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Year of the Rat — I Mean, Census

Becky Akers
Campaign For Liberty
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers. . . ,” says Article I, Section 2 of the United States’ Constitution. “The actual Enumeration shall be made. . . within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

Serfs who suffer the Census Bureau’s invasive curiosity might consider this one of the Constitution’s errors, right up there with granting Congress power over the eighteenth-century version of telecoms (”To establish Post Offices and Post Roads”) and our wallets (”To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof” and “provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting.” [Art. 1, Sec. 8]). The Census is indeed a mistake, not only in its concept but in the phrasing: given the latitude of “in such Manner as they shall by Law direct,” it’s hard to argue that any question bureaucrats ask, whether via mail, phone, or personal visits, violates the Constitution once legislation authorizes it. Indeed, that document’s elasticity enables the Census Bureau to justify even its annual “surveys” by claiming they help with its gargantuan, decennial task.

Liberty knew no reason in 1789 for the Feds to specifically and specially count us; there’s even less now. One of the Constitution’s excuses for a census — taxation — is always and totally incompatible with freedom. And since Public Law 62-5 capped the number of Congressional seats at 435 in 1913, why not settle for an estimate of a population’s density when it comes to determining a state’s representation in the House?

Estimates were available in the 18th century just as they are today and from the same source: entrepreneurs who must gauge the size of their market. Would compiling statistics from artisans and shop-owners have required a bureaucrat to bestir himself from his office and talk to the hard-working men paying his salary? Sure. Would many of them have told him to scram? Let’s hope so — but we want an approximation, so what does it matter? The importance of exact figures grows in proportion to Leviathan’s power. Better to defang the monster than to count citizens.

The same holds true today. Frighteningly accurate counts of households and even individuals abound; abolish the Census Bureau, and the market will tell us how many folks live where while filling in the demographic details the “American Community Survey” collects. Indeed, America’s private market-research industry is worth $10 billion annually. Yet you’d never suspect that from listening to the Bureau, which touts its “mission” as “serv[ing] as the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy…” Talk about expanding an agency far beyond its purpose so it can consume an ever-growing budget!

But the government’s depending on entrepreneurs for anything at all, whether for “outsourcing” and privatization, products and supplies, or even information, also smothers freedom. We who understand the market’s blessings and power should oppose its cooperating with the State in any way.

Which begs the question of whether the Feds should know our numbers, let alone the other tidbits they seek. Can freedom flourish while government amasses knowledge about us, even if restricted to an “Enumeration” alone? Was there a time when the census was only that, just a count and not a window into our lives for bureaucratic Peeping Toms?

Actually — no. Even the first census, conducted in 1790 under the auspices of libertarian hero and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, offends: US marshals canvassed the country on horseback. Picture a farmer plowing his 50 acres in Pennsylvania of a spring morning when Marshal Thug gallops into his field. Thug demands of this beleaguered citizen the “name of the head of. . . household, how many free white males age 16 and older, how many free white males under age 16, how many free white females, how many of all other free persons,” — and here we silly citizens assume “male” and “female” pretty well covers it — and “how many slaves.” So much for the brand-new Constitution’s limited government.

By 1850, the snooping had gone serious. Now Congress demanded the names of everyone, not just the breadwinner, as well as his “place of birth, age [which the census had specifically ‘asked since 1800′], sex,…occupation, value of real estate, if married within the year, if pauper or convict, if blind, insane, deaf or dumb.” We expect such prying from the modern Leviathan, but from the relatively undernourished beast of 1850? It seems even “small” government won’t keep its nose out of our business.

Today’s Feds continue fervent in their fanaticism for the census, so much so that you’d think they lack computers, the IRS, FISA’s warrantless wiretaps, “pen/trap devices,” black boxes at compliant ISP’s, and the myriad bureaucracies that monitor all we say and do. Why? When the Feds already know the answers to their infernal questions, why bother asking us? What explains their devotion to this charade?

The Census Bureau blames it partly on the Constitution’s “mandate,” of course. Hooey. The Feds have proved for decades that they rank the Constitution somewhere below used toilet paper.

The bureau hypes a second reason which, ironically enough, is precisely why we ought to resist: the census helps rulers “to make decisions about what community services to provide” as they (re-) “distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year.” Entire pages of the website “Census 2010” explain “How It Benefits Your Community.” Indeed, the Feds constantly dangle their idea of goodies before us: “Other important uses of Census data include the distribution of funds for government programs such as Medicaid; planning the right locations for schools, roads, and other public facilities.”

In other words, answering the State’s busybodies condemns us to traffic jams as the loot for building and repairing roads floods our districts. Eminent domain could steal our land for a new school. And we’ll endure longer waits at hospitals thanks to the throngs of Medicaid’s leeches. It’s no mystery why pork is a politician’s favorite dish, but taxpayers’ tolerating this oinky oppression is a mystery for the ages.

Yet the Bureau shamelessly crows about abetting communism. “The money the Census allocates to our communities is more than which country’s gross domestic product?” its website coyly asks. “Papua New Guinea, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, All of the above?” Clicking the obvious elicits these boastful congratulations: “You are correct! The GDP for Papua New Guinea is $12.05 billion. The GDP for Switzerland is $303.2 billion. And the GDP for The United Arab Emirates is $164.4 billion. The Census Bureau allocates over $400 billion to our communities every year.”

If that doesn’t spark revolution, perhaps the Bureau’s lies will: they’re just as bold as its bragging. “Your individual responses cannot be used to target you for any government purpose,” the Bureau categorically promises. And there’s this from James T. Christy, Los Angeles’ Regional Office Director for the Census Bureau: “No one can get access to census data. It is rock solid secure.” Really? The Feds’ access to census data from 1940 is so notorious that when I typed “census Ja—,” Google Search filled in the rest “–panese internment.”

Such snitching isn’t just ancient history: “on two occasions after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001,” the Orwellian Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “requested” “data that identified populations of Arab-Americans.” The “comprehensive reports” the Census Bureau “provided. . . list[ed] Arab-American populations by city and ZIP code.” DHS’s “officials” blandly contend that the information “simply. . . help[ed] them decide at which airports they needed to post Arabic language signs.” But Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU connects it with results far more sinister: ”Thousands of Arab-Americans have been rounded up and deported.”

Given these sorts of risks, as well as our rulers’ angst lest we spurn their senseless census, you might suppose they would refrain from insulting us. But no. Like bureaucrats everywhere, those administering the census consider us idiots. Their “Questions on the Form” — which they hasten to assure us is “One of the shortest forms in history – 10 Questions in 10 Minutes” — begin with “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?” Question #5 orders you to list those residents by name — not so the Feds can track us, oh, my, no. The Bureau requires this catalog solely because we are incompetent: “Listing the name of each person in the household helps the respondent to include all members, particularly in large households where a respondent may forget who was counted and who was not.” Yeah, it’s easy to forget that your elderly parents moved in with you, your wife, and your two kids. And it’s not as though you ever tell the hostess at the diner that there are six in your party when she seats you.

In case its bribes and lies don’t work, the Census Bureau threatens us as well: “Congress has determined . . . that individuals do not have the option to decline to participate.” In other words, “participation isn’t just important—it’s mandatory.”

And that explains DC’s obsession with the census. All governments, even the most brutal and totalitarian, depend on the consent of the governed. Once enough of those victims determine to resist the State’s extortion (a.k.a., taxation), surveillance (a.k.a., police protection), and murder (a.k.a., war), the government falls.

As the Feds become increasingly dictatorial, they increasingly seek our assent to their crimes. Voting is one form of that approval; “participation” via juries and the census is another. And of course, “working” for them is best of all: “For the 2000 census, the Census Bureau employed more than 500,000 people to visit the homes of people who did not return their mail-in census form.” That’s in addition to the “headquarters staff” of 4,285.

All that make-work doesn’t come cheap. The Census Bureau’s budget for 2009 amounted to something like $238,740, 000 — but apparently that just turned on the lights at headquarters. Any actions the bureaucrats actually take require “appropriations.” The “Periodic Censuses and Programs” rooked us of another $2,365,882,000. A couple of additional expenses brought the total for 2009 to a whopping $2,634,622,000 — and that wasn’t a decennial year.

Just imagine how much more of our money these wastrels will squander in 2010. Not to worry: the sort of economists the New York Times quotes assure us that though the “1.2 million census-taking jobs may be temporary, . . . they pay well.” Yep, snitching often does. How much is the Bureau shelling out so your neighbors will pester you into answering questions no government should ask? “. . . $10 to $25 an hour,” the Times gloats. “‘These are real jobs with good solid hourly pay,’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com. Mr. Zandi added: ‘It’s a form of stimulus. It’s like infrastructure spending, or W.P.A. in the Depression. . . .’”

It’s not just “a form of stimulus,” it is the stimulus since a billion of what they’ll waste comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Your taxes are already paying for the Bureau to recycle propaganda about this anti-constitutional racket, which it describes as “an unprecedented effort to jumpstart the U.S. economy, create or save millions of jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the twenty-first century. The Recovery Act . . . includes measures to modernize the nation’s infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, preserve and improve affordable health care, provide tax relief and protect those in greatest need.” That would be taxpayers, yet the stimulus dramatically increases their burdens.

Ditto the census and its Bureau. Both are dire enemies to liberty. Were the first Secretary of State alive today, he might paraphrase his quote on newspapers: “If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a census and government or neither and freedom, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

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