Makes a Most Careful Count

April 17, 2010

(Summary for if you don’t have time to read this whole post:  I am angry but you should still fill out your Census form.)

Página principal Censo del 2010You may have heard the recent ads on the radio or elsewhere trying to persuade you to fill out the 2010 Census form.  The one I heard most often said something like (coudn’t find a transcript online, going from memory here), “Imagine that our town has a hundred children.  We need about five teachers to teach them and two school buses to pick them up for school.  But what if our town grows and now we have hundreds of children?  Without the Census, we wouldn’t know how much we’ve grown.  We’d still have only five teachers and two school buses.  We’d be short on school supplies, short on books, short on everything—and long on patience!  Fill out the Census to make sure your community gets its fair share of federal funds.”

I am angered and insulted in several ways at once.  Ignore the questionable word use the Bureau staggers into at the end (unless the wise and benificent Federal Government is trying to educate us about the role of trials and hardships in our individual sanctification, wouldn’t we be short on patience as well?); the ad, far from inspiring in me a desire to fill out and mail back my Census form, brightly highlighted two very troubling facts:

1—No one is less competent than the federal government to do most of the work we give it to do these days, including education.  You’ll recall that the Constitution explicitly names all of Congress’s legitimate powers, most of them assembled in Article I, Section 8 (the “enumerated powers”).  Education isn’t one of them.  That means that it’s up to the states, if it must be done by government at all.

Look at it a different way, from a purely practical point of view:  The federal government isn’t competent to run local schools.  (In funding them, the federal government keeps trying to run them as well.)  It only makes sense that the people closest to a particular child (the teacher, the parents, perhaps a local school board) would know best how to educate him.  If you outsource significant parts of that job to Washington, D. C., the money, and therefore the education, is controlled by people so far away they’re lucky if they know within a hundred how many students there are, to say nothing of more specific practical details.

In other words, as the ad invites us to meditate on, there’s no reason you (you the taxpayer, you the principal, you the superintendent) “wouldn’t know” how many children are in your own local school unless it (the school, knowledge itself) has been annexed by the federal government.

2—The federal government seizes our property by force or threat of force—confiscates a huge share of our income in the form of taxes—and then dribbles a little bit of it back to us, or at least to our “community”, with so many strings attached you’d think it was trick money.

Unless you think we live at the pleasure of the federal government, it’s extremely insulting to use my tax dollars to pay for propaganda to tell me to beg the federal government—please, Your Majesty, Your Worship, great and merciful one—to bless me with money that was mine in the first place.

I won’t even go into the comical Census mailings themselves, which were more repetitive and redundant than any other junk mail I get.

So I definitely thought about not returning my Census form.  Apparently other people, since at least the beginning of the year, have had the same thought.  (That source, a British newspaper, will also be linked to several of the sentences below.)  However, as it turns out, there are at least two reasons you should do the Census after all.

1—Depending on who you talk to, failure to complete the questionnaire will simply result in a Census employee coming to your door to ask you the same questions in person, the old-fashioned way, or you can be fined for your non-cooperation.

2—One of the original reasons the Census was enacted—and written right into the original Constitution—is to apportion congressmen among the states, according to population (Article I, Section 2).  (The other original reason, as you see there, was to tax us.  So it goes—nothing new under the sun, death and taxes, etc.)  So, as someone has pointed out, if conservatives boycott the Census, potentially all they will accomplish is reducing conservatives’ representation in Congress.  The same point has been made about another potential boycott population, illegal aliens:  If they boycott the Census to protest America’s “immoral” treatment of them as—well, as illegal aliens—they may only diminish illegal aliens’ representation in Congress!  (The fact that illegal aliens are counted in the apportionment is a serious concern, and one of the many reasons conservatives are upset about the Census in the first place.)

So I answered the questions and sent back the form—at least, I answered most of the questions.  I ignored the ones about race and ethnicity, as I’ve gotten into the habit of doing with most forms.  (Why do they need to know?)  I don’t know whether that puts me in a worse position legally than if I had just chucked the whole form in the dustbin.

Boycotting the racial questions turns out to be a position I share with Glenn Beck (although his in-house devil’s advocate, Stu, points out that the Census data have always included race, all the way back to 1790) and outstanding Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann (whom that British newspaper calls “virulently conservative”!), who points out that “the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond” “how many people are in our home.”

If you’re still looking for more links and reading material, the Census Bureau defends its expenditure of taxpayer money on ad campaigns, although it has little to say about the content of the advertisements (say, whether to mention congressional redistricting or rely on big-government “get yours” appeals).

3 Responses to “Makes a Most Careful Count”

  1. Glenn Beck Says:

    Michele Bachmann is a Congresswoman. Or at least I think.

    • Right. She’s definitely a woman; the question is what title to use.

      If a position always used to be called, for example, “chairman”, trendy “politically correct” liberals will now say either “chair” or “chairperson”. If the particular chair holder in question is a woman, should a conservative call her “chairwoman”, or “chairman”?

      On the one hand, “man” can definitely refer to humans beings of both sexes, not only when used to mean humanity in general (“Man is fallen”) but also when used to mean individual persons: The very first definitions of the noun “man” in the Oxford English Dictionary (requires subscription) are “A human being (irrespective of sex or age)” and “A human being.”

      On the other hand, conservatives shouldn’t be afraid of admitting and making reference to the fact that there are two sexes; that’s for liberals. So maybe conservatives should embrace different nouns for men and women: actor and actress, widow and widower, congresswoman and congressman.

      Nevertheless, I’ve heard at least one woman say that she would prefer to be called “chairman”. Far from insulting her, as feminists suppose, she would consider it if anything a badge of honor, an affirmation that she has attained to the same position as her male predecessors, and that she doesn’t need any special help (linguistic or otherwise) but is up to being judged simply on the quality of her work.

  2. […] months ago, someone shot a lot of people at an event in Tucson, Arizona, including Congressman Gabrielle Giffords.  Six of those people died; many others were injured.  Liberals argued that […]

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