Commentary: The price of privacy? $5,000

Tom Bolton is in a pickle, a dilemma that may leave his wages garnished by the government to the tune of $5,000. He's staring down the barrel of such a fine because the Atascadero, Calif., resident is refusing to give the U.S. Census Bureau about 28 pages of details of his private life.

I know, if your head snapped around like Linda Blair's in full exorcism mode when you read that, you're not alone; hearing his story almost makes me want to spit pea soup.

By his own admission, Bolton is a middle-class guy with a wife, two kids and a dog. As an average wage earner, a $5,000 hit to his household will stagger him; yet he's willing to take the hit because he believes in the sanctity of his home and privacy.

Most of us have filled out our 2010 decennial census forms; it's a constitutionally mandated chore that may rankle some as unwanted governmental intrusion into our lives. It generally takes just a few minutes to fill out.

Then there's the more detailed 28-page form called the American Community Survey that’s sent out to random addresses. And that’s the one that has Bolton balking.

According to Jose Vidrio, the senior field representative who oversees surveys for Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, an average of 14 to 15 American Community Surveys are returned to his office on a monthly basis from our county. Nationwide, the number is about 50,000 a month.

To read the complete column, visit www.sanluisobispo.com.