How free are we on this July Fourth?

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, 237 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 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 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.

And if the past couple of months have taught us anything, it’s that the federal government — very often its unelected officials — have no problem whatsoever separating us from our freedoms. The Internal Revenue Service quashes countless groups’ efforts to gain nonprofit status, simply because these groups lean conservative and disagree with big government’s ideas on politics, economics, health care or, God forbid, on religious bounds — in a country founded in part on freedom of religion. This is the same IRS that will be responsible for enforcing ObamaCare regulations, through which we gain the “right” to see our neighbors taxed to pay for our health care, even if we choose to live on beer and Twinkies.

The Department of Justice secretly obtained two months of telephone records for reporters and editors at The Associated Press. Right on the heels of that outrageous intrusion, it was revealed that Justice tracked just about every movement and mode of communication by Fox News reporter James Rosen because Mr. Rosen purportedly was a co-conspirator in committing the crime of journalism. The First Amendment protects the free press so journalists can act as a check on government power and keep the citizenry informed of how its tax dollars are spent. How can that possibly be accomplished if the government is spying on journalists to discourage whistle-blowers from coming forward?

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, in light of recently revealed spying measures. All your phone calls, emails, web browsing habits and social media posts have a permanent home at a huge data collection site in Utah.

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 the president bypassing Congress and instead using federal agencies to impose hugely burdensome regulations on businesses and the public.

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

In recent years, more freedom has been lost than gained in the United States, a result that surely was never the intention of the Founding Fathers. Yes, on this Fourth of July, there’s still 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 originally appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year.

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