Victor Davis Hanson

Government is now so huge, powerful and callous that citizens risk becoming proverbial serfs without the freedoms guaranteed by the Founders.

Is that perennial fear an exaggeration? Survey the current news.

We have just learned that the Internal Revenue Service before the 2012 election predicated its tax-exempt policies on politics. It inordinately denied tax exemption to groups considered either conservative or possibly antagonistic to the president's agenda.

If the supposedly nonpartisan IRS is perceived as scoring our taxes based on our politics, then the entire system of trust in self-reporting is rendered null and void. Worse still, the bureaucratic overseer at the center of the controversy, Sarah Hall Ingram, now runs the IRS division charged with enforcing compliance with the new Obamacare requirements.

Recently, some reporters at the Associated Press had their private and work phone records monitored by the government, supposedly because of fear about national-security leaks. The Justice Department gave the AP no chance, as usually happens, first to question its own journalists. The AP ran a story in May 2012 about the success of a Yemeni double agent before the administration itself could brag about it.

In fact, the Obama White House itself has been accused of leaking classified information deemed favorable to the administration -- top-secret details concerning the Stuxnet computer virus used against Iran, the specifics of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, and the decision-making behind the drone program -- often to favored journalists. The message is clear: A reporter may have his most intimate work and private correspondence turned over to government -- a Fox News journalist had his email account tapped into -- on the mere allegation that he might have tried to do what his own government had in fact already done.

Now, the civil rights divisions of the Department of Education and the Department of Justice have issued new speech codes for campuses, focusing on supposed gender insensitivities. The result is that federal bureaucrats can restrict the constitutionally protected rights of free speech for millions of American college students -- including during routine classroom discussions -- in ways they feel are proper and correct.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.