Liberty bells are ringing on the Fourth of July, but only with a dull thud. We love to brag with pride that America is the land of the free, but the reality is we are undoubtedly far from free. American citizens are beset from every angle by increasing, government-driven burdens. These burdens come from each level of government in the form of taxes and regulations. As a result, we are less free each Independence Day.

The most precious asset of personal liberty is an individual’s labor, but the government owns the value of our labor. At every level, governments tell workers how much earnings we can keep; notably, it is solely at the government’s discretion. Tax rates are set arbitrarily. In a time of high inflation, food, and energy costs, the government-takes-first tax scheme hurts the ordinary wage-earner the hardest. There are never tax breaks for consumers on out-of-control necessary critical goods.

What about our real estate, our homes, or businesses? Every state has property tax, meaning the government has the first lien on your home, business, and commercial property. In effect, we rent it from our government. Texans pay the highest property taxes in the country while having sales tax higher than Florida. While a unique point, it is imperative to understand that the government will always be your landlord and the rents go up every year. You will never own your home, ranch, farm, or other real estate in the United States. Loans on our real estate aside, the government has a lien that you must pay every year, and you cannot pay off this ‘lien.’

About nine in ten American children attend public schools. Attendance is mandatory, yet these schools fail most of our children. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, a government website, reported that the nation’s schools are consistently underperforming, even before the Coronavirus lockdowns. According to the Department of Education’s Nation’s Report Card, most students graduate below proficiency standards. The education block in government picks the curriculum; trains, educates, and pays government teachers, teachers whose activism constantly expands their pay and power in the statehouse, and poisons students with more government propaganda.

What about our vehicles? We do not even own our cars or trucks – we have annual registration fees, taxes, licenses, and inspections. A citizen must pay the fees, or citizens cannot use their vehicle or face the risk of arrest and jail. Often, the people who evade registration costs are the working poor, who dodge authorities to commute to work.

There are many more incidents of arbitrary government laws infringing on our God-given liberty. In most states, more than half of occupations require licensing issued by the government. Other careers are “regulated” by pseudo-governmental industry organizations. Many jobs are locked behind arbitrary college-degree requirements issued by universities that the state empowers as a primary credentialing source.

In recreation, so too do levels of government dictate what a person can do with their time. Citizens must get permission and pay an annual tax through licensing just to go fishing or hunting.

The list of the chains of government is almost endless. It is virtually impossible to find anything we do regularly that isn’t designed, required, or influenced by the government’s laws. Most of these laws extract money from everyday people to finance further government activities, which continue government practices that degrade the quality of life by taking our freedoms. Essentially making citizens serfs or slaves to the government.

This Independence Day, let us remember to celebrate independence from our own government. The real threat to our liberty isn’t just a threat; it’s real. It isn’t external either. The danger to freedom is local, state, and federal governments. The chains of government are heavy and endless. The government owns our labor, property, schools, cars, and so many other aspects of our life. How free are we? The first step to solving a problem is to acknowledge there is one. The land of the free must be the home of the brave, or we are all doomed. It is incumbent upon all patriots to take an active role in politics and government to restore our freedom so the liberty bells can be heard once again.

Don Huffines

Don Huffines is a conservative businessman and former state senator. He leads the Huffines Liberty Foundation with his wife, Mary Catherine.