Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 29, 2013

U.S. is losing economic freedom; frontline no place for women


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Mauritius and Denmark all beat the United States in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom. The U.S., part of a group of countries termed “mostly free,” scored 76 out of 100, dropping .3 from last year, compared with 89.3 for Hong Kong. The world average score of 59.6 is only .1 above the 2012 average. All free economies averaged 84.5, well above the U.S. ranking.

The Index is produced by The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, and is based on Adam Smith’s theory expressed in The Wealth of Nations in 1776. It covers 10 freedoms scored from 1 to 100, from property rights to entrepreneurship, for 185 countries, and has been published since 1995.

Economic freedom is defined as “the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property. In an economically free society, individuals are free to work, produce, consume and invest in any way they please, with that freedom both protected by the state and unconstrained by the state. In economically free societies, governments allow labor, capital and goods to move freely, and refrain from coercion or constraint of liberty beyond the extent necessary to protect and maintain liberty itself.” That definition applies less to the U.S. each year.

The U.S. has lost economic freedom for five consecutive years and suffered losses in the categories of monetary freedom, business freedom, labor freedom and fiscal freedom. The U.S. did post an increase in one category, however: government spending, in which it scored lowest of the 10 categories.

The poor U.S. position, the lowest Index score since 2000, is due to rapid expansion of federal policies, which have encroached on the states’ ability to control their own economic decisions. The authors specifically mentioned the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial bill as having strong negative influences on economic freedom. They also noted that national spending rose to over 25 percent of GDP in 2010, that public debt passed 100 percent of GDP in 2011, and that budget deficits have exceeded $1 trillion each year since 2009.

“More than three years after the end of the recession in June 2009, the U.S. continues to suffer from policy choices that have led to the slowest recovery in 70 years,” the authors wrote. “Businesses remain in a holding pattern, and unemployment is close to 8 percent.”

Until government stops trying to regulate nearly every facet of life, its tinkering will continue to slow the economy and prolong suffering, and we will continue to fall in the Index of Economic Freedom.

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The decision to put women in up-front combat roles is troubling, to say the least, perhaps more so to those of us who grew up and served in times when women played important roles in the military, but were not directly involved in combat, or even close to combat.

Fortunately, only a relative few females have been injured and killed in recent military actions, but if this decision stands those numbers will grow, and that prospect is a quite traumatic one for many Americans, and completely unacceptable for many others.

The critical factor in determining whether any group or individual serves in a combat situation is whether they are up to the daunting challenges that exist. Requirements for who fills combat roles must be maintained at levels that guarantee that every person in a combat role is up to it, man, woman, gay, straight or whatever.

There are also practical considerations when males and females are in combat situations in close proximity. Troops are often in sustained operations for extended periods, and living conditions offer no privacy for personal hygiene functions or sleeping. Finding ways to provide needed privacy during high stress and dangerous operations may very well put troops at greater risk. That is not acceptable.

A convincing argument against this is that the decision was made for the wrong reasons: it was driven by political and social considerations, not military need, according to Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, US Army (Ret.), who served for 36 years as an original member of the Delta Force and a Green Berets commander.

Some women believe that their chances of career advancement within the military suffer from being excluded from ground combat positions. And predictably, the American Civil Liberties Union, which frequently takes positions that make no sense in the practical world, agrees and has filed a lawsuit on their behalf.

The safety of our military personnel must not be put at risk in return for achieving some politically correct sense of fairness or even to allow female military personnel access to the career advantages that are available to males, as unfair as that may be. Fairness and equality sometimes must take a back seat.

Despite the strong desires of many Americans, men and women are by nature different biological creatures and distinctly not equal in important ways, one of which is that men are better suited to military combat than women. Don’t fool with Mother Nature.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.