- Our Party
News coverage of Libertarian position on census
Posted on Mar 17, 2010
(updated March 28, 2010)
Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian Party, cited a Cato Institute report that census information was used during World War I to locate draft resistors and during World War II to round up Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps.
"Breaches happen on purpose or by accident," Benedict said. "Having all that detail on people creates the opportunity for abuse, even if it's not intended or expected today."
"Basically, our largest issue is that it goes beyond what the Constitution says the census should be," John Schultz, chair of the Boone County Libertarian Party, said. "The census was intended as simply an enumeration of the people. It goes much more in-depth than that.
"The nature of the questions asked gives the government inlets into areas where they shouldn't be involved."
Libertarians worry about the census’ collection of racial and ethnic data, claiming historical abuses of census data by federal governments.
Schultz said his party’s objections are consistent with its overall platform, which opposes the intrusion of big government on individual rights.
"The federal government's current census procedures are unconstitutional, unnecessary and too expensive. We believe that the census is constitutionally limited to collecting only one piece of information about each residence: the number of persons living in it," said Libertarian Party Chairman William Redpath.
"The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress to provide for a census in order to apportion representatives correctly. The Constitution does not empower Congress to use a census for any other purpose. There is no need for Congress to collect additional information such as names, races, ages, sexes or home-ownership status. Unfortunately, the federal government wants to use the additional information to fine-tune its control over the lives and money of the American people."
Mr. Redpath adds, "As Texas Republican congressman Ron Paul - 1988 Libertarian candidate for president, recently said - 'If the federal government really wants to increase compliance with the census, it should abide by the Constitution and limit its inquiry to one simple question: 'How many people live here?' "
“The Constitution only requires that the government take a head count,” said Brady of Wonder Lake. “All those [other] questions are simply none of the government’s business.”
Brady, former chairman of the county and state Libertarian Party, is part of a vocal demographic who liken the decennial count to Big Brother knocking on their doors. While this group cites the Constitution as the premise for its angst, others challenge that the constitutional thing to do is to fill out the form and mail it in.
As Census forms arrived in mailboxes last week, the Libertarian Party denounced the exercise as "unconstitutional, unnecessary, and too expensive." They got the last part right: This year's Census is expected to cost taxpayers $14 billion to take what its marketing campaign calls "a snapshot of America."
The Census questionnaires should ask one and only one question, according to the Libertarian Party. The party says the Constitution outlines the task of Census officials, to find out how many people are where.
Executive Director of the Libertarian Party Wes Benedict says only one question is valid… how many people live in your residence?
Libertarians think this is another attempt by the federal government to intrude into and control the lives of the average American.
Are they talking about President Obama’s health care plan, the exploding public deficit, gun control or even black helicopters?
Their beef is with the once-a-decade census, which is getting underway now.
Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants Congress the power to make an "actual enumeration"--a national head count, in other words--"within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct."
Even in the census-skeptic movement, there seems to be general agreement that asking each American household to report how many people live there is both reasonable and constitutional. The concerns arise from the more detailed questions found both on the short form and the long form, now called the American Community Survey.
"A great many people are concerned about the privacy issues, much more than in years past," says Jerry Day, a producer in Burbank, Calif., who created the YouTube video last month. "I believe this is due to the fact that people are reluctant to share information with a government that now wiretaps, tortures, assassinates, arrests and imprisons people globally."
Similarly, the Libertarian Party said last week that the government should only collect "one piece of information about each residence: the number of persons living in it." The ACLU believes the only legitimate questions are name, address, and in some cases race and ethnicity; Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, has said that she and her family will not fully complete the 2010 census form.
As Census forms arrived in mailboxes last week, the Libertarian Party denounced the exercise as "unconstitutional, unnecessary and too expensive." They got the last part right: This year's Census is expected to cost taxpayers $14 billion to take what its marketing campaign calls "a snapshot of America."
From Grassroots in Michigan to Tea Party activists to Libertarians, groups traditionally wary of government interference in private lives are casting a cynical eye on the census. Their hesitation reflects a national mood of mistrust of Big Brother at a time when census officials say it's most critical to be cooperative, given that funding for myriad programs depends on accurate counting.
"Most people that I know, they are filling out what they want to fill out," said Emily Salvette, state chairwoman of the Libertarian Party of Michigan, who lives in Ann Arbor. "If they feel a question is intrusive, they don't answer it. It's nothing new. It's 'how do we protect our privacy?' "
The Libertarian Party is objecting to the personal information being requested on the form but is not officially encouraging supporters to submit incomplete forms because of the laws and potential penalties in place, said Wes Benedict, executive director of the national party.
He said concerns about the census have increased since 2000 because the world and political environment have changed.
"Now, we've had all the terrorism and the wars, and the Patriot Act, so these privacy issues may be more on people's mind," he said. "I think there's more concern about the government snooping on us than there was 10 years ago."