Becoming a Third World Country

This section was taken from Secrets, Lies, and Democracy, a transcript of interviews with Noam Chomsky by David Barsamian. I read this book before I took a class on sociological theories. I think I may have to read through Barsamian’s interviews with Chomsky again now that I have a more sophisticated theoretical understanding (thanks to the dependency theorists, neo-marxists, etc).

photo found via google search


David: A recent Census Bureau report stated that there’s been a 50% increase in the working poor–that is, people who have jobs but are still below the poverty level.

Noam: That’s part of the Third-Worldization of the society. It’s not just unemployment, but also wage reduction. Real wages have been declining since the late 1960s. Since 1987, they’ve even been declining for college-educated people, which is a striking shift.

There’s supposed to be a recovery going on, and it’s true that a kind of recovery is going on. It’s at about half the rate of preceding postwar recoveries from recession (there’ve been half a dozen of them) and the rate of job creation is less than a third. Furthermore–out of line with earlier recoveries–the jobs themselves are low-paying and a huge number of them are temporary.

This is what’s called “increasing flexibility of the labor market.” Flexibility is a word like reform–it’s supposed to be a good thing. Actually, flexibility means insecurity. It means you go to bed at night and don’t know if you’ll have a job in the morning. Any economist can explain that that’s a good thing for the economy–that is, for profit-making, not for the way people live.

Low wages also increase job insecurity. They keep inflation low, which is good for people who have money–bondholders, say. Corporate profits are zooming, but for most of the population, things are grim. And grim circumstances, without much prospect for a future for for constructive social action, express themselves in violence.


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