The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
16 Points

The Census is one of the more totalitarian aspects of the government

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/8/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,103 times Debate No: 40207
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (3)




The Census is one of the more totalitarian aspects of our government.

First round is for acceptance, second of arguments, and third for counter-arguments


I will accept this challenge. I look forward to my opponent's argument in the next round.
Debate Round No. 1


Hello, and thank you for accepting my debate.

First off, I would like to give you some FACTUAL involving the US census that proves that it is totalitarian. My source will be listed at the bottom of my argument. It is biased, yet all of it's information is factual.(text in quotation marks was taken word-for-word from the source)

"When the US Government rounded up Japanese-Americans in 1942, they used the supposedly private census data to tell the soldiers how many Japanese lived on each block. The Census Bureau handed out the data needed to put them into prison camps or otherwise be harassed. Reams of information came from the "strictly confidential" census. In 1943, a direct tabulation of "Every Japanese person living in Washington, DC", including name, address, sex, age, marital status, citizenship, profession, and employer, all taken directly from individual census records, was provided to the Secret Service. Throughout the war, individuals "of interest" to the FBI and Secret Service were looked up, and their private information was released for purposes of government harassment. "

This is old history. However, it was used later on during the WW11 to round up Japanese-americans into concentration camps that were renamed "internment camps"
This is an example of racial discrimination and genocide, and the us government was using supposedly private information to discriminate a race.

There is also a penalty for resisting the census: up to a 5,000 dollar fine. A government where people are required to give private information to the government that could be used against them. Seems pretty totalitarian to me.
The website is: There are also a lot more facts about the census there. Good luck, and thanks again, my worthy opponent!


Thanks Pro for this opportunity to have this debate.

The Japanese Internment

It is correct that thousands of Japanese were rounded up and placed in internment camps. It is also correct that the US census helped identify these citizens. This internment happened 68 years ago and could never be done again today without complete public outrage so it is not really a problem. When you think of this horrible act, do you see the totalitarianism in the fact that the US government collects census data on its citizens every ten years because it is mandated by the constitution to do so, so that it can better provide services to its citizens with this information, and redistrict political boundaries more easily for different House seats? On the contrary, I see the totalitarianism in the act of rounding up citizens and putting them into camps.

This is a case of mis-placed blame. The government collecting data on our nation is a tool that can be used for more effective governing or to abuse its citizens. The real totalitarianism only occurs when the government abuses this information to do harm. The collection of data is itself not totalitarian. It is like calling ovens too much of a danger for a home because people sometimes leave them on far too long and get their houses burned down.

The census has many uses. It is used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, define legislature districts, school districts, efficiently provide services to the elderly, efficiently build new roads, place job training centers, distribute federal funds for Tribes, Social Security, Medicare, public Health, education, transportation, and much more. It also allows us to see the state of our nation and improve upon it. Ensuring that our government runs efficiently requires that it have the proper information for it to do so. Proper information can be used to help our nation or to hurt it. It is only a tool.

Recall that my opponent claims that the Census is one of the more totalitarian aspects of our government. Our government has security cameras everywhere tracking people's movements, can arrest US citizens and detain them indefinitely without trial thanks to the Patriot Act, monitor our emails and phone calls, collect detailed financial information about most Americans and Businesses and ruin them if they fail to give them a large percent of their earnings, force someone to join the military if there is a draft, force people to purchase health care, and much more. I really don't see how these census questionnaires even compare to any of these acts that I have listed.

The Census non-compliance Fine

Actually the census non-compliance fine is only $100 [1]. Doesn't sound very totalitarian to me.

"This is an example of racial discrimination and genocide,"

There was no genocide going on in the internment camps. If you do not agree, then show us a source.

Debate Round No. 2


First off, my opponent argued that the census releasing data so that people could be interned could "never be done again" However, in the years 2002 and 2003,information that is discriminating and was from the census was released.

"The tabulations were produced in August 2002 and December 2003 in response to requests from what is now the Customs and Border Protection division of the Department of Homeland Security. One set listed cities with more than 1,000 Arab-Americans. The second, far more detailed, provided ZIP-code-level breakdowns of Arab-American populations, sorted by country of origin. The categories provided were Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, Moroccan, Palestinian, Syrian and two general categories, "Arab/Arabic" and "Other Arab." source:

While this was not used to round people up, it could be used hypothetically to do so. Now to debate your other arguments. The constitution:"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."

Nowhere in this text does it say that they will take down the names, addresses, races, or any other information about these people. And the fact that it does, that there is a fine for refusing to give the information that is not needed to determine the number of congressmen elected, the mere fact that the government has this information, and the fact that they could use it against you, THAT is totalitarianism.

And now for the fine issue. You argued that the fine is only $100. A while ago, you would have been correct. However, Congress recently changed that source:

You argue that the census is used for good things. I completely agree. However, I believe that this is panem et cirtcuses, or bread and circuses. That means that they are just putting on those programs to have us continue filling out the census. In other words, all of the programs, except the head count for congressmen, is just used as a distraction. An excuse. The census has gone FAR away from what it was originally supposed to do.

My genocide reference was an inference. If there is a mass racial roundup, there is going to be at least a few forms of torture and abuse, no?

I thank you for debating. Remember to vote Pro! Thank you!


I would like to thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate this issue.

Profiling of Middle Eastern Americans

What happened was that the department of National Security asked for the numbers of Middle Eastern Americans who lived in certain zip codes specifically in some cases zip codes where there were over 1000 of them. While it is correct that the government did ask for this general demographic information about Middle Eastern Americans, this wasn't really detailed individual information and only looked at where most of these people were located [1]. This kind of general information already exists publicly although in a less detailed and accurate format. For example the image sited here shows percent middle eastern populations by county [2].

This information was most likely used to know which airports would be the most likely to be hit by possible local middle eastern terrorist groups or to know where to focus anti-terrorism efforts in the United States. If I was concerned about that threat, I would do exactly the same thing.

This whole thing seems like much ado about nothing. Putting people into concentration camps has never been a very popular idea since WWII and would never gain any real popular support.

Also keep in mind that as I stated in the last round, collection of data is only a tool that can be used for effective governing or for totalitarianism. It is not in its nature totalitarian just like an oven by its nature is not made to burn a house down. It only does this when it is misused.

Is the Census fine totalitarian for asking for information not specified in the Constitution?

The reason why the census asks for more information is because the government does more than it did before. Today we have agencies that regulate food and health. We have programs to help elderly, disabled, and poor Americans. For these programs to run efficiently, we need good data about the people being served by these programs.

We have a fine for not providing this information because we need a good sampling of the American people and very high quality results cannot be attained when people can decide to opt in or out of the poll. Americans with certain demographics may be more likely to opt in or out. For example, maybe younger Americans would be less likely to take the survey if it was voluntary, skewing the results resulting in a less effective government.

People are always complaining about government inefficiency and without the kind of accurate census data we have today it would be even less efficient. Asking people to fill out a little survey is not totalitarian as this word means some action where the state has a huge amount of authority over the lives of its citizens. Asking people to fill out a little form once in a while doesn't seem very totalitarian.

Also, keep in mind that Pro was going to argue that this was not only totalitarian but that it is one of the more totalitarian things the government has done. Given some of the things that this government does as I mentioned in the last round, these questionnaires don't even compare. How totalitarian is the census compared to the extensive email monitoring our government has, or the video cameras that monitor citizens in public every day?

The Census fine amount

Even your own source states:
"Section 3571 states that The $5,000.00 fine referenced in section 3571 is a post conviction fine that only applies to an individual who has been charged and convicted of a criminal infraction as defined in section 3559. Unless an individual has been charged and convicted of some criminal offense connected to the Census and the crime is classified as an infraction, this $5,000.00 fine does not apply." [3]

So the $5,000 fine is only for a criminal infraction charge connected with the Census in which an individual has been charged and convicted. Even if it was that high, it is imperative that information collected be accurate. Bad sampling can easily result in erroneous data. Also, filling out a census form will not do any harm to you and is not very difficult. I don't see why this is a problem at all.

Benefits of the Census as a distraction to ask more information on the census

My opponent is arguing that the government created programs like Medicare and Social Security so that it could ask more questions on the census. First off this was only presented as a claim and was never substantiated. So for all intents and purposes this is only an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory.

These are programs that cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year and seem like an excessive effort for asking all these questions. The government could have tried justifying more information on the census in the name of national security. Keep in mind that the government already has extensive personal and financial information about Americans through income tax forms so how can a few census questions really help the government exert a lot of control over the populace? Creating these government programs to extend census forms is far too much effort for so few results.

It is more likely that the government created these programs because they were popular, the people would more likely support politicians who gave them free money, or because these programs do some actual good for this nation. If I were a politician, these reasons, not the census, would make more sense when creating welfare or social security.

Genocide because of Census data

In our nation today, if there was a roundup there would be a lot of constraints because of the liberal mindset of most Americans. Torture and abuse would not be tolerated. Also "a new forms of torture and abuse" does not count as genocide.

Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by donald.keller 5 years ago
Ore_Ele, Authoritarian and Totalitarian are on opposite sides of the Political Grid. Con saying they are Authoritarian is, by no means, the same as him calling them Totalitarian.
Posted by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
**continued from RFD**

By Con stating that those are authoritarian, he is also countering his own arguments. It would have been a more solid victory for Pro, had he pointed that out, but it is still a clear hole in Con's arguments that cost him those points.

For sources, Pro admitted to using bias sources, and even misrepresented his own sources. However, those sources had little to do with the argument, so Con correcting those only costs Pro the source points (if the fine is $100 or $5000).
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Emily77 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:07 
Reasons for voting decision: I think failing to establish that the Census itself, and not the people USING the information as totalitarian really hurt your case.
Vote Placed by donald.keller 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: S&G: Spelling and Grammar goes to Con. Convincing Arguments: Pro misplaced a lot of blame. Pro spent a lot of time explaining why some of the things we did was totalitarian, but not why the Census is. Also, he forgot the the Constitution's sections, including the Census, is supposed to adopt with time, like how the Air Force was justified. Sources: Both sides had sources, but Pro went a whole round without it, and he source from R3 didn't even support his argument, it actually hurt it.
Vote Placed by Ore_Ele 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:33 
Reasons for voting decision: Spelling and grammar go to Con for some pretty clear (and funny mistakes, WW11?). For arguments, this one is a little bit harder and will likely stretch into the comments. The first key mistake was that totalitarian was never defined, and it seemed like both sides were arguing different aspects. But since it was not defined, we fall back to the standard definition of total or extreme level of governmental authority or control. Pro argued that the census mines data to allow for that extreme authority and control. Con's counter was that the data is often used for good. This "counter" is not an adequate counter because negative effects are not a requirement for totalitarianism. Con also acknowledges this when he provides other examples of totalitarianism and lists security cameras. However, these would be exactly like the census in that all they do is mine data, but they can be used for good or bad. By Con stating that those are authoritarian, he is also (more in comments)