For the past 16 years, the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have co-published an annual Index of Economic Freedom, which awards every nation an “economic freedom” score based on 10 measurements of economic openness: Business Freedom, Trade Freedom, Fiscal Freedom, Government Spending, Monetary Freedom, Investment Freedom, Financial Freedom, Property Rights, Freedom from Corruption, and Labor Freedom. The big news about the recently published 2010 Index of Economic Freedom is that, for the first time, the United States’ ranking has slipped from “Free” to “Mostly Free.”
As the Index notes: “The U.S. government’s interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth. Economic freedom has declined in seven of the 10 categories measured in the Index.”
While the Index acknowledges that Bush administration policies played a role in lowering the U.S. ranking, it places most of the blame on the Obama administration:
The national government’s role in the economy, expanding under President George W. Bush, has grown sharply under the administration of President Barack Obama, who took office in January 2009. Economic growth, which collapsed in 2008, had resumed by the second half of 2009, but legislative proposals for large and expensive new government programs on health care and energy use (climate change) have increased prospects for significant economic disruptions and raised concerns about the long-term health of the economy.
The key question, of course, is why a center-right country like the United States elected a left-wing enemy of economic freedom like Barack Obama in the first place. Part of the answer, I think, is that Obama conducted a brilliantly deceptive election campaign, pretending to be a moderate when he was anything but. Obama’s disinformation campaign was abetted by the mainstream liberal media, which might easily have exposed Obama’s true political colors, but chose not to.
In a larger sense, however, the Obama Presidency is an unintended consequence of the war in Iraq. Rightly or (in my opinion) wrongly, many Americans had come to believe that the war was a terrible mistake, and in 2008 they acted on that belief by electing one of the war’s outspoken critics to the highest office in the land.
The irony could hardly be greater: The U.S. fought (and is still fighting) a costly and unpopular war to transform Iraq into a stable democracy, yet it is America itself that has been transformed by the conflict — and not for the better.