The 2010 Census, The Constitution, and Government

Estimated reading time: 4 minute(s)

How’s that for a title? 🙂

For some reason, any time I write on things that are purely political, I feel obligated to remind the reader that I generally avoid political discussions, and especially so on this website. However, this particular current events topic relates to something I’ve been thinking about for a long time regarding different ways of seeing and doing life with other people. You’ll see a post here soon titled Institutions and Individuals. Some really interesting stuff (at least to me…)

Now, to the census.

2010 Census EnvelopeSurely by now you have received the large envelope(s) from the US Census Bureau, with the very pleasant greeting—”YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW”—emblazoned on the front in a nice bold font. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?

Truthfully, such words make me want to not even open the envelope. When did our government become the boss of us? We the people? Apparently not.

But I think that is the issue. The issue is not the census. Though I do take issue with, as I said, being “required by law” to divulge information about my household. (If they would just ask nicely…) The issue is the powers of the government continuing to grow and extend. The reason people are bristling at this census at all is because there is (and has long been) a trend toward the government being more and more over the people rather than of the people.

The census is used in order to determine the appropriate number of representatives per state in the House of Representatives. The Senate has an equal two representatives per state, no matter how many people reside there, and then the House is based on state population. So the primary and only purpose of the census—according to the constitution—is so that each state has the appropriate number of representatives. That’s it.

Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution is where the census is mentioned:

Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual 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.

(The language of “three fifths” regarding people who were then slaves was changed in the 14th amendment.)

The phrase that stands out is, “in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” So, one could read that as the congress can number the people in any manner they deem necessary, and require full compliance (by Law). However, if you read the context again, the only reason for this being allowed by the constitution is so that the total number of people (not their race, gender, name, and phone number) can be established for fair state representation in the House of Representatives.

And the biggest issue I see is the view of government. I mentioned it already. We the people are the ones who govern ourselves. The “Land of the free”, remember? It was true. But over many generations we have trained ourselves to think that our government rules over us. They do not. We elect representatives to represent us, not demand compliance.

When we get to the point that we think the government can make laws to bind the people, then we have become a different nation.

The constitution was to allow government certain, limited powers. And to then protect the liberties of the people, the individual.

So we will return the census, as it is part of the constitution, and as it is a good thing for our state to be correctly represented. And, I do recommend that we all do. However, the amount of information included should be up to you. Not “required by law” … that’s not who we are.

We are still in the land of the free. For now.

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