According to the entry for me at Wikipedia, which I hope is reliable, I am a libertarian anarchist. Why would any person who fits that description work for the government at all, not to speak of working without pay? Well, my story is straightforward.
Some time ago I received in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau a form to be filled out, to wit, the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons questionnaire. I naturally threw it in the trash.
A few weeks later, I received another questionnaire whose cover letter read in part as follows:
We have not received your response to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons (SBO) questionnaire, Form SBO-1, which was mailed to you several weeks ago. These data are essential to business and government decision making. We need information about your business to provide reliable data for your industry and geographic area.
We remind you again that your response to this survey is mandatory under Title 13 of the United States Code. Applicable provisions of the law are shown on the back of this letter.
I hastened to read the back of the letter, where I found the following:
Mandatory Provisions of Law Pertaining to Economic Censuses — Section 224 as amended by Section 3571 of Title 18 United States Code.
Whoever, being the owner, official, agent, person in charge, or assistant to the person in charge, of any company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or organization of any nature whatsoever, neglects or refuses, when requested by the Secretary or other authorized officer or employee of the Department of Commerce or bureau or agency thereof, to answer completely and correctly to the best of his knowledge all questions relating to his company, business, institution, establishment, religious body, or other orgnization, or to records or statistics in his official custody, contained on any census or other schedule, or questionnaire prepared and submitted to him under the authority of this title, shall be fined not more than $5,000; and if he willfully gives a false answer to any such questions, he shall be fined not more than $10,000.
I thought about throwing the second form in the trash, as I had thrown the first one. Then I thought about telling the U.S. Bureau of the Census to go to hell. Then I thought about the large, threatened fines, and I filled out the form. I spent about 15 minutes doing so. My rate of pay for having done so works out to exactly zero dollars per hour, which is somewhat less than I usually charge for my services.
Well, big deal, you may be thinking. But I invite you to pause and consider afresh what this little episode in my life illustrates.
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