Predicting America’s future: Going ‘Third World’? DEJANEIRO, BRAZIL: An artist protesting the epidemic of drug-related deaths in the slums of Rio created these murals showing faces of those affected by this lethal trade. Such “favelas” are among the most infamous Third World slums.

Third World America” is the title of a new book by Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief of the eponymous Huffington Post. What does she mean by this provocative title?

“It’s a jarring phrase,” she writes, “one that is deeply contrary to our national conviction that America is the greatest nation on earth—as well as the richest, the most powerful, the most generous and the most noble. It also doesn’t match our day-to-day experience of the country we live in—where it seems there is, if not a chicken in every pot, then a flat-screen TV on every wall.”

“Third World” could be our future, she argues, if trends continue. These include years of rising inequality, the crushing recession, foreclosures, unemployment and underemployment, and the end of upward mobility. She writes:  “Upward mobility has always been at the center of the American Dream—a promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll do well, and your children will have the chance to do even better.  Well, that promise has been broken, and America’s middle class is under assault. The American Dream is becoming a nightmare.”

The phrase Third World has Cold-War origins, coined then to refer to countries that were not aligned with the U.S. or the Soviet Union.  It has come to mean any nation that is undeveloped or underdeveloped economically. These nations tend to have wide disparities of wealth, with a few at the top holding most of the assets; high Infant mortality; low levels of mass education; and so on.

It’s an exaggeration to think of America as a Third World country. But a friend of mine, originally from Europe, a long-time resident in South America, and now a citizen and keen observer of America, once remarked that, in many ways, America was like a developing nation.

Do you think we could become a Third World country?

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