One weekend last year while watching Book TV I saw a brief interview in which some notable individual said he was reading Arianna Huffington’s book Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream. Even without him saying a word about it, the book’s title alone was enough to make me read it. So I made a mental note to someday grab a copy, should I ever come across one during one of my frequent library visits. Well, as luck would have it while prowling the shelves one fine day what did I find but a copy of Huffington’s book. As you would expect, I immediately swiped it and made my way to the automated check-out machine.
Overall, I thought her book was pretty good. Since she states her case that the American middle class is shrinking and under attack from a crumbling infrastructure, rapacious corporations, corrupt and co-opted government entities and dismal educational institutions, I tend to classify Third World America as one of those “call to arms” books like Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid or David Frum’s Comeback, books that first point out how bad things are and then offer solutions to the dire predicaments they proclaim. With its feel of an extended op-ed piece, despite the book’s depressing subject matter it’s a rather quick read.
Even though Huffington possesses an advanced degree in economics, while discussing the sad state of America’s middle class she really never engages in any analytical work of her own, but much like Barbara Ehrenreich did with her essay collection This Land is Their Land, she instead prefers to recount incidents that have appeared in the news over the last few years. But, thankfully in order to do this, she did a lot of research and there’s no shortage of material to support her compelling arguments.
Some have criticized Third World America for failing to account how changes in technology and the global economy have contributed to the erosion of America’s industrial base and with it a shrinking of attractive employment opportunities for the nation’s working and middle classes. I’ve read that a good book that addresses this dynamic is Martin Ford’s The Lights in the Tunnel. Perhaps I will have to put it on my reading list.
Speaking of books dealing with economics, in case you might be wondering I am in fact hoping to feature other books like this one as part of my “Adventures in Economics” series. Who knows, maybe Ford’s book will be the next one you see featured as part of this series.