The United States has become a “developing country” in a global ranking that measures democracy and inequality

This is Fundraising Week for Naked Capitalism. 934 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and aggressive behaviour, particularly in the financial field. Please join us and participate via our donation page, which shows how to donate by check, credit card, debit card or PayPal. Read about why we’re doing this fundraising, what we’ve accomplished in the past year, and our current goal, to expand our reach.

ive here. The United States is on the right track toward levels of inequality in South Africa. Not a happy prospect.

Written by Kathleen Friedel, Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. Originally published in The Conversation

The United States may consider itself a “leader of the free world,” but a development index released in July 2022 places the country much lower on the list.

In its global rankings, the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development lowered the United States to 41st globally, down from its previous ranking of 32. Under this methodology – an expanded model of 17 categories, or “goals,” many of which focus on Environment and Equality – The United States ranks between Cuba and Bulgaria. Both are widely considered to be developing countries.

The United States is now also considered a “flawed democracy,” according to The Economist’s Democracy Index.

As a political historian who studies American institutional evolution, I am aware that these dismal classifications were the inevitable result of two problems. Racism has cheated many Americans out of the health care, education, economic security, and environment that they deserve. At the same time, as threats to democracy become more serious, devotion to “American exceptionalism” prevents the country from frank assessments and course corrections.

The other America

The Office of Sustainable Development’s ratings differ from more traditional development measures in that they focus more on the experiences of ordinary people, including their ability to enjoy clean air and water, rather than creating wealth.

So while the sheer size of the US economy is important to record, the unequal access to the wealth it produces is also significant. When judged by accepted measures such as the Gini coefficient, income inequality in the United States has risen significantly over the past 30 years. According to the OECD Barometer, the United States has the largest wealth gap among the G7 countries.

These results reflect structural differences in the United States, which are more pronounced for African Americans. These differences continued after the demise of collectible slavery and the repeal of Jim Crow laws.

Researcher W.E.B. Du Bois first revealed this type of structural inequality in his 1899 analysis of black life in the urban north, the Philadelphia Negro. Although he noted the differences between affluence and status within the black community, Du Bois found that African-American life is a world separate from the white population: a “city within a city.” Du Bois traces the high rates of poverty, crime, and illiteracy in Philadelphia’s black community to discrimination, disinvestment, and residential segregation—not the degree of black ambition or talent.

More than half a century later, and with distinctive eloquence, Martin Luther King, Jr. similarly denounced the persistence of “Another America,” one in which the “bloom of hope” had turned into the “exhaustion of despair.”

To illustrate his point, King referred to many of the same factors that Du Bois studied: housing status and family wealth, education, social mobility and literacy rates, health outcomes and employment. On all of these measures, black Americans performed worse than whites. But as King noted, “Many people of different backgrounds live in this other America.”

The criteria for development raised by these men also feature prominently in the 1962 book “The Other America” ​​by political scientist Michael Harrington, founder of the group that later became the Democratic Socialists of America. Harrington’s work so unsettled President John F. Kennedy is said to have led him to formulate a “War on Poverty”.

Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, launched this metaphorical war. But poverty is bound to separate places. Rural areas and separate neighborhoods remained impoverished until after federal efforts in the mid-20th century.

This is largely because federal efforts during that critical period internalized rather than confronted the forces of racism, according to my research.

Across a number of policy areas, the persistent efforts of racist Democrats in Congress have resulted in an incomplete and patchy system of social policy. Democrats from the South collaborated with Republicans to stymie efforts to achieve universal health care or a union workforce. They rejected proposals for strong federal intervention, leaving a checkered legacy of domestic funding for education and public health.

Today, many years later, the effects of a racism-designed welfare state are visible – although perhaps less visible – in the inappropriate health policies that have led to a shocking decline in life expectancy in the United States.

The decline of democracy

There are other ways to measure a country’s level of development, and in some of them the US is doing better.

The United States currently ranks 21st on the UNDP Index, which measures factors below the Sustainable Development Index. Good results in a per capita income of $64,765 and an average of 13.7 years of schooling put the United States squarely in the developed world.

However, their ranking is influenced by assessments that place more weight on political systems.

The Economist’s Democracy Index now ranks the United States among “flawed democracies,” with an overall rating between Estonia and Chile. It falls short of being a highly-rated “full democracy” largely because of its fractured political culture. This increased dichotomy is evidenced by the contrast of pathways between the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states.

Although analysts from The Economist praised the peaceful transfer of power in the face of an insurgency designed to disrupt it, their report laments that, according to a January 2022 poll, “only 55% of Americans believe Mr. Biden has legitimately won the 2020 election, on Although there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.”

Election denial carries with it the threat that election officials in Republican-controlled jurisdictions will reject or alter the number of votes that do not favor the Republican Party in the upcoming elections, jeopardizing the United States’ score on the Democracy Index.

Red and blue America also differ in access to modern reproductive care for women. This is to the detriment of the US’s gender ranking, which is an aspect of the UN’s Sustainable Development Index.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Republican-controlled states have enacted or proposed highly restrictive abortion laws, to the point of putting women’s health at risk.

I believe that when combined with structural inequality and divided social policy, the waning Republican commitment to democracy gives weight to the classification of the United States as a developing country.

American Excellence

To address the United States’ poor performance in a variety of global surveys, one must also contend with the idea of ​​American exceptionalism, the belief in American superiority over the rest of the world.

Both political parties have long promoted this belief, at home and abroad, but “exceptionalism” gets more official treatment than Republicans. This was the front line on the 2016 and 2020 Republican National Program (“We Believe in American Exceptionalism”). It was the organizing principle behind Donald Trump’s pledge to bring “patriotic education” back into American schools.

In Florida, after lobbying by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the state Board of Education in July 2022 approved standards rooted in American exceptionalism while forbidding teaching in critical race theory, an academic framework that teaches the type of structural racism that Du Bois has long exposed.

With a tendency to proclaim rather than pursue excellence, promoting American exceptionalism encourages Americans to maintain a strong sense of national achievement—despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.