March 26, 1990,

HEADLINE: Boycott the snooping on the Census form

BYLINE: James Bovard, Guest columnist

BODY: James Bovard is an adjunct policy analyst to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Once again, the government is lying to the people. While the Census Bureau promises that citizens' Census responses are confidential, government agencies have used Census information to throw people out of their homes. And the Internal Revenue Service may soon discover how to use your Census response to audit your income taxes.

In 1942, the Census Bureau made up a special list telling the U.S. Army how many Japanese-Americans lived in each neighborhood. The Army used the Census lists to send out trucks to round up Japanese-Americans for internment camps during World War II. Yet, Census Bureau officials feel their agency acted properly in helping the Army in the 1940s - and would likely not hesitate to do it again.

The IRS in 1983 attempted (largely unsuccessfully) to combine Census data with private mailing lists in order to track down people who didn't file income taxes. As computer technology advances, the IRS's ability to ''abuse'' Census data will increase.

As IRS expert David Burnham says, ''The IRS will try it again. As marketing lists become more complete and accurate, the IRS will become more able to combine them with Census information to track people down.''

People have been evicted for giving honest Census answers in the past. The Census Bureau asks numerous housing questions. According to the General Accounting Office, city governments have used Census information to ''detect illegal two-family dwellings'' and for housing code enforcement.

The Census might be termed the Mexican, Negro and Asian-Immigrant Easy Eviction Survey. Obviously, the people most likely to live in overcrowded situations are poor people. Census answers can bring housing inspectors to these people's doors - and get them tossed out in the street.

Our Founding Fathers never dreamed that legions of government bureaucrats would be using Census responses to ferret out and harass private citizens. Under our Constitution, a head count is necessary to apportion congressional representation. All the Census really needs to know is how many people live at each address.

A partial boycott of the Census - refusing to answer any question except listing the number of residents at an address - is a patriotic duty. We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give the government more ammunition to assault our liberties.

The more information government collects on people, the more control government will exert over people. When there are hundreds of thousands of pages of federal, state and local regulations, almost every citizen must be guilty of something. Rather than a promise of confidentiality, the government's Census forms should come with a Miranda warning: Any answers you give can be used against you.