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EDITORIAL: Securing freedom requires constant and eternal vigilance

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, 243 years ago?

We remain free by most measures. Americans can still pretty much live where we want, work where we want, drive where we want. In fact, for women and minorities, those liberties have expanded over the past 70 years. We should 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 be used only to spot traffic tie-ups, we’re assured. Instead of us watching our government, our government is watching us. The National Security Agency is far more informed about the U.S. citizenry than anyone could have imagined regarding our phone calls, emails, web browsing habits and social media posts. The First Amendment is under seige on our nation’s college campuses.

In the time preceding the Revolutionary War, one 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.” That sounds familiar today, with recent presidents bypassing Congress and instead using federal agencies to impose hugely burdensome regulations on businesses and the public.

The economy has rebounded impressively under President Donald Trump, but many of today’s politicians pretend there’s some mystery about why from time to time it fails to produce 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.

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 entrepreneur is indeed “swarmed” with regulators, inspectors and tax men. And boatloads more regulations arrive once you dare open your shop and hire an employee.

Mr. Trump has made it a priority to attack an oppressive administrative state that surely was never envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Yes, on this Fourth of July, there’s still vastly more freedom to celebrate here than in most parts of the world. But to keep it that way — and better still, to expand it — we all should remember the words of Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

A version of this editorial has appeared in the Review-Journal since 2012.

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