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Op-Ed: Decouple Yourself in the New Third World


You may be surprised to find that you are happier and more successful in the New Third World than you can hope to be now in the US or Europe.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL In times past at Minyanville, I have discussed the subject of "decoupling" in reference to economies and financial markets. I want to discuss decoupling again, but in a very different context. I want to encourage you to consider "decoupling" your life, at least in part.

For four and a half decades, I have lived and/or worked outside the US in a few dozen nations that were among those called the "Third World" in the past. I am old enough to remember when that term first came into use some 50 years ago. Meant to describe a host of new nations being created as European colonial empires crumbled, and whose support for either side of the Cold War (the First and Second Worlds of their day) was undetermined, it has become a slur. No one compliments a nation by calling it Third World. It is an insult and seen as one by those who live in those nations. It is also inaccurate.

I have spent a great deal of time over recent years trying to help people get away from using that outdated term. But I will take a different approach today. I will suggest a new definition for "Third World." For the sake of this essay, let's call it the New Third World. But if there are three, what about the other two? How are they to be defined?

The New First World is made up of those nations that used to be the primary global power centers in nearly all respects, basically the US and Europe. Let's look at each.

The Europe of the late 20th century strove to return to its position in the 19th century and failed. It had to play second fiddle to the US. The Europe of the second decade of the 21st century longs to return to the Europe of the late 20th century. It is failing and will fail. Perhaps the single most important factor in determining Europe's future is to never forget that it is made up of democracies. Its future will not be determined by people with names like Merkel, Rajoy, Napolitano, and so forth. It will be determined by people whose names are unknown to us, but who are very much aware of what is happening in their nations. Toss in an EU that requires unanimity to take any serious action and a eurozone designed for failure and you have a genuine disaster unfolding. Yes, the new Europe will eventually appear, but the process of getting "there" from "here" is not going to be pretty. It's going to be very painful and it will take years, perhaps a generation.

The US is in serious trouble too. One big thing it has in its favor is that it's not Europe. However, its political leadership for some years has been a lesson in mediocrity, neither as good as it should be nor as bad as it could be. Mediocrity is not good enough to deal with the continually-growing financial crisis in a nation almost evenly divided between two "sides" that spend almost all their time shouting insults at their opponents, but little time creating solutions. The level of political discourse in the US is worse than sad. Yes, the new US will eventually appear, but the process of getting "there" from "here" is not going to be pretty. It's going to be very painful and it will take years, perhaps a generation.
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