USA: A Third World Country in the making
With this election, this country is feeling more like Mexico, or Brazil, Nigeria, or Venezuela. Like what used to be called a third world country. (since been re-branded as Emerging Markets.)
My twenty years on Wall Street was spent investing in these countries. Studying them was my Dads job (Historian who specialized in Bolivia) so I also knew them as child.
Why has the US worked so well relative to these country? Lots of reasons, but there are four main features responsible for the dysfunction in these countries.
A) Extreme inequality. There exists a very wealthy minority that controls almost everything: Politics, business, and social structures. There is a completely disenfranchised group— economically & socially. Often defined by race. Between the two exists a very small middles class.
This leads to….
B) No compromise. The wealthy minority, and the much poorer majority, have two entirely separate realities, two sets of experiences and facts. Both sides see things fundamentally differently. In the process they dehumanize the other side. Which of course is conducive to political extremism, and violence.
It is also means almost no compromise. When you cannot agree on the basic facts, then it means someone has to do something irrational within their framework if they are to compromise.
(Aside: It is not surprising that in an environment where truth and reality are nebulous, and open to interpretation, that Magic Realism would arise as literary technique.)
This leads to…..
C) Corruption. Power flips, in dramatic fashion, between the wealthy elites and the angry poor mob. Whichever group ends up in power has no checks on it, and being in office becomes vehicle to gain wealth for your group and extract revenge on the other group.
This leads to….
D) Cynicism. As things break down, everybody ends up giving up, and focusing on just themselves and their immediate family. Few have any regard for the laws. Or for the greater good of the nation. The wealthy take their money offshore, the majority of citizens do whatever it takes NOT to pay taxes. Citizenship is simply an obligation and burden that must be navigated.
This brings about complete dysfunction. It makes everything — economy, politics, roads, bridges, police, school — broken and shitty. Those who can leave do. Making it worse.
This leads to more extremism, and more corruption, and more cynicism. And sometimes extreme violence. Because the other side becomes evil.
The US has been shifting towards all four of these over the last 30 years, with inequality leading the way. We are more divided, economically and socially, then we have ever been (we are less divided racially. But only marginally so.)
In last twenty years we have started developing the second feature, the no compromise thing, because we now have two separate realities. Turn on Comedy Central and watch liberals be smug, then turn to FOX and watch conservatives be angry. Two realities.
We are close to the third stage of outright corruption. The bank bailouts, the revolving door between Wall Street, DC, and lobbyist, IS CORRUPTION, even if it is mostly bureaucratic corruption. It is one that Hillary Clinton personifies. The Clintons 40 Million in wealth didn’t come without some ugly stuff.
Trump will be much worse, a step up into a new level of corruption. Corruption won’t just be about loopholes. It will be an administration of outright graft. Paper bags filled with stacks of bills corruption. (Look at how he ran his businesses, and how he is running is Campaign!)
The final stage, complete cynicism, is accelerating with this election. Hopefully in three months humility, from both sides, will rise and anger ebb. Hopefully there will be an honest attempt, from both sides, to understand the others reality. Hopefully both sides will back away from the edge. Calm down.
Because the really scary part is. We are, to the rest of the world, the golden shining hope. We are where people fleeing dysfunction come. We are the safe haven for all the people who grew up in third world countries, who wanted a place without inequality, without cynicism, without anger, without violence. We are it.
So if we fuck it up, like we are royally fucking it up. Then what?
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My overview on the election here: Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots”
Yell at me on twitter here: Chris_Arnade
This piece lack nuance? Too oversimplified? Here are my longer pieces: Chris Arnade at Guardian