The Census Open Thread

The census is a bit of a lightning rod for libertarians, largely due to the questions in addition to the actual enumeration. Fundamentally question #1 on the census is definitely Constitutional, and I’d say the additional questions asked are mostly harmless. But I didn’t fill those out.

I answered question #1, and only question #1. I crossed out the additional questions for all 4 residents of the house. I might have blown the whole thing off, but I have a feeling that it would have resulted in a personal visit from a census worker, which I suspect would have a) wasted taxpayer dollars and b) resulted in my wife giving them the answer to any question they asked. I hope that not answering the additional questions will make the census workers realize that I’m an ornery libertarian that doesn’t intend to comply, and they’ll not visit the house.

When it really comes down to it, I’d have no moral compunction about tossing the form in the trash, and feel no obligation to even fill out question 1. I don’t think anyone in Congress “represents” me, so I care little for apportionment, and I try to limit my exposure to federal pork, so I don’t care if my community gets their “fair share”. As an anarchist, I don’t consider myself bound by the Constitution, so the argument that it’s Constitutional holds little weight with me. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t consider themselves bound by the Constitution either, which is why we’re discussing our “fair share” at all.

So what did our readers do? Fill out the whole thing, partially respond, or nothing at all?

  • Akston

    I also filled out question 1 and sent it in.

    Perhaps Amendment 14, Section 2 implies they “need” to know my gender and age (over 21), but the rest was none of their business.

    I have no interest in “my full share” of the fruits of other people’s labor. If they want to look me up for their $100 fine, I’ll adjust it for Federal Reserve inflation and send them their 5 cents.

  • Orlando M

    I answered only question #1 and included a slightly altered version of Walter Block’s letter: .

  • Joseph

    I checked the ONE box, printed NAME BELOW, printed NUMBERS IN BOXES, and gave similar literal responses.

  • John222

    I fully intended to answer question #1 and return. My wife however, knowing my intentions, filled out the entire form and sent it in without my knowledge and informed me after the fact.

  • Peter

    I filled out the whole thing.

    Then I got a job as an enumerator. If you didn’t fill out the form, I will come knocking on your door soon. Thanks for cooperating.

  • Justin Bowen

    The envelopes hit the trash before they were even opened. I decided that I wanted to do the Christian thing (even though I’m an atheist) and give some moron a job at tax-payers’ expense by requiring someone to come to my door (which I won’t answer as I won’t be here).

  • Julie Anne Burton

    We, too, answered only question 1, and wrote our own letter which we enclosed. I find those other questions to be intrusive — thank goodness they didn’t send me the long form, or I would probably have burst a blood vessel or two.

    My husband and I just want to be let alone.

  • Julie Anne Burton

    Peter — For your sake, I hope it’s not you who’re assigned to come get me to fill out the rest of the form. In the first place, I’m a little hard to find. In the second, I don’t answer the door unless I’m expecting company, or if I see it’s one of my neighbors. (My friends all know to call first.) If you stood there repeatedly ringing the bell, I’d be answering with a pistol in one hand and the other on my Mastiff’s harness. She will be more than happy to escort you off the premises. :) (She’s actually a typical Mastiff — sweet, slobbery, and loving, but also *very* protective of her home and people. She’d never bite or even growl, but she’ll push you ahead of her to get you out of “her” yard, and she weighs 195 and stands 32″ at the shoulder. :) )

  • Brad Warbiany


    I wonder if they might start enforcing the $100 fine this year — after all, they’re gonna try to close the budget gaps as simply as possible!


    Yep, that’s why as soon as I saw the census form I took it. I’m sure my wife would have filled it out “properly”.


    Do you know what it takes to trigger a visit from an enumerator? I.e. if the form is only “partially” filled out, with only question 1 answered, will I have someone knocking on my door?

  • Stephen Littau

    I gave my name and answered question 1. That’s more than all they need to know.

  • Nick M.

    $100 fine? On the radio the other day, the DJ (are they called DJ’s anymore?) said that it is a $5000 fine. I don’t care, my address is not at the house I am in. I live at a PO Box in Tempe. My roommate can take the fall since he changed his address to the house and actually likes it in California.

  • tfr

    Actually, we didn’t receive a form. Works for me.
    If we had, I would have filled out name and address for each of us, and that’s it. We already had some bonehead, who claimed to be from the census, at the house waving a GPS around, not sure what exactly that was all about.

  • Peter

    As far as I know, If you send in a partially filled form nobody will visit you. The most important question is the number of people; the rest is just extra, used by government agencies to make decisions.

    I think that the race question is very silly. Why do they have two separate questions for “hispanic or not” and “race”? As I get to explain to whoever I interview “For this census, Hispanic is not considered a race”. You talk to somebody from Mexico, and they will say their race is “hispanic” or “latino” or whatever. Somebody native to Paraguay will be listed in the first question as Hispanic, but what do they put for the next question, Native American (List affiliated tribe)? Somehow “Native Hawaiian” and “Samoan” get separate boxes to check, but “English”, “Itallian”, “Egyptian”, “Iranian” are all lumped together. Also, who calls themself “negro” anymore?

  • Peter

    To go into a bit more detail about the process, at some point in the past people went around looking for places where people live, the Housing Units. Each Housing Unit was mailed a form. The Housing Units that did not return forms will get a visit from a Non-Response Follow Up Enumerator (a NRFU, like me) to determine the status of that address on April 1st, 2010 and either complete the census form or list the address as vacant. Theoretically, each person will be enumerated according to where they were on April 1st.

  • pops1911

    I filled out Quest 1 & the race quest – American!! for all people here. Left all others blank. End of story for them.

    I wonder if we should Alinsky them & cause massive money to be spent to fill these out – everyone require a visit in the US. Break the bank & maybe they will go away. I doubt it, but it will employ many people in a made-up economic depression.

  • Let’s Be Free

    We’ve been refusing to supply demo data to the school system for years. It drives the NCLB geeks nuts.

  • Julie Anne Burton


    The $5,000 fine is for refusing to fill out what used to be called the “long form” but is now called the “American Community Survey”. One in six households get this, and it consists of about 70 questions, many of which are very intrusive. I can’t remember the most annoying ones, but, for example, they want to know how many bathrooms there are in your house.

    I understand why they would want to have this information, even the really intrusive stuff. And I don’t object to their trying to get it. I am infuriated, though, that they’re legally able to inflict a $5,000 fine on us if we’re not willing to supply it, however.

    The good news, though, is that I believe they have never fined anyone for not completing the census.

  • Akston

    The $100/$5000 fine is described here (PDF). It used to be $100, but they upped the ante (appropriately in 1984). This has become the traditional exaggerated threat from the government which they use, bogeyman fashion, to intimidate without having to actually act and defend their actions from an irate public.

    It does strike me as quite an opportunity to begin balancing the budget. If every one of the 300 million citizens was to turn scofflaw at $5000 a pop, we could balance 2009’s $1.4 trillion deficit in one go. We’d still be in debt around $14 trillion, but our patriotic actions could account for all the new pork sandwiches they’ve ordered.