Economic freedom has declined under the Obama administration, and America’s rank has repeatedly fallen on the Index of Economic Freedom and other rankings issued by think-tanks and research foundations. (The Heritage Foundation just released the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom.) In their Economic Freedom of the World rankings, Canada’s Fraser Institute and the U.S.-based Cato Institute note that “The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a substantial decline in economic freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the United States was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore.” But by 2010, America had fallen to 19th place, and its economic climate continues to deteriorate.
Shrinking economic freedom is bad for your health. Formerly communist countries like Russia (which still has a heavily state-dominated economy) tend to have shorter life expectancies than more pro-free-market countries, even when those countries have fewer natural resources to pay for health care. The average man in Russia lives around 60 years (59.2 years, according to the 2009 World Almanac), compared to over 70 years in Turkey and Thailand, even though Russia is richer due to factors like oil and mineral wealth (its per capita income was nearly twice as high as Thailand). Thai and Turkish life expectancy was also higher than in other formerly communist countries like Romania and Bulgaria, which had incomes similar to Turkey and higher than Thailand.
These disparities exist even among countries with very similar cultures, as is shown by the recent history of two neighboring countries, capitalist Colombia and socialist Venezuela. In 1999, just before Marxist Hugo Chavez took power in Venezuela, life expectancy was 3 years longer in Venezuela than in Colombia. But after 13 years of socialist rule, life expectancy in Venezuela is now a year shorter than in Colombia. (These figures are from the World Almanacs for 1999 and 2013.) Improvements in life expectancy have stalled in Socialist Venezuela even though Venezuela, unlike Colombia, has vast oil wealth, and has benefited from rapidly-rising oil prices during Chavez’s rule, enabling Venezuela to dramatically increase government health care spending. Under the Chavez regime, Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, has become one of the world’s most violent cities.