Barack Obama's failed presidency

It is sobering to examine how and why his presidential performance stacks up so poorly against his ideals. An important question for any president is what issues fall in the domain of government action, and which should be left to the private sector. Any sensible answer starts with two presumptions that are antithetical to Obama’s progressive frame of mind. First, the government should seek to avoid interfering in economic affairs to allow the forces of competition and innovation to increase the size of the social pie from which everyone can benefit. Second, the government should focus its exercise of national power on defending the nation and its allies from aggression. Obama inverts these key relationships—a fundamental mistake. He is all too willing to use coercion in domestic economic affairs against disfavored groups, and all too reluctant to use it against sworn enemies of the United States and its allies.

A mistake of this magnitude cannot be corrected by marginal adjustments in office. The sad truth is that the United States today is weaker economically, more divided socially, and more disrespected across the globe than it was before Obama took office. With few exceptions, he made the wrong choices in all the areas in which he declared the dawn of a new era. Consider:

Just how has Obama provided care for the sick? On this, as in so many other economic and social issues, he faced this critical choice: Either he could seek to remove barriers to entry in markets, or he could impose a regime of regulation, taxation, and exclusion. The former increases growth and reduces administrative and regulatory overhang. The latter blocks potential gains from trade while increasing administrative and compliance costs.

His vaunted health-care exchanges violated every sound principle of economic theory.