The Wall Street Journal’s “The Numbers Guy” columnist, Carl Bialik, has weighed in on the debate over whether Americans should be required by law to fill in their census forms, and whether there are other ways to take the census. In an online column, he expanded on the challenges of conducting a mandatory census.

His print column includes comments from Tom Rickenbacker, son of the late William F. Rickenbacker, a National Review staff member who was fined $100 for refusing to fill in his 1960 Census form. The Rickenbacker case was one of the few times the government has prosecuted someone for violating the law that requires Americans to complete the form.

The Bialik column ends on this note: “So instead, the Census Bureau walks a fine line, calling participation mandatory but avoiding potential negative publicity from enforcing the law. This has worked on Tom Rickenbacker, who said, ‘I kind of believe somewhat in my father’s standpoint. I don’t believe they need to know that stuff.’ But, he added, ‘I fill it out and respond anyway.'”