…our real numbers will exceed, greatly, the official returns of them; because the religious scruples of some, would not allow them to give their lists; the fears of others that it was intended as the foundation of a tax induced them to conceal or diminished theirs, and thro’ the indolence of the people, and the negligence of many of the Officers numbers are omitted.

The census, conducted every ten years, is so important that it’s in the Constitution. The proportion of the House of Representatives allotted to each state is determined by the decennial census, which helps keep the Representatives representative. The nifty genealogical reseach that historic census data makes possible is merely an afterthought, but even so the American census is more pleasant than most censuses, which have historically been used to figure out the tax rolls. The census was known in Biblical times and makes its way into European history thanks to Servius Tullius, one of the last kings of Rome. The Roman practice continued for four hundred years, and the magistrates in charge of the census, the censors, were among the most important officials in pre-imperial Rome. The census enables taxation, taxation enables the state, and the state enables the census (whole bureacuracies spring up to support census-taking), so it’s unsurprising that there has long been some opposition to census participation. George Washington noted, during the first American census, that

…our real numbers will exceed, greatly, the official returns of them; because the religious scruples of some, would not allow them to give their lists; the fears of others that it was intended as the foundation of a tax induced them to conceal or diminished theirs, and thro’ the indolence of the people, and the negligence of many of the Officers numbers are omitted.

While census data helps us know what Jews in Provence circa 1587 were named and helps SCA reenactors choose historically appropriate names for their thirteenth century Parisian personae, there are certain segements of the population that have a deep-felt suspicion of inquisitive government officials building lists that might be used for conscription, taxation, or to round up American citizens. When the government knows your commuting habits, can a diabolical conspiracy be far behind? So when the 2000 census rolled around, there was some resistance on the right; certain politicians mused about failing to complete the form. As a protest mechanism, however, not telling the Census Bureau whether you have running water isn’t nearly as remarkable as keeping hounds to drive away unwanted visitors or violating the laws of time and space. The latter is what beloved Christchurch, New Zealand, kook the Wizard did in 1986 as a followup to his 1981 trip with members of the "Nonsensus Party" into international waters on census day.

Every five years the population of New Zealand is required by law to complete personal census forms and this is the only occasion when individuals have to supply statements of identity and personal behaviour to the Government. Of course such details are required for those wishing to receive welfare benefits, obtain licences, run businesses etc. However an individual who is able to live outside the law in this way by being entirely self-reliant has no personal need to supply such information. If the Wizard were able to design and complete his own census form he would have no difficulty in complying with the law. Unfortunately the assumptions underlying the questions completely contradict his newly created identity.

In 1986 the Wizard informed the Statistics Department and the media that he would cast a disappearing spell on himself at midnight and would reappear at noon the next day. The Department did not believe in his powers and he was taken to court. The magistrate found that althought there was no evidence that he had not vanished during that time the “man in the street” would agree with him that the Wizard must have been hiding somewhere.

Affronted by this lack of trust and belief the Wizard, who by now had become an important tourist attraction in Christchurch, went on strike. Thousands of tourists and locals were distressed by his absence in the Square. The Wizard informed them that they had a choice in determining his identity: if the “man in the street” would not believe he was a wizard who could vanish in the traditional manner he would return back to the role of a tax-payer-funded social science academic.

The Wizard’s threat of a permanent end to his schtick convinced the New Zealand census officials to obey common sense (as regards tourist-friendly harmless lunatics and bad P.R.) and ignore common sense (as regards the laws of physics). They dropped the case. In 1991, they played it even smarter and refused to discuss the Wizard with the press at all, leaving themselves, the Wizard, and taxpayer-funded social science all better off.