The United States Is A Third-World Country

by Frost on October 14, 2011

This is a Guest Post I wrote for In Mala Fide. Please read and comment on it here.

It just doesn’t know it yet.

And why should it? All the official sources agree, America is rich beyond belief.

Once upon a time, I got into a heated discussion with a friend’s mother over which generation had better career prospects: Hers or mine. An MBA-adorned management consultant turned stay-at-home mom, she was not a stupid woman. So why wouldn’t she accept my sophomoric insistence that something called ‘GDP’ was a measure of all that was good and holy in a country, and it was going up, up, up! Rejoice!

She told me that her eyes told a different story. There are fewer good jobs available for young people today. There is less security. More crime. forty years ago, a college education was a guarantee of a comfortable upper-middle class life. A man with a high-school diploma and a willingness to get his hands dirty could easily provide for a family from his early twenties.

Of course, I knew better. I had seen the data, and it trumped mere reality. This was in 2006.

Four years later, and now even the heavily-massaged statistics are finding it impossible to deny the rot that has set in.

Here’s unemployment:

And that’s just among adults who are actively looking for work. The combination of dim prospects and generous taxpayer-funded alternatives has driven an increasing share to give up looking for work entirely:

Meanwhile, the fraction of underemployed (i.e. part-time, contract, and term workers) grows as well.

But the problems that America and the West face go beyond what can be portrayed on mere graphs. A cultural and moral rot has set in, and it is finally on the brink of completely overwhelming the centuries of trust, honesty, culture, wealth, and decency that once established western civilization as a beacon of truth and order in the world.

There are many signs that America and her satellites are approaching financial bankruptcy:

But what is less understood is the extent to which this is a symptom of the country’s moral, cultural and spiritual bankruptcy, rather than a cause of our problems.

A healthy society looks out for its own future. The individual members of a healthy society save, so that they will have more to leave to their children than their parents left to them. They build on the achievements of their ancestors,and so gradually increase the accumulated stock of wealth, wisdom and cultural capital.

When you look at the graph above, and when you look around in the world, is this what you see? No. We see a sick and depraved generation, the Baby Boomers, surely the worst that has ever lived in the history of mankind, dragging a once great and glorious civilization through mud and shit. We see parasites, sucking the last drops of blood out of a dying host. We see a generation that has taken the gifts bestowed upon it by antiquity, and utterly failed in its duty to keep it intact for us.

If you think that the current recession is a transitive phenomenon, a consequence of some mysterious ‘business cycle’, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. This is not a problem that can be cured with stimulus, or quantitative easing, or any other excuse that the ruling class concocts to justify siphoning an even greater share of America’s hollowed out corpse to their preferred interest groups. This is not a problem that will be solved by electing a Republican to the white house.

What we are witnessing are the dying gasps of the American Empire.

Productive industry is shutting down all over the North American and European continents. Trust is evaporating. Paper wealth is being marked to market, as the realization that our houses, fixed incomes, bonds and equities are denominated in a rapidly debasing currency. Effective police protection is being slowly withdrawn, leaving (unarmed) civilized people at the mercy of savages for whom the supreme law of violence is a constant fact of life.

I write a lot about self-improvement on this blog. How to get healthy. How to get rich. How to get laid. In a simpler time, living an effective and purposeful life would be optional. But the comfortable lives that we have grown accustomed to will not last forever. With any luck – and perhaps with some leadership out of our generation, as we forcibly wrest control of our lives away from our elders – the dark period will be short-lived, and will be a necessary precursor to something new, and better.

But hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. We are about to go down in history, either as the generation that rose to a great challenge that circumstances laid at our feet, or one that watched the last few candles go out and did nothing. Either way we choose, we’re going to need to be stronger than we are.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Legion October 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

We only need to agree on what constitutes a Third World Country . I have been to many for extended periods and it’s relatively easy to measure.
What percentage of citizens have:
Access to clean fresh water? –
Access to affordable food?
Access to modern medicine?
Access to primary and secondary education?
What is the Life expectancy of the average Joe?
What is the Infant Mortality rate?
What is the literacy rate?
How many vehicles/capita?
How many miles of transportation infrastructure/capita?
What percentage of income is devoted to feeding oneself?
Is the country a net importer or exporter of food? To what degree?
How many sq ft is the average household?
How many people/average household?
What is the victimization rate for various crimes?

Practically speaking the differences between the First world and the Third world is stark. These are just a few parameters we can actually apply numbers to and compare. And there really is no comparison. Just spend time in a Third world country and you will see.

What we are facing is the inescapable consequences of a collapsing credit bubble in the context of an over leveraged indebted government and populace. Credit, you recall, has the effect of pulling forward productivity. And while this little trick can provide a fantastic boom on the way up, it assumes (and enforces) a future period of austerity to pay it back or suffer an equally limiting sovereign default. Considering the size of this last *global* credit bubble, we will be dealing with this for some time to come.

Our political system has been captured by the financial elite whose interest is in preserving the political/economic status quo. So far they are winning. \

Our economic condition is dire, doubt. But make no mistake, we as a nation, are not going to abandon all the advances we’ve pioneered in the 100+ years. We will continue to provide the worlds food. We will continue to enjoy healthful conditions. We will continue to be a leading innovator and manufacturer on the world scene. All the while experiencing the pain of our malinvestments.

Nations experience depressions on average every 70-80 years. It’s part of a grand boom-bust cycle that terminates into what is called a Kondratieff Winter. It’s theorized the lessons of the previous depression are lost on the great-grandchildren. But make no mistake, when it’s over spring will eventually follow. In the mean time hunker down, it will get pretty damn cold!

Tschafer October 17, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Yes, the whole “Third World” thing is probably hyperbole (I hope), but we certainly are not where I thought we were going to be back in 1971. Yes, I had overblown expectations, and considering that nuclear war or commie domination were also all-too-possible futures, I suppose I shouldn’t complain. But allowing for the vehemance of the young, I still think that Frost has a point.

BLarsen October 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Et tu brute?

Great. Another “game” blogger who had hopped on the “death of western civilization” freight train. *yawn*

Frost October 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to talk about America declining into a third-world nation. Unless major changes are made and soon, the US of 2030 will probably look a lot like Brazil today. At best.

I will admit that classifying the problem as purely one of generational conflict is an oversimplification. Of course there were and are anti-communist boomers, and of our cities are currently full of members of “my” generation doing their pathetic best to imitate the 60’s protest generation. Woodstock with hashtags.

I also realize it’s inaccurate to pin all the problems of 2011 on changes that came with the postwar era, asthe modern conservative is wont to do, when really they’re just the natural extension of a political movement that has existed for at least a century, if not five, if not 20.

I guess my point, which you wouldn’t gleam from my post unless you could read my mind, is that we’re approaching a discontinuity in our political climate, in which people will be forced to choose one between the old (Progressivism) and the new (reaction).

I think the conflict will take on a generational component, as the cohorts raised to believe in the conventional wisdom of the progressive era will tend to be set in their ways, while my generation will take to the ideas expressed here and in my link roll. But, speaking as an unofficial representative of the millennial generation’s reactionary wing, I can say that we’re happy to have the old farts along for the ride. More than that actually, we’ll need the wisdom and guidance of the few boomers with clear heads.

Cheers,

Frost

Legion October 15, 2011 at 9:59 am

The Author is prone to hyperbole.
Quiz:
Who is the leading manufacturer in the world?

Most powerful military?

Largest economy?

It’s easy to jump on the “US sucks” bandwagon. Problems abound for sure but can you tell me what other economic powerhouse is NOT facing similar problems? Exactly who is going to fill the US shoes? China? Russia? Europe?

I recommend you spend quality time in a real third world country before issuing sensational declarations. It detracts from your credibility.

Johnny Milfquest October 15, 2011 at 6:46 am

I’m from generation X, but I don’t blame my parents (Baby Boomers) for the decay of western civilisation. I blame fiat money itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixon_Shock

Tschafer October 14, 2011 at 4:47 pm

It should never be forgotten, of course, that lots of Boomers served honorably in Vietnam, got married, had kids and did their best to raise them well, founded companies, voted, and did the best they could. That’s why I specified the “left wing” of the Boomers. And yeah, Bush was a leftist – it just shows how far to the left our current crop of lefties are, that they regard W as some kind of far-right winger. GWB was significantly to the left of JFK.

As for Buckley, the Communists were a genuine threat, and we probably needed a big military to insure our security, but as recently as 1961, 75% of the Federal budget was for defense-related items, proving that holding off the Commies did not require high levels of social spending. Oddly enough, the rise of the welfare state in the U.S. actually led to a weakening of our position against Communism – compare the ’50’s to the ’70’s, when it actually looked like the USSR might win. Unless Buckley was just talking about the Military, I don’t know what the Hell he was talking about.

Rick Darby October 14, 2011 at 4:18 pm

So, Frost, you want to “forcibly wrest control of our lives away from [your] elders.” By your elders, I presume you mean the dreaded Baby Boomers who were saying back in 1968 that they wanted to forcibly wrest control of their lives away from their elders. The hip youth were ready to inject love and peace into humankind. I was there; I remember it.

Presumably, then, you are part of Gen X or Y or Z or whatever we are up to now. I probably agree with most of your criticisms of the Boomers, with the proviso that even they include many who didn’t follow the script that you are so contemptuous of. But you might want to take a minute out of looking for the mote in the eyes of an earlier cohort and examine the beam in your own.

It isn’t Baby Boomers — at least, not those I know — who worship technology, live for new gadgets, demand movies with ever-cooler computer-generated effects, can’t spell, and insert the word “like” in every sentence. Barbarians come in all age categories.

When you are older, you will not be so quick to indulge in such simplistic taxonomies. In the meantime, at least don’t lash out at potential allies among those you castigate as “a sick and depraved generation.”

John October 14, 2011 at 11:13 am

@ Tshafer

No argument here, except – As I argued, it is the “political and money/power class” that is the problem, not the average citizen out working for a living. The supposedly “Right” side of the political spectrum under Bush II passed the quite socialist “No Child Left Behind” act as well as introduced and voted for “Medicare D”, the biggest single expansion of socialized benefits at the expense of the whole since Johnson’s “Great Society” fiasco. It isn’t just the “Left”, it is instead – (D) All of the above.

Back in the mid-1950’s, the overly-esteemed “conservative” William F. Buckley laid the groundwork for a now failed nation when he argued that, and to paraphrase, “We will have to put up with Big Government until the Communist menace has been defeated. ”

Yo Bill, wherever you are. It took in excess of thirty five years from your utterance to the time the Berlin Wall fell down. Cancer metastizises, and so did that “Big Government” that you told conservative that they would have to put up with.

And did we ever get our “Peace Dividend” after the Wall fell? No. Immediately afterwards, an Empire left without an enemy told Saddam Hussein (Google Ambassador April Glaspie) that invading Kuwait would be met with no objections by the U.S., and off we have gone on our never-ending crusade.

We have one party, the “Warfare-Welfare Party”, which tinkers with nothing but the details of keeping the status quo as the status quo.

Tschafer October 14, 2011 at 9:55 am

But let’s not forget, it’s been the counter-cultural Boomer who have resisted every attempt to change or pull back from the disasterous policies of LBJ and the Great Society. Say what you will, but LBJ and FDR didn’t know that their policies would destroy America – perhaps they should have known, but they didn’t, and they were dead by the time the consequences revealed themselves. The left wing of the Boomers have seen all this up close, have seen the decline of our once great nation, and still steadfastly refuse to reverse course. The Boomers were not totally responsible, of course, but they were, in David Horowitz’s words, the “Destructive Generation”, or at least the left wing of it was. The Boomers can’t, and shouldn’t be let off the hook so easily (I say this as someone born in 1959). The Greatest and Silents set the course, but the Boomers refused to change course when they took the wheel, even though they were obviously heading over a cliff.
Of course, there’s no sign that the x-ers or millenials are any better. I mean, we finally get an actual protest from these generations, in “Occupy Wall Street” and what do we see? Calls for more of the socialist crap that got us here in the first place, lame sixties re-enactors whose model is the “Destructive Generation”. Lord help us all.

John October 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

Another small item of note: It was Lyndon Baines Johnson who initiated the stealing of Social Security monies to pay for his “Guns and Butter” programs of the 1960’s, he a member of “The Greatest Generation.” Every single administration since, be it “Democratic” or “Republican”, has carried on this theft to the point where 2.7 trillion is now owed to that fund by a nation quite bankrupt. “Greatest”, “Silent”, “Boomer”, it mattered not. We continually elect, regardless of the “generation” that walks into the voting booth, a political class of thieves beholden to the usurious and war-loving money powers that have brought us to the brink of destruction.

Wash you hands if you must, but they will not come clean until after the actual work is done. The cleansing is only possible when the determination to rid ourselves of that particular lot of people who live to “steal, kill and destroy” moves from thought into action. If you desire a better future you must rid yourselves of those determined to steal it from you, and they are not hard to find. Take that for what it’s worth and any way you wish to interpret it.

John October 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

Being a “Boomer” myself, I am no fan of this generation, but, let’s face some real truths here. What my generation has done is play the cards they were handed, those dealt them by those who came before them. Granted, as with any generation there is a small percentage who self-congratulate to the point of damn near personal or small group idol worship, such as the counter-culture demographic during the late -1960’s -mid 1970’s etc.; those who believe that they were uniquely gifted and in fact were not.

Never-the-less, the Cold War and its effects were trans-generational, and it was the predecessors of and the so-called “Greatest Generation” that gave the country “Social Security” via F.D.R. in 1933. It was the combination of the “Greatest” and the “Silents” that dumped the enormously expanded “social safety net” on the Boomers as well as all generations which have followed via L.B.J’s “Great Society” programs, those being passed in 1965 when the oldest “Boomer” was 19 years old and the legal age to vote was still 21. By the time the “Boomer Generation” had become demographically significant as a voting population, these programs and many other incredibly bad ideas had become firmly entrenched as mandates and policy. As a case in point, I was 10 years old, riding a Schwinn Bicycle and playing Little League Baseball when Johnson forced his “Great Society” through congress. Pray tell – what would you have had me do to prevent this madness? Trade in my autographed Rawlings “Mickey Mantle” baseball glove for a Molotov Cocktail?

Further, I must add this. A little effort on the part of the succeeding generations would uncover the following, and perhaps this discovery will become relevant in the near future. Currently a nascent resistance/protest movement is underway, referred to as “Occupy Wall Street.” To this point the protestors themselves have comported themselves (unlike law enforcement) in a fairly civilized manner. Such was hardly the case back in the 1960’s and early 70’s.

Blacks (or whatever they like to be called currently) were rioting in every major city on a regular basis. Watts, Detroit, Chicago – you name the city and fires were burning making the 1991 L.A. riots look tame in comparison. As ‘Nam escalated, so did protests against the war. Second-wave feminism took off, bequeathing us the familial and social chaos that plagues us today. L.B.J. bought off the Blacks and the rest of the “Left” with his social programs, and if you have any doubt about that watch what happens when the money finally runs out. Left-Liberals will be at a loss for words as their championed class cooks them over a spit and the rest of mainstream “America” will just stand there and watch the country burn to the ground as the giant multi-cultural experiment goes up in flames.

It wasn’t my idea.

Charts, charts, and more charts. Go back to 1913 and the creation of the Federal Reserve for the source of our economic woes, way before the “Boomers” came about. Then fast-forward to the late 1980’s when the banksters, the “Money Class” – those profiteers took over the operation of America’s corporations. What did we see? Instead of management implementing policies to ensure the long-term health of a business, this new bunch engaged in mergers, sell-offs, leveraged buyouts, disections and vivisections, and the groundwork laid for NAFTA, the WTO and eventually the destruction of our manufacturing base. Think “Silent Generation” folks like Carl Icahn as the vultures who began this, with a few “Boomers” being tutored to continue to eat the carcass.

And guess what? From the “Boomers” on, every succeeding “generation” has its share of psychopaths which graduated from those Ivy League schools with their intent being to rape the world for their own personal gain while the rest of us lumpen, regardless of what “generation” we are from, work away for three squares a day.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits” it has been said, and folks, sweeping generalizations about generations is a big mistake. Each and every one of these has had and continues to have a small percentage of players who manipulate the whole, almost universally in a bad manner and for personal gain. We rid ourselves of them and perhaps, just perhaps, there is hope.

Johnson was no Boomer, nor was Nixon or Ford or Carter or Reagan or Bush I. And the number of Boomers in Congress didn’t become a number of political note until Clinton’s ascension to high office. I disagree with virtually everything that has gone on regardless of which generation did it, but the fact of the matter is that the bureaucratic inertia and psychological mindset behind both good and bad policy is handed from one generation to the next whether the ensuing generations like it or not. Further, there is no magic year that delineates when one generation begins with the following supposition that “they” changed everything. that

J.W. Black October 14, 2011 at 8:09 am

@AC: I don’t blame you for your rosy outlook, the corporogovmedia has placated many in an attempt to ‘keep the momentum’. That said, comparing the current graphs to those of the WWII era is illogical. Society functions very differently than it did 70 years ago. Modern Westerners rely on systems of logistics to supply food, water, fuel, electricity and have little or no way of self-sustaining if that system is disrupted.

Modern cities are a few meals from chaos at any given time.

J.W.

AC October 14, 2011 at 7:26 am

“There’s a lot of ruin in a nation.” I agree that the Boomers took a lot out of America, but big countries have a lot of momentum. It’s instructive that your most alarming graphs don’t go all the way back to WWII, else we’d see that the economy is not in any new catastrophe, but just in the bottom of its usual performance.

And yeah, maybe the new normal is the stagflation of the 70s. And that sucks, and Boomers are right to be chastised for bringing us to this point. But third world it ain’t.

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