Don't Trust the Census.

[Though Paul Krugman thinks this is a right-wing site, it's actually a site that doesn't have any wings. I'm a libertarian: a believer in personal liberty. Krugman seems to think he can divide people between liberals and conservatives (and that those labels somehow are a code for Republicans and Democrats). I am neither a leftist nor a rightist; I think of myself as an uppist, in three dimensions. I'm not on their one-dimensional line. I oppose the census because the U.S. census was used within my parents' lifetime to round up hundreds of thousands of patriotic American citizens at gunpoint and put them in prison camps for years. Maybe you think it couldn't happen again? You would've told me just a minute ago that you couldn't even think of a time when 100,000 innocent Americans had been forced from their homes and held as prisoners for years by the U.S. government out of racism. Our country is not full of angels, unfortunately, and our government does extreme things sometimes; things that we regret later. When we collect detailed profiles of every citizen, we make the excesses of the next extremist spasm more excessive. --John Gilmore, September 30, 2011] When the US Government rounded up Japanese-Americans in 1942, they used the supposedly private census data to tell the soldiers how many Japanese lived on each block. The Census Bureau handed out the data needed to put them into prison camps or otherwise be harassed. Reams of information came from the "strictly confidential" census. In 1943, a direct tabulation of "Every Japanese person living in Washington, DC", including name, address, sex, age, marital status, citizenship, profession, and employer, all taken directly from individual census records, was provided to the Secret Service. Throughout the war, individuals "of interest" to the FBI and Secret Service were looked up, and their private information was released for purposes of government harassment.

Don't participate in the census, don't work for it, don't fill it out, and feed it false data whenever you can. There is no effective law against doing so; the maximum penalty was $100 (Congress recently raised it to $5000), no jail, and it is VERY rarely enforced. The Constitution authorizes them to count heads every ten years, not to ask how many bathrooms you have and what racial group your ancestors are from.

The Department of Homeland Security asked the Census Bureau in 2003 for details about where Arab populations live in the United States, receiving detailed information about any town where more than 1000 people from Arabic-speaking countries are living. They also got a multi-hundred-page breakdown by Zip codes of every person who self-identified on the census as Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Syrian, Arab/Arabic, or "Other Arab". The Electronic Privacy Information Center discovered this via the Freedom of Information Act and posted the results. EPIC also offers an overview of census privacy.

YOUR ethnic, religious, recreational, or occupational group might well be the next target of state-sponsored terror tactics. I'm talking about the US Government here, though of course the same information is available to both private organizations such as the KKK and the Hollywood MPAA anti-piracy enforcers, as well as to other governments. DON'T help idiotic extremists lock you up, smash your windows, terrorize your kids, sue you for having MP3s, burn crosses on your lawn, deport you for having parents from the wrong country, or draft you because you have a relatively rare skill. You can't predict what innocent trait of yours will inflame extremists next year or in the next fifty years. The best defense is to TELL THE CENSUS TAKERS NOTHING.

Previous abuses of census information

A series of academic papers by William Seltzer and Margo Anderson document Census Bureau efforts to both provide confidentiality, and violate it, over the last century. Their paper "Census Confidentiality under the Second War Powers Act (1942-1947)", prepared for the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, March 30, 2007, New York, New York, documents actual examples of the Census Bureau revealing both personal and business records during the war hysteria of World War II. In 1943, the Census Bureau looked up and revealed every Japanese citizen or alien in Washington, DC to the Secret Service. It's no longer conjecture; here's the listing in black and white from the National Archives:

(The researchers blacked out the name and house number of each person when republishing this document in 2007. The original 1943 document revealed all the names and addresses.)

The authors believe that law enforcement lookups of such information were relatively routine during the war -- and that the FBI and other agencies tried to continue their access to this personal census information after the war, even after their legal authorization for access had lapsed. Read the paper, and their other papers, for the details.

News coverage about the Japanese-American Census roundup includes Scientific American's 2007 story "Confirmed: The U.S. Census Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WW II", and USA Today's March 30, 2007 "Papers show Census role in WWII camps". Both include an apology from the 2000 Director of the Census, who didn't even know it had happened; some researchers had to dig it out of Commerce Dept. records because all memory of these releases had been scrubbed from the Census Bureau records.

This wasn't some fanciful injury to these peoples' privacy. This was rounding up not thousands, not tens of thousands, but more than a hundred thousand completely innocent Americans and forcing them into prison camps for years. Men, women, and children. Rounded up like cattle. The only difference between this and what the Germans did to the Jews was the lack of gas chambers. And it was those foolish people who trusted the Census Bureau's "oh sure we'll keep it very confidential" assurances that ultimately put them in the camps. Don't you believe it! We just had a spasm of national paranoia from 2001-2010, this time about Muslims, and poof, census data about Muslims got somehow released to our local Gestapo (the Department of Homeland Security). Who's next?

A more general reference is an editorial in the Wall Street Journal of 8/8/89, page A10, "Honesty May Not Be Your Best Census Policy", by James Bovard. I found a definitive copy in the SF Public Library on microfilm; your library probably has it. It documents a couple of violations.

The most obvious is that census data was used to round up the Japanese-Americans in 1942. "The Census Bureau provided the Army with a list of exactly how many Japanese-Americans lived in given neighborhoods, making it easy to round them up for internment during World War II. Census Bureau spokesman Ray Bancroft insists that this was not a breach of confidentiality because the bureau did not give out the names or exact addresses of Japanese-Americans. This is like someone claiming he bears no responsibility for setting loose on your block a wolf that just happened to gnaw on your leg -- simply because he didn't set the wolf free at your doorstep and tell the wolf to bite you personally." And it turns out he was wrong, the Census Bureau did actually hand out names and exact addresses, for example in the document shown above.

Other cases occurred in Montgomery County, MD; Pullman, Wash; Long Island Regional Planning Commission; and Urbana, IL; where census data released on a 'block' basis is used to check compliance with local building codes and zoning laws. A block can have as few as 6 houses; the average is 14. This clearly lets these governments pinpoint where to send their inspectors to charge people with violations.

The IRS tried to use computer matching of census data and private mailing lists to track down people wno don't file income taxes, in 1983.

All of the above is from the article. The maximum penalties are from the Census Act itself, I think it's Title 13 of the US Code. You can find it in any law library or government depository library (e.g. your city library or large university library). If you look in the "US Code Annotated" books then you'll find the court cases about the Census Act listed too.

General Sherman's march was powered by Southern census data

The Civil War provides a much earlier example. According to Erik Larson's book "The Naked Consumer", (Penguin 1992) ISBN 0-8050-1755-0, on pp. 33-34:

	 Census officials began treating the collected information as
     confidential, although no law required them to do so. The custom
     didn't keep the Union Army from turning census data into a weapon,
     however, thereby providing one of the earliest proofs of the second
     and third laws of data dynamics: that information produced for one
     purpose will be used for other purposes and eventually will cause
     harm to those who supplied the Information.

	 In 1864 Union General William Tecumseh Sherman concocted an
     audacious plan--a full-force march from Atlanta to the sea, which
     Civil War historian Bruce Catton called "the strangest, most
     fateful campaign of the entire war." Sherman set out not to
     engage another army; but to destroy the Confederate economy and
     to convey the message that the United States, in Sherman's words,
     "has the right, and also the physical power, to penetrate to
     every part of the national domain, and that we will do it
     ... that we will remove and destroy every obstacle--if need be,
     take every life, every acre of land, every particle of property,
     everything that to us seems proper." With the help of the census
     office--it was not yet called a bureau--he made a pretty fair try
     at fulfilling that promise.

	 He planned a fast, lean march. Doing so meant he would not be
     able to maintain conventional lines of supply; in those days
     before helicopter gunships and Harrier jets, an army was only as
     good as its ability to protect the roads, rivers, and railroads
     down which it had already traveled. Sherman would have to live
     off the countryside to a degree no Union or Confederate army had
     done before.

	 From the start of the war, Census Superintendent Joseph C. G.
     Kennedy had been earnestly providing the war effort with maps and
     census information on southern population and industry but had
     sparked only limited interest. Sherman, however, saw in Kennedy's
     annotated maps the key to his campaign.

	 In practical effect Kennedy had provided Sherman with a kind
     of Mobil guide for the plunder of the Confederate countryside,
     using data produced in more settled times by the very people
     Sherman encountered along his route. He gave his troops explicit
     orders to forage, a practice that until then was technically
     against the law. The army's mission included destroying mills,
     cotton supplies, railroads, anything of economic or military
     value. An Illinois sergeant wrote that his colleagues seemed "to
     take savage delight in destroying everything that could by any
     possibility be made use of by their enemies."

	 After the campaign, Sherman dropped Kennedy a thank-you note:
     "The closing scene of our recent war demonstrated the, value of
     these statistical tables and facts, for there is a reasonable
     probability that, without them, I would not have undertaken what
     was done and what seemed a puzzle to the wisest and most
     experienced soldiers of the world."

How to handle public meetings about the census

(Written by me in 1990, with annotation in 2007.)

I just got back from a Census rah-rah meeting sponsored by two local Congresswomen. (Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi, I think. How times have failed to change in the intervening 17 years.) They had a bunch of folks from the Census Bureau plus people from the local Complete Count Committee. The Complete Count Committee represents local communities trying to get a good count, e.g. the homeless, blacks, arabs, Latinos, asians, etc. The Committee had little good to say about the Census Bureau, a litany of broken promises and no support. The homeless won't be counted well because sending in middleclass people scares them, and few homeless are willing to submit to an FBI check so they can work for the Census Bureau for a few weeks. Latino enumerators are required to pass an English literacy exam because the enumerator classes and administration forms are in English, even though the census forms themselves are available in Spanish. Census bureau outreach to schools has been botched by sending one lesson-plan packet to each school principal, none to teachers. Etc.

They tried to railroad the question-answer period so if you go to such a meeting, watch out for that. There were a bunch of people who were waiting to ask or comment when they said they would take two more questions. I interrupted them and called them on it, saying that they were more interested in telling us what to do than in listening to our questions and comments, and they said the meeting was advertised to end at noon. They then spent the next ten minutes blathering, thanking everyone for coming and etc. They didn't get away with it because they were cornered in the hall by about 40 people (most of the audience) and had to listen and respond for another 25 minutes.

I found that my first question, "Didn't the census bureau supply the Army with the locations of all the Japanese-Americans in 1942 so that they could be taken off to concentration camps?" provoked quite a stir in the audience. The Census Bureau's answer didn't quiet the stir. I asked it in response to their speech about the utter "confidentiality" of the information. However, this alerted them that I was a troublemaker and thereafter, a Congresswoman interrupted whenever it looked like the moderator was going to call on me. Moral: Bring a few people and don't sit together!

My second question I squeezed in at the end after they tried to squelch further discussion. It was "If someone decides not to answer the census, what is the maximum penalty? Can they be sent to jail?" The first phrase is critical, the whole meeting had not even mentioned that someone could "decide not to answer", they talked about "undercounts" and "outreach efforts" and "refugees from repressive governments who we need to convince about our government". Unfortunately the Census Bureau rep lied in his answer, saying $1000. The Census Act specifies a penalty of $100.

I spoke with the Census rep afterward, and he surprised me by saying that his parents and siblings were taken to the internment camps (he is Japanese- American). But he still doesn't see anything wrong with the census. He said that the data the Army used was available to everyone -- not noticing that the mere collection of the data makes its abuse, as well as its use, inevitable. He seemed to be slightly moved by my charging him with making it easier for the next round-up, say of Central Americans or drug users. (The data they supplied was how many Japanese lived in each block in the country. The average block contains 14 houses. If the data says 5 Japanese live on this block, they just have to search until they find the household (two parents, three kids) and then they can go on to the next block, skipping completely the ones with no Japanese. In short, it made the repression a lot easier to administer. Their defense is that they didn't give out names and addresses -- just which block each Japanese-American lived in. However -- in 2007, research has determined that the census bureau DID reveal specific addresses of Japanese people to the agencies of state oppression, so that those people could be harassed by the federal government. See images above.)

They have a publicity machine cranking up for the rest of the month so there will probably be plenty of opportunities for Libertarians to speak out on this issue. I encourage every Libertarian candidate for office to take a stand now, while the Census is "newsworthy". You might call local radio station personalities and see if they will do a show about the Census (with you in the studio!). The morning commuter shows might be a good place, and the late night national and regional talk shows.

A good starting point for research is the Wall Street Journal, 8/8/89, page A10, editorial by James Bovard of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This one page (reproduced below) will give you more points than you're likely to be able to bring up in a meeting or talk show.

Consequences of Census Resistance

From: Lee King
Subject: Re: Consequences of census resistance
Date: 9 Mar 90 22:22:30

Since the census bureau only filed against one person in 1960 and one in 1970 (and later dropped the charges, according to the mailout from the Committee for Census Privacy), I don't intend to answer non-count questions, either. If they try to prosecute thousands of us it will cost them more than what it's worth (I hope).

---

* Origin: Liberty Houston (713) 785-4763 (Opus 1:106/1776)

Date: Mon, 09 Apr 90 12:50:19 -0700 I read a summary of the case that indicated $100/question but I haven't read the actual case. At any rate I don't think it set a national precedent, or was applied against more than one person. It wasn't a Supreme Court case, just a local Federal district court case.

In 1960 two people were prosecuted for resisting the Census.
In 1970 one person.
In 1980 we don't have figures but it wasn't masses of people. They don't like to give it publicity. I went to a meeting with two Congresswomen and the local Census honchos, and they were quite careful to even avoid mentioning the possibility that people might DECIDE to not answer the census. They kept talking about undercounts and such, but implying it was all due to mistakes or 'missing some people' rather than those people DECIDING not to be part of the sham.

Date: Fri, 16 Mar 90 16:52:36 -0800

One court case held the $100 to be per question, not per form. I don't recall which district it was binding in, and didn't look up the case itself, so I don't know if it was used to charge somebody $800 for not answering all 8 questions, or $100 for not answering one of the questions though they answered the rest, or what. The US Code Annotated (look in the index under the Census Act) has the reference to the case, which you can then look up in the cases from that district. It doesn't set a national precedent because it wasn't a Supreme Court case.

Libertarian Party position on the 1990 census

The platform says (in the Protection of Privacy plank):

So long as the National Census and all federal, state, and other government agencies' complilations of data on an individual continue to exist, they should be conducted only with the consent of the persons from whom the data is sought.

Here's a press release from some Libertarian congressional candidates:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: June Genis (415) 851-5224
or (415) 723-4422
Congressional Candidate Protests Census Penalties

Redwood City --June Genis, who is opposing Tom Lantos in the 11th Congressional District on the Libertarian ticket, has indicated that she will not fully comply with the 1990 census as a protest against the current criminal penalties for non-compliance. Genis says that while she is "proud to stand up and be counted" that she will answer only the head-count questions and leave all others unanswered.

"Many of the questions asked on the census are harmless and I expect most people, including myself, would probably not mind answering them for anyone. But other questions are very invasive of personal privacy and I do not believe that anyone should be subjected to hundreds of dollars in fines for failing to answer them or for giving incorrect answers". She also noted that the sixth of the population which will be required to complete the long forms are being asked to invest several hours of unpaid labor on behalf of the government which will then turn around and sell the results to private companies. "Why should any Americans be forced to become market research subjects against their will and without compensation?"

Genis also noted that despite the vigorous, and likely expensive, advertising campaign to convince us of the confidential nature of census responses, it was census data that helped to round up Japanese Americans for the Word War II internment camps. "No, the Census Bureau did not tell the internment team that Mr. Yamaguchi lives at 123 Main Street, but they did supply the information that exactly five Japanese Americans live on the 100 block of Main Street which made it very easy for them to know where to go and how many bodies they should be able to collect on each street."

Pointing out that although the Constitution empowers Congress to conduct a census for the purpose of apportioning representation, there is nothing there which empowers them to demand answers to any questions they chose to ask. "Yet", says Genis, "they have taken the position that it would perfectly all right for them to compel you to enumerate what weapons you own or what illicit substances you consume and pretend that this would not be a violation of your constitution rights just because they won't divulge any individual answers. We have already heard proposals to create concentration camps for drug users and to seize all privately owned semi-automatic weapons. There is simply no way to tell how the answers that people supply today might be used against them in the future".

One person's approach to the American Housing Survey

Date: Mon, 26 Mar 90 22:12:31 EST
From: alang@trashbin.MV.COM (Alan Groupe)

As we are now starting to receive our 1990 census forms, I thought some of you might like to know about the experience I had this time last year with a similar survey from the census bureau, called the American Housing Survey.

In April of 1989, Nancy Butter rang my doorbell and asked me to answer several questions about my house, my neighbors, my neighborhood, etc., under the guise of something called the American Housing Survey. I told her I was not interesting in participating and after a moderate length discussion on how important this was and how I would be throwing off all the statistics, she left me a 6 page brochure describing the survey and told me that I would be receiving a letter from the Regional Director, an Arthur G. Dukakis.

[As it turns out, Arthur IS related to Michael -- he's a cousin, I think.]

I received the following letter, dated April 17:

Dear Mr. Groupe:

We recently visited you and asked that you participate in the American Housing Survey. The U.S. Bureau of the Census is conducting this sur- vey in many metropolitan areas for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This survey is conducted under the authority of Title 12, Section 1701Z-1 and 2g of the United States Code.

You indicated to the interviewer who visited you that you did not wish to participate in this survey. This survey is so important that we hope that a further explanation will cause you to reconsider your decision.

The primary purpose of the American Housing Survey is to provide cur- rent information on the size and composition of housing in your area. We ask questions about the housing people live in, the age of the buildings, the presence of selected facilities in your home, and the adequacy of neighborhood services.

In a society as complex as our, it is necessary that our nation's decision makers be as well informed as possible in order to make the decisions that affect the lives of us all. The job of the U.S. Bureau of the Census is to be provide [sic] our national and local government leaders, as well as our business leaders, with statistical information on various aspects of our society.

Any information provided for this survey is confidential, by law, under Title 13, Section 9a, United States Code. No information which would identify an individual will be released. Your answers will be used only to prepare statistical summaries. Our interviewers and our office staff have been sworn to confidentiality and I can assure you that the record of the U.S. Bureau of the Census is unblemished. You will, by participating make a valuable contribution to the knowledge of the nation's housing. In the future, when you see or hear housing statistics, you will know that you helped in the preparation of these figures. I trust that we can rely on you to help.

Our representatives will call on you again within the next few days.

Sincerely,
Arthur G. Dukakis
Regional Director

I responded with the following letter:

Dear Mr. Dukakis,

Recently, one of your field interviewers visited me and requested that I donate my time -- I presume that I'm paying her for hers -- to participate in the American Housing Survey. She then handed me a fact sheet so that I might know what this survey is about.

According to the fact sheet, this information will be used to assist the federal government in establishing a national housing policy. Since it is my fervent belief that the only proper housing policy would have no role for government, and since I do not believe that this is the type of policy the American Housing Survey is intended to engender, I could not in good conscience comply with your request.

You then sent me a letter asking me to reconsider, based on all the nice, wonderful things government does with all the information it collects. In your letter you stated, "In a society as complex as ours, it is necessary that our nation's decision makers be as well informed as possible in order to make the decisions that affect the lives of us all."

I couldn't disagree with you more. In a society as complex as ours, it is necessary that our nation's decision makers STOP MAKING SO MANY DECISIONS that affect the lives of us all.

In closing your letter to me you indicated that once again you would be sending an interviewer to talk to me. It angers me greatly that you are: 1) collecting data for an inappropriate purpose; 2) asking me to donate substantial amounts of my time to assist you (I remember the virtual novel your department asked me to fill out in 1980); 3) spending MY hard-earned money to do so; and 4) ignoring my wishes by sending out a second interviewer after I believe I made it clear that I did not wish to participate.

Maybe when the government learns that it is not entitled to the services of its citizens, people like me would be more willing to cooperate. But until such time, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Sincerely,

Alan Groupe

I didn't hear anything more from them.

-- Alan Groupe | Data: (603) 672-9662
2 Great Brook Road | Cserve: 73607,2241
Milford, NH 03055 | uucp: decvax!ubbs-nh!trashbin!alang
(603) 672-9155 | alang@trashbin.mv.com

A Japanese-American view of the census

Date: Thu, 26 Apr 90 14:58:40 PDT
From: Ed Hall

Well, I believe I read it in Pacific Citizen, the weekly newspaper of the Japanese American Citizen's League. My wife probably threw out the edition I was thinking of--it would have been in mid-March. Needless to say, the issue does come up. More recently, the JACL joined with other Asian-American groups in a strong effort to get Asian-Americans to be counted. (This edition we still have: April 6, front page).

Your assertion is quite correct, though, if you change the word ``block'' to ``tract.'' But, then, anyone can obtain such information. You can even get tract data on CD-ROM these days.

The history of the wartime internment is chock full of reasons not to trust government agencies, Congress, the President, or even the Supreme Court. Read Michi Weglyn's ``Years Of Infamy'' for a hard-hitting, well-documented history. The ``Justice'' department comes out looking particularly bad; it fought against justice for interned Japanese-Americans well into the '60s. There is absolutely no mention of the Census Bureau, though. Various intelligence agencies had been spying on the Japanese-American community for almost a decade before the war. They already knew where they were. What's worse, they already knew that the chance of any problems with that community were slim-to-none.

My mother-in-law spent the war in a camp in Arkansas; my father-in-law fled with his family to central Utah, where he spent the war until he was old enough to enlist. They were both originally from the San Jose area. Unlike some Nisei, they've talked about their experiences with their children--and with their children-in-law. This sort of thing isn't a forgotten issue with us.

I see no reason to slander one of the few government organizations which *wasn't* involved.

-Ed

Wall St. Journal article: Honesty may not be your best census policy

HONESTY MAY NOT BE YOUR BEST CENSUS POLICY
By James Bouvard
Wall St Journal 8-Aug-89

Next year, the Census Bureau will conduct the nation's 21st decennial census. Ironically, whil the bureau collect masses of information partly to justify expanding various welfare programs, many poor people will be victimized by the answers. While many liberal groups are worryied about how the census will count the homeless, no one is paying attention to how the census could create new homeless.

The census forms next year will ask up to 59 compulsory questions per household, depending upon whether it receives a long or short form. They will include up to 26 questions on housing -- type of building, approximate number of units in the building, monthly rent or mortgage payments, whether solar energy is used, etc. Anyone who refuses to answer any question can be fined $100.

Each household will receive an official notice with its census form next March: "Although your answers are required, the law guarantees privacy ... The only people allowed to see your answers to the census are Census Bureau employees. No one else -- no person, government agency, police officer, judge, welfare agency -- can see them. It's the law." Federal law states that "in no case shall [census] information be used to the detriment of any respondent or other persons to whom such information relates."

Yet, people have been evicted for giving honest census answers. Though the Census Bureau does not release data on each household, it does release information on each block -- and a block can have as few as six houses on it. The average block contains 14 houses.

According to the General Accounting Office, one of the most frequent ways city governments use census information is to detect illegal two-family dwellings. An American Planning Association survey reported that housing code enforcement was a key benefit of census data for local governments.

For instance, Montgomery County, MD, and Pullman, Washington, use census data on the nubmer of housing units in a structure to check compliance with zoning regulations. The Long Island Planning Board uses census "block counts ... to estimate the extent of illegal two-family home conversions," according to a June 27, 1986 board letter. Such "illegal" two-family dwellings are pervasive on Long Island, according to Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution. Such crackdowns are especially unfortunate because, as George Sternlieb of Rutgers University notes "The biggest source of good-size rental apartments in America is the illegal conversion of single-family houses."

Census data help housing inspectors zero in on violators. Bruce Stoffel of the Community Services Department of the City of Urbana, Illinois, declared in an Aug 24, 1987 letter to the Census Bureau that he "routinely used census data to analyze the developmental stage of neighborhoods to determine the most appropriate public intervention strategies (e.g., code enforcement).

Obviously, the people most likely to live in overcrowded situations are poor people, especially immigrants, who often cluster in the same neighborhood. Housing codes have long been used as a means to "keep out undesirables" and to exclude waves of newcomers. William Tucker, author of the forthcoming "The Excluded Americans" notes: "code enforcement has always been a very counterproductive way of trying to help the poor. It usually sacrifices the adequate in favor of the ideal.

The Census Bureau denies responsibility for the eviction of poor people because the bureau does not release the precise names and addresses of housing code violators. It makes a similar argument about events that occurred in 1942, when the Census Bureau provided the Army with a list of exactly how many Japanese-Americans lived in given neighborhoods, making it easy to round them up for internment during World War II.

Census Bureau spokesman Ray Bancroft insists that this was not a breach of confidentiality because the Bureau did not give out the names or exact addresses of Japanese-Americans. This is like someone claiming he bears no responsibility for setting loose on your block a wolf that just happens to gnaw on your leg -- simply because he didn't set the wolf free at your doorstep and tell the wolf to bite you personally.

The IRS in 1983 attempted (largely unsuccessfully) to combine census data with private mailing lists in order to track down people who don't file income taxes. As computer technology advances, the ability of the IRS to "abuse" census data will increase. As David Burnham, author of the forthcoming "The IRS: A Law Unto Itself", says: "The IRS will try it again. As marketing lists become more complete and accurate, the IRS will become more able to combine them with census information to track people down."

Information on race and home ownership is used to discover allocations of housing units that are discriminatory under the Civil Rights Act of 1984. Oxnard Park, California, uses census data to discover areas where landlords illegally discriminate against families with children. Information on occupations is used by corporations and government attorneys to construct affirmative-action quotas for different industries. Information on "place of birth" is used by the Civil Rights Commission as a baseline for determining discrimination by national origin. Even though the census is especially innaccurate with regard to minorities, (who often prefer not to be counted), census data are increasingly being used to construct proofs of prejudice and discrimination.

But the more intrusive government becomes, the less information it will get. The Census Bureau is expecting a sharp decline in the percentage of households that voluntarily mail back their census forms -- from 83% in 1980 to 78% in 1990.

A lower response rate will sharply increase the costs of doing the census. The cost per capita of the census has increased from $121 in 1970 to $1040 in 1990 -- a cost spiral that almost makes the Pentagon look good. (The total census cost next year is expected to weigh in at $2.6 billion). [sic -- actual per cap cost is $2600*10^6 / 250*10^6 = $10.40 -- looks like the decimal points got lost].

While most information-intensive industries utilize computers to sharply lower their costs of operation, the Census Bureau has repeatedly botched its operations and squandered millions. The bureau will need to recruit 300,000 census takers next year to go around and knock on doors. But, unless the nation has a major recession between now and then, the efforts to recruit temporary help could be a big failure, and the entire census effort could run aground. Recruitment is already running into difficulty in many areas.

The more information the government collects on people, the more control the government will have over people. When there are hundreds of thousands of pages of federal, state and local rules and regulations, almost every citizen must be guilty of something. And will millions of government employees in this nation, there are too many people with an incentive to abuse government information to fill their quotas of citations, arrests and investigations.

Mr. Bovard, a 1980 census taker, is an associate policy analyst for the Competetive Enterprise Institute.

What happens if you don't answer

Subject: Census Compliance
Date: Wed Mar 28 09:34:55 1990
From: Bob Alexander

| On the bright side, the census official said that compliance in 1980 was
| ~83% (they send out people to homes to collect the other 17%. He did
| not say what the compliance was after that.)
According to the WSJ, if you refuse to answer they will fill the form out themselves by asking your neighbors.


gnu@toad.com, gnu@eff.org, my PGP key
Last updated Fri Sep 30 01:56:57 PDT 2011