Skip to main content

The term "third-world" was coined early in the period of the Cold War and referred to the countries, mainly recently post-colonial, aligned with neither the industrial West (the "first world,") or the Communist East (the "second world.") Since most of these countries were pre-industrial or industrializing, they were thought of as "underdeveloped" countries or "developing" countries. In other words. poor.

 Stereotypically, they were thought of as having a mass of poverty stricken people, ruled and dominated by a small, wealthy elite. High birth rates, lack of mobility, unequal access to education and wealth (such as land), lack of health care, high unemployment and hunger were all considered "typical" for the "third world."

Reality, as always, was far more complex than this simple stereotype. The influence of this stereotype, however, underlines the kind of struggles faced by these countries, especially the newly post-colonial countries which were carved out by the colonial powers for their own interests, giving little or no thought to the interests or needs of the colonized peoples. In varying degrees, the defining features of this stereotype became part of the American worldview, such that referring to a country as "third-world" indicated poverty, backwardness, disease, hunger, etc.

Right-wing talkers, especially one well -known for many years in New York, complained that the U. S. was "becoming a third-world country" because of immigration from non-European origins. Obviously, his reference was racist. He may, however, have been correct in his assertion for far different reasons.

Over the last 3 decades, changes have been accumulating in the United States that do not bode well for the future. The growth of economic inequality between a small elite and the majority has increased. Poverty has increased. Unemployment has become endemic, access to health care has declined as costs have increased. Public education, a cornerstone of American social and economic success, is in trouble. When 25% of American children live in poverty, where "food insecurity" (read as "hunger") persists and is widespread, where the rate of social mobility is among the lowest in the industrial world, America, truly, is becoming a third world country.

The Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare") is an attempt to modify one part of the trend, but whether we look at hunger, education, unemployment (and their cousin, poverty), there don't appear to be any serious attempts to reverse the decline. The Right complains about "throwing money at problems," but seems okay about "throwing money" at large, successful corporations. What passes for their "new" ideology "Objectivism," as promoted by the atheist loony-tune Ayn Rand, is little more than re-heated left-overs of Social Darwinism. The conditions they advocate would be familiar to Charles Dickens. Just listen to hypocrite par-excellence Rand Paul who hates Big Government so much that he refused to accept Medicare when he was in medical practice.

 Oh, wait. he made most of his income from "Big Government" payments for his patients!

If one looks at the great successes of 20th century America, rapid social mobility, the beginnings of racial justice (just beginnings), access to public education, such programs as the Space Program, the Interstate Highway system, the GI Bill, etc., they all involved "throwing money at problems" with astounding results. Scientific research, medical developments, economic expansion all thrived under generous public financing.

If, in fact, America was becoming poor through lack of wealth or lack of resources, if the wealth of the country was actually flowing out, it might be possible to comprehend the reasons for this trend. The fact is, however, that the wealth and potential of the United States is not declining. What is changing is the lop-sided distribution of wealth and the growing income disparity between the small elite and everyone else. That is, in its own way, a recipe for disaster for most of us.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site