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Year of the Rat — I Mean, Census

February 2, 2010
Becky Akers

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers. . . ,” says Article I, Section 2 of the United States’ Constitution. “The actual Enumeration shall be made. . . within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

Serfs who suffer the Census Bureau’s invasive curiosity might consider this one of the Constitution’s errors, right up there with granting Congress power over the eighteenth-century version of telecoms (“To establish Post Offices and Post Roads”) and our wallets (“To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof” and “provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting.” [Art. 1, Sec. 8]). The Census is indeed a mistake, not only in its concept but in the phrasing: given the latitude of “in such Manner as they shall by Law direct,” it’s hard to argue that any question bureaucrats ask, whether via mail, phone, or personal visits, violates the Constitution once legislation authorizes it. Indeed, that document’s elasticity enables the Census Bureau to justify even its annual “surveys” by claiming they help with its gargantuan, decennial task.

The story continues …..

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