Clear Fog Blog

Political musings from Warren E. Peterson

Lighten Up; It’s Just the Census

Posted by Warren Peterson on March 12, 2010

It’s in the Constitution. Article I, Section 2.3 provides that an “enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.” Congress, being what it is, almost immediately expanded the scope of the census beyond the basic constitutional requirement to apportion “Representatives and direct taxes… among the several states” according to population.

Wikipedia has an interesting history of the census. For instance, the 1860 Census collected data on “name, address, age, sex, color (white, black or mulatto) for each person, whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, value of real estate and of personal estate owned (required of all free persons), profession, occupation or trade of each male and female over 15 years of age, place (state, territory or country) of birth, whether married within the year, whether attended school within the year, whether unable to read and write (for persons over 20), whether a pauper or convict”. Compared to the ten questions, including race, sex, and home ownership, on the 2010 Census form; the intrusion into one’s privacy seems minimal. The Census Bureau also conducts annual surveys to collect various demographic, social and economic data. Economists and planners in both public and private sectors use census information for everything from budgeting to marketing. In rare instances, it has been misused, such as the internment of west coast Japanese during WWII, but in most cases the data collected is used for legitimate purposes.

Every ten years a chorus of census critics voice complaints from invasion of privacy to not counting everyone. Rush Limbaugh thinks we shouldn’t divide people by race and suggests that people answer the question on race by checking the “Other” box and writing in “American”. Some minority groups are concerned that the Census undercounts them and thus deprives their group representation. A few fear the Census recording the GPS location of their dwelling place, something already available on Google Earth.

It is a massive and expensive undertaking but it is not a conspiracy to undermine the Republic or the “Mark of the Beast”. Worry about terrorist, the national debt, the IRS but lighten up on the Census and answer the questions honestly.

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