The world has been getting richer but Venezuela has been in the news lately for going in the opposite direction (Slate). It might be that the issue is as simple as a growing population and oil revenues that haven’t kept up (i.e., perhaps Hugo Chavez would be regarded as an economic genius if oil were worth $200 per barrel). Yet the things that Venezuelans voted for and implemented weren’t actually all that radical. They expanded their government’s role in allocating housing and food, for example, and subsidized various things that they thought everyone should be entitled to. This isn’t obviously different than what the U.S. government does, for example. I’m wondering if the rapid decline of Venezuela shows that a country’s economic prosperity is more fragile today than 50 years ago. Skilled workers can emigrate while using air travel and telecommunications to keep in touch with friends and family (see “Dumb towns getting dumber; smart towns getting smarter?” from 2006, regarding mobility within the U.S.). Capital is more mobile than in the past. If a country is only a slightly worse place to do business than competitors there can be a dramatic decline that wouldn’t have happened in the mid-20th century when most of these political ideas regarding the proper role of government were cemented.