A Civil Disobedience Idea

I have been toying around with a protest idea over the last few days, one that I hope would excite both civil libertarians interested in privacy as well as small government libertarians fed up with government social micro-engineering:

Skip the Census

It was all fine and good in 1810 when they were mainly allocating Congressional Districts, but today the census is the main vehicle for allocating huge amounts of extra-Constitutional federal spending, and provides the information legislators use to justify any number of new taxes and spending programs.   Its time for us to all take those census forms and just circular file them.  I think that this is a particularly powerful act this time around given the emphasis the Obama administration has put on the census as part of its policy initiatives.

In my own business, I get Federal census forms and labor department surveys and tourism board surveys -- stacks of these things -- and I toss every one of them into the trash.  I have zero need to help provide government with the ammunition to further rape my wallet and trash my rights.

I would value your opinions on this.


  1. Jamie:

    It's a $100 fine, 13 U.S.C. § 221, but that might be worth the price.

  2. Paul:

    I will participate in the census to the degree it was intended, which is to tell the government how many people live in my house.

    The last census, I did that, and they came to my door to gather more information. I was told I was legally required to provide more information (race/sex/marital status) of everyone in the house. I refused, other than to point out that my race was probably obvious to the casual obeserver.

    I heard some wonk explaining how important all the other information is to determine who/where each slice of the government money pie goes, the problem is people buy in to that mentality.

  3. John Moore:

    Since the government uses the census to "benefit" those it counts, going uncounted is effectively disenfranchising yourself. Do it in large numbers and the demographics (on which so many annoying government programs are based) change in bad ways.

  4. Peter:

    The nasty thing about censuses is that in 70 years they become public information. With people living longer it is becoming possible that your private information will become public while you are still alive and regretting that you ever told them anything. At the very least your kids may find out information about you that you never intended to tell them.

  5. Dave:

    I have never filled out the census form.

  6. Peter:

    In regards to business censuses not filling them out can have consequences. Im in the mining business and if I don't fill out their quarterly report they will come to inspect the mine. As with most government inspections they will find violations where none have existed before costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Additionally they have the power to shut down the operation until you have corrected the violations.

  7. John Costello:

    The primary goal of the enumerations remains the re-apportionment of the US House of Representatives. You may chose to remove yourself from the population and/or voter's lists, but I assure you the many, many dead people registered to vote in Chicago and Detroit will not.

  8. Chris:

    Government use or misuse aside, the Census is valuable for lots of private organizations and academic researchers. Economists use the data all the time. That kind of detailed information just can't be found anywhere else.

  9. Dave:

    Tell them how many people live there, and then to go away.

    BTW, look into the American Community Survey. Scary stuff. They swear you have to tell them all of it or there'll be consequences and repercussions. I have it on good authority that if you just ignore the whole thing it goes away.

  10. OneEyedMan:

    I filled in the form with the number of people at my place of residence (at the time it was 30) and then I crossed out the rest of the form.

  11. DesertRat:

    I fill out the form only to the extent that I tell them how many live at the address. The Constitution allows them to gather that much info. The rest of the forms I leave blank.

  12. zwerd:

    On the one hand, with my economics hat on, I agree with Chris. The data will be invaluable to those in the future studying the people of today.

    However, with my statistics and libertarian hats on, I do believe that the government will be able to recover from your individual dissidence, and you're fully welcome to do so. I wouldn't go around encouraging people to do this sort of thing, but a few here and there won't hurt.

  13. Spruance:

    I don't know how it is in the US, but in Germany you are more and more required to act as the beadle of the government. E.g. as a contractor you have to request a document from your subcontractor to ceritfy that he had payed the VAT. If you fail to do so, you are charged his tax! And there are innumerous examples for the coercion to provide the information which then is used against you by the government.
    If you still can, resist! In Europe it's going straight into the corporate state, or worse, some new socialism.

  14. tahdeetz:

    The census is going to used as the means to ensure a permanent democrat majority.

    This will be accomplished through fraudulent activity by ACORN.

    If you live in a heavy Democrat area, skip the census.

    Otherwise, hello perpetual Nanny-State.

  15. ParatrooperJJ:

    That would be a federal crime. It also would be conterproductive because I bet that a high percentage of the takers of society are going to be filling out the forms and if the productive class does not then we will only end up paying more taxes.

  16. TJIC:

    I always skip the census.

    Even filling it out, or talking to a census taker, is theft of my time.

  17. rob sama:

    Skip the census only if you live in a reliably blue state (or district). Take it 3+ times if you live in a red one.

  18. CTD:

    Tell them nothing other than how many people live there. It's the only datum needed for apportionment Anything else is bureaucratic snooping.

  19. Gloobnib:

    I am of a mind to start a movement to get EVERYONE to answer the race question as "Other/Human". Lets put an end to this hyphen-American crap.

  20. Bob L:

    Don't tell them anything: failure to respond yields a $100 fine; filing incomplete surveys yields a $500 fine (this includes all those who suggest only providing limited information); Providing false information yields a $1000 fine. The only plausible alternative is to do nothing. It's worth the $100 fine, which is rarely assessed anyway.

  21. FreePogo:

    Good post, thanks for the info.

  22. James B.:

    The nasty thing about censuses is that in 70 years they become public information. With people living longer it is becoming possible that your private information will become public while you are still alive and regretting that you ever told them anything. At the very least your kids may find out information about you that you never intended to tell them.

    Of course, that 70-year limit can be changed by Act of Congress, so you can't be sure how long it will be kept private. In the 40's the law was changed to allow the sainted FDR to round-up and imprison American citizens of Japanese descent.


  23. CT_Yankee:

    The couple of times I received the form I noted how many humans were present, as required by the Constitution. I stuck in a note indicating that I refused to answer any questions that appeared to discriminate on the basis of age, race, national origin, or relationship type. I also expressed the fear that any information concerning my income or residence might be used to justify some government program or expenditure. I stated I could not sign my note because someone might attempt to guess my ethnicity from my surname.

    The last time I received a few calls, and hung up as soon as they identified themselves as surveyors. A series of college age surveyors showed up at my house, eventually including one with a much older supervisor. I always opened the inner door, looked silently at them, and closed it again. They have ID tags on their shirt pockets, so you know at a glance not to give them a chance to speak. I never refused anything, because they never had a chance to ask anything. Eventually they stopped coming.

  24. Brian Martinez:

    I agree with Paul's comment, above. Just tell them how many people are in your household. It's all that Congress needs to know.

    Any additional requests, like the "American Community Survey", will go straight in the trash, and I will gladly pay the fine than provide inordinate amounts of information to the government.

  25. Sly Fox:

    Unfortuneately they will just use statistical results from submitted forms (appropriatel adjusted to insure desired results)to fill in for missing forms.

  26. macquechoux:

    It’s a $100 fine, 13 U.S.C. § 221, but that might be worth the price.
    April 8, 2009, 7:16 pm"

    Jamie, I have thrown away every census form I have ever received and I am a very old man; I have received a bunch of them. The government went out of their way to send me a bunch of threatening letters one time and I ignored all of them. Throw the damn thing away and don't worry about it.

  27. perlhaqr:

    I'm not sure I see how this is going to help. If they actually cared about their data integrity, it might matter. But since they're more likely to just make something up anyway, it seems irrelevant what any of us do or don't do.

  28. damaged justice:

    I have never filled out a census form and I never will. If I am told I must pay a fine as a result, I will likewise refuse.

  29. Bob Durtschi:

    The good thing about a more detailed census is it gives people interested in geneology a glimpse in the lives of their ancestors: "Great Great Grandpa was in Virginia in the 1860 Census but in the 1870 census he shows up in Ohio. I wonder what happened to cause him to move there."

    Also as was pointed out the census determines representation and electorial votes. As you can see here
    a large majority of democrat electoral votes come from large cities, Portland OR, San Francisco CA, LA, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson AZ, . . .

    It shouldn’t be surprising that the democrats claim that homeless, etc., largely located in large cities (obviously), are grossly undercounted in the census and to make sure they are adequately counted (along with all of the cemeteries in Chicago) the current White House has taken over the 2010 census from the census bureau.

  30. chris III:

    Peter,you own and operate a mine,and your worried about them showing up and causing you problems? Let the bodies hit the floor! You'd never survive in my parts of the "mine region!"

  31. Mike:

    I understand and sympathize with the viewpoint here, but I would like to amplify on what Bob Durtschi said. As someone who is interested in genealogy, I have learned a tremendous amount about my family history from old censuses. And not just about movements, as in the example given by Bob, but names and ages of ancestors I previously knew nothing about. The census is a fantastic resource to anyone interested in their family history.

  32. Andy:

    perlhaqr, if they don't care about data integrity, then how do you explain the $1000 fine for submitting false information compared with a mere $100 for non-filing?

  33. Douglas2:

    (a) Whoever... refuses ... to answer... any of the questions ... shall be fined not more than $100.

    (b) Whoever, ...willfully gives any answer that is false, shall be fined not more than $500.

    The $1000 fine is not for submitting false information, it is for doing stuff with the "intent or purpose of causing an inaccurate enumeration of population to be made"

    Various experts say that the Census Bureau needs to do something to fix the persistent undercount of urban minorities (who tend to vote D). We know there is an undercount because of surveys using sampling. 20 years ago Robert M. Groves suggested that we should just use the surveys to fix the obvious errors in counting household-by-household.

  34. Andy:

    Douglas said:
    "The $1000 fine is not for submitting false information, it is for doing stuff with the “intent or purpose of causing an inaccurate enumeration of population to be made”"

    The former, if done intentionally, is a subset of the latter, so my point still stands.

    Lying is potentially more damaging to the state than not filing.

  35. mahtso:

    "I would value your opinions on this." My opinion is that this says a lot about your character and it is not saying anything good.

  36. Andy:

    Dear serf mahtso,

    My opinion is that your opinion says a lot about YOUR character, and it is not saying anything good.

    May your chains rest lightly upon you.

  37. Parabarbaraian:

    Maybe the old censuses are a useful source of data for genealogists though I never understood people who obsess about their ancestors. Reminds me of the useless nobility that clutters up Europe.

    Besides the old censuses only counted people. The new ones also count toilets. How many toilets do you count among your ancestors?

  38. Paul:

    Way back in the old days, the census was one of the few ways that people were recorded. It has been invaluable to those who want to know more of their ancestors. Now, the government (and private organizations) have vast records on everyone. Genealogists of the future won't need to rely solely on census data for research. The government should only do the actual enumeration that the Constitution requires. Anything else can be done by private research firms.

  39. Noumenon:

    James B, that was a fascinating link. You really can't trust the government when there's a war on, can you?

  40. Regarding Liberty:

    A good rule of thumb is to replace government with "a stranger who lives on the other side of town". Then see if you would comply with the action. Granted, government is able to steal your property (fine you) if you refuse, but it's your personal choice how you balance your belief system with the consequences to you, your family, and your future. What I don't understand is how others could negatively judge someone for not giving in to extortion. In the grand scheme of things the Census is a nit, but let's not kid ourselves in what it is, in essence: a stranger who lives on the other side of town demanding you provide him with personal information or else he will take some of your money from you. Of course it's morally permissible to refuse.

  41. Jaded Judas:

    As with some others that have commented to the post, I have never filled out a census form. I intend to never fill out a census form.

    I'm trying to decide how to have the greatest amount of fun with any census people that may come to my door.

    I'm thinking of playing the "I don't understand" card, or perhaps treating them like federal agents and playing the "I don't talk to federal agents without an attorney present" card, or maybe the "fifth amendment" card, or some variant thereof.

  42. David B:

    1) They would love to not count you and count one of their more 'Preferred' census-ees 10 times (for the price of 1).

    2) They'll just show up at your house with a census volunteer. I didn't fill out the census and they showed up at my college doorstep to interview me and 'help' me fill out the form. Perhaps this only happens in liberal college towns and democratic urban strongholds... for some reason I can't imagine them spending the resources to do canvas and make sure everyone is counting in say... Wyoming.

  43. karen:

    Look up Agenda 21, this is the blueprint to continue towards socialism for the world, developed by the United Nations. Yes, the US government has implemented a plan to move the US in that direction. The census will only advance their cause to make everything "equal" in the world. The current administration is only accelerating us towards this objective.

  44. happyjuggler0:


    There needs to be a way to apportion US House seats every ten years like the Constitution says. If they can't do that properly because citizens who believe in small government don't fill out the census at all, then it is highly likely that big government states will be overrepresented in the House. Do you really want that?

    I choose to fill out the number of people in my household and cross out the rest. However, this year (per the suggestion of one of your posters) I will also fill out race as other/unspecified, or some equivalent. It is high time we get government out of the business of demanding we look at each other through racial lenses.

    I also simply close the door whenever "they" show up before they can ask or tell me anything. They eventually give up, presumably when the deadline for enumeration comes around and they must provide a total head count. I've never been fined, and I still get to vote.

  45. MaggieW:

    I worked for the Census in 2000.
    A goodly portion of the census left for people to fill out were not done.
    You do not have to give a census taker any personal information.
    Quite a few of them were run off of private property with some
    armed encouragement.
    If the regulations have changed I would willingly pay a fine.

  46. The Whited Sepulchre:

    May I suggest a modification to your proposal?
    There are now four kinds of citizens in the U.S. 1) There are small government types living in big government states. These would be the libertarians in Massachusetts. 2) There are big government types living in small government states. These would be the Socialists of Idaho. 3) Small government types in small government states. Let's call these the libertarians of Wyoming. And last, we have... 4) Big government types in Big Government states. Barack Obama supporters in Illinois.

    Anyone in category 3 should do everthing possible to be counted. These people need to ensure that they have representation.

    People in categories 2 and 4 are going to ignore your proposal anyway. Government is Mother's Milk to them, and they're going to do everything in their power to increase their voice in government.

    Only those in category 1, the small government types in big government states (which are losing population, BTW) should toss their census forms if the end goal is a smaller, less intrusive government.

  47. Mark L Harvey (aka Snooper):

    I haven't complied with a Census in years. I ALWAYS throw it out.

  48. Census Skeptic:

    The last time I filled out a cencus form (probably in the 90's), I filled out the number of people living at the location, included a copy of the Public Servant Questionaire and informed them if they wanted more information they would have to fill out my questionaire before I would answer any other questions. I never heard from them.

  49. Ralph Short:

    I don't think not answering the census is the issue. There are only 50% of the people who pay the federal income tax, roughly. In the next 4 years it will be less than 50% if the marxist party running the white house and congress have their way. It seems to me the only message that will get through to the lawyers in DC who rule (btw, they no longer govern) the country is to stop filing tax returns. What we need is leaders in congress and at the state and local level who will tell the truth about a system that punishes the worker and is pandering to the slacker.

  50. Polyphemos:

    Here's a thought. Add one person to your household. If you are Oriental, European, Semitic, Slavic, Hindi, legal Latino, or Lap, add one person to your household. Government has no way to check on the scale necessary to make a difference. It will burgeon the rolls in favor of hard-working, country-loving, religious-minded people. Let's face it, A.C.O.R.N. is going to cheat, adding millions of non-existent relatives to the rolls of mush-minded people who are waiting to be rescued by government. Since your inflated number wasn't used on your tax return, they can;t get you for tax fraud. Besides, if they catch you, just tell them as Sec. Clinton did - you "misspoke."