Nita Ghei is right to lament America's decline in economic freedom under the Obama administration ("A land less free," Web, Jan. 14). A record $16 trillion in national debt, "crony handouts," costly and burdensome new regulations and growing subsidies for special interests all have cast a pall over America's future. No wonder America's rank has fallen yet again in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom.
Shrinking economic freedom will also harm health and well-being. A more government-controlled economy means shorter average life spans, as the experiences of two neighboring countries, capitalist Colombia and socialist Venezuela, illustrate. In 1999, just before socialist Hugo Chavez took power in Venezuela, life expectancy was three years longer in Venezuela than in Colombia. After 13 years of socialist rule, however, life expectancy in Venezuela is now a year shorter than in Colombia. Life spans have lagged behind in socialist Venezuela even though it, unlike Colombia, has vast oil wealth and has benefited from rapidly rising oil prices, enabling it to dramatically increase government health care spending. Under Mr. Chavez's rule, Venezuela's capital, Caracas, has become one of the most violent cities on Earth.
America has also fallen recently in other rankings, such as the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness rankings. America now ranks a lackluster 42nd in property rights protections, far lower than when President Obama took office.
Mr. Obama undermined property rights by signing the Dodd-Frank Act and undermining creditors' rights in bankruptcy proceedings. Obamacare regulations will harm medical innovation, as Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey Flier has noted.