How free are we on this Fourth of July?


How are we doing, safeguarding those "unalienable Rights" with which we are "endowed by our Creator" - in support of which 56 patriots solemnly pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred Honor, 236 years ago?

We remain free by many measures. Americans can still pretty much live where we want, work where we want, drive where we want. In fact, for women and racial minorities, those liberties have actually expanded over the past 70 years. We can all be proud of that.

But the average Southern Nevadan can be excused for sensing that the government now constricts like a boa around many of our remaining freedoms.

The cameras at every major intersection will only be used to spot traffic tie-ups, we're assured.

Police helicopters fly circles over our homes, shining spotlights into our backyards at night.

Now we're told the very kinds of robot drones used to assassinate terrorists overseas will be used by domestic police agencies, as well, presumably checking to see if junior has some pot planted out back.

Helmet and seat belt laws are justified by the costs of medical care to the Great Collective if you screw up. But you can't get an exemption by showing you've got good insurance or enough cash to pay for your own medical care, can you?

Talking on a cellphone while you drive is now banned - so police complain people endanger other drivers by swerving off the road to answer an emergency call when a child is home alone.

Signed into law by President Obama six months ago, the Defense Authorization Act "codifies into law the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without trial" and authorizes the military to "carry out domestic anti-terrorism operations on U.S. soil," reports Erik Kain in Forbes magazine. The act authorizes the military to detain even U.S. citizens, again without trial.

Mr. Kain of Forbes also warns about "other civil-liberty-quashing bills like the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act, two bills ... which would give the government and the industry sponsors ... broad new powers over the Internet and freedom of speech online."

On May 9, FBI Director Robert Mueller "strongly recommended that Congress reauthorize the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act by the end of the year," writes Nat Hentoff. "This law allows federal authorities, including the FBI, to conduct warrantless searches." How did we get to this dangerous point?

It's been almost a century since minority President Woodrow Wilson ushered in the 1913-1921 "Progressive" era, from which sprouted many of these now expansive restraints on our freedoms.

First, there's the financial strip-search of the federal income tax. No person of modest means can open a bank account today that's immune to search by any IRS agent, who already has your Social Security or Employer Identification number. ObamaCare authorizes thousands of new IRS agents with expanded "lien and levy" powers to do that searching.

Even today's massive and freedom-eating War on Drugs had its beginnings in the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act, sold as a mere "truth in labeling law" that would never interfere with the right of Americans to buy painkillers or the right of doctors to prescribe them.

"He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us," the Founders wrote in their indictment of King George, back in 1776.

Our Constitution grants the federal government no authority to regulate drugs or medicine. So how did we end up with half a million Americans locked up for drug crimes, a disproportionate number of them blacks and Hispanics? This is no accident - the drugs banned were those most popular with black, Asian and Hispanic minorities 80 years ago, while the far more unhealthful booze and tobacco favored by white folk got a pass.

(Not that tobacco appears to be long for this world, though that's another story.)

Meantime, is anyone surprised that the American Cancer Society laments the under-medication of cancer pain among terminal patients, when doctors are scared they may be stripped of their livelihood for prescribing "too many" painkillers?

'Swarms of Officers'

Another of the colonists' complaints about King George was that he had "erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."

Today's politicians pretend there's some mystery about why the American economy no longer produces enough jobs. What mystery?

Americans are an entrepreneurial people. Many of today's most successful corporations started as mom-and-pop operations, or with a couple of tinkerers building computers in a garage.

As demand for a fledgling product or service grows, it used to be natural to set up a brick-and-mortar workplace and hire employees.

But talk to anyone who's tried to set up such a business in recent years. It requires a wall full of licenses and permits, none of which come in a Cracker Jack box. The would-be businessman or woman is indeed "swarmed" with regulators, inspectors and tax men.

When you hire your first employee, you quickly learn you've just been dragooned as an uncompensated tax collector, obliged (on penalty of fines or jail should you get it wrong) to match withheld payroll taxes out of your own pocket - whether your fledgling business has ever shown a penny of profit, or not.

Soon the OSHA inspectors arrive. After all, there are quotas to reach. Then the ADA and the EPA come into play, "checking their common sense at the door," as one local politician puts it.

Next the state licensing boards lie in wait - thinly disguised protection rackets in which the very people whose market share you hope to steal away with your superior product or service get to decide whether you're qualified to compete with them.

'By a mock Trial'

The signers of the declaration objected to the king "quartering large bodies of armed troops among us" and "protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States."

How many unarmed people have been shot and killed by Las Vegas police in recent years? Look up Orlando Barlow and Stanley Gibson, for starters. How many of those shooters ever went to trial or even paid a fine? What shall we call the not-open-to-the-public processes that "cleared" them, if not "mock trials"?

Most of the redcoats who killed five in the Boston Massacre of 1770 were acquitted - John Adams defended - but at least there was a public trial.

The Fourth Amendment, written with the conduct of King George's men in mind, guarantees us "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," etc.

Tried to board a commercial airliner lately? Did the TSA agents show you a warrant? Did they explain to you any probable cause to suspect you were engaged in criminal activity? Of course not. "But that's to protect our safety because we're at war with the terrorists!"

Who's the enemy? The current administration won't even admit Maj. Nidal Hasan, charged with killing a dozen men for whom he was responsible at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009, is a Muslim jihadist. They simply call him a mentally ill person whose motives remain unimaginable.

But even the pragmatic argument that this keeps us safe fails. Though the TSA struggles to keep the reports under wraps, government auditors repeatedly give the TSA miserable grades when they try to sneak weapons through the screenings.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, would likely never have been brought to fruition had a reasonable number of passengers been carrying their own concealed firearms - the only solution allowed by the Second Amendment, with its absolute decree that "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

And now, as of last week, the Supreme Court has ruled there's no "mandate" for an individual to buy health insurance, but we nonetheless have a right to see our neighbors taxed to pay for our health care, even if we live on beer and Twinkies.

Since this creates a disincentive to take care of our own health - instead encouraging us to rely on the government to tax our neighbors to pay our medical bills - watch for government to soon move to take away more free choices in this area, attempting for starters to ban sugary soda pop and fried foods.

Oh, wait ...

 

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