census forms. A Salon article [3] points to high percentages of unreturned census forms in the Southern states, especially Texas — which, as the article notes near the end, will be asking for less political power, less representation, and less federal moolah if those foolish Texans keep it up.[4]

It may even mean that libertarian Republican Ron Paul, whose district is in Texas, loses his own seat in Congress when the Biggies in Austin recarve the Texas congressional district map in 2011 for fewer districts, just because his supporters would not participate in the census and thereby do not get counted among the rest of the population. Such refusal to do your duty to your country by filling out a census form is a sure path to becoming an unperson.[5]

As for me, I have already filled out and mailed my census form. For what it's worth, I am a fifty-year-old white male who owns his own house under mortgage. And, as of 5 April 2010, Indiana, my home state, has one of the highest participation rates at 68%; and my home town, Fairmount, has over 70% of forms returned.


1. The current Web site for the 2010 United States Census is at http://2010.census.gov/2010census/.

2. The Christian Science Monitor article is The 2010 Census: Will your answers stay private? by James Bovard, 24 March 2010.

3. The Salon article is Conservatives: Fight the power, obstruct the census! by Gabriel Winant, 5 April 2010

4. Given that it is Texas that gave us Bush the Younger and his minion Dick Cheney, who ran (and ran down) the country for the first eight years of the twenty-first century, and whose projects the Obama administration has seen fit to carry on, I would not shed a tear if that ever happens to Texas.

5. And no, they do not do a census over again. No matter how many times the leftists have tried, they have failed in the courts to redo the counts for Detroit and other big but losing cities.

Written by Andy West on 6 April 2010.