USA and Canada: high income maldevelopment

In Jay Drydyk & Lori Keleher (eds.), Handbook of Development Ethics. New York: Routledge. pp. 416-423 (2018)
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This 4000 word entry to Routledge’s Handbook of Development Ethics (Jay Drydyk & Lori Keleher, eds., 2018) considers development within United States of America and Canada. Indigenous peoples and their nations are also featured. Canada and USA are both characterized by the UN Development Program as maintaining very high human development. Addressable weaknesses are nevertheless evident when performance is compared, for example, with OECD member nations. This entry focuses upon such comparison, noting characteristic political institutions and attendant social inequality in the areas of social welfare, education and health. The histories of both nations over the past half-century suggest that cultural shifts within USA have displaced the ethos of social responsibility that the country had previously shared with Canada, replacing it with an ideal of self-reliance. The turn may be a factor in the USA’s increasing inequality and general weakness in social welfare programs since the 1980s. Events since 2016 especially also display a turn towards another ideal of self-reliance: isolationism. USA’s reduction in global commitments – to open trade, to limits on environmental impact, and especially, to immigration – contrast greatly with Canada’s evolving commitment to a global society and to a cultural ideal of multiple non-assimilated cultures within its borders, including cultures of new immigrant populations. Canada is by many measures a more equal society, but it shares with USA continued failings in development for aboriginal groups and vulnerability for that group and others.

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Eric Palmer
Allegheny College


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