If you're watching late-night television, there's a decent chance that you will stumble upon an infomercial for some organization looking for support (see: cash) to provide assistance to some third world country. These commercials typically have some depressing speech synced up with footage of barefoot children digging through landfills, eating small balls of rice, and looking like they're on death's doorstep. You know those commercials.
Well, while most of the footage is coming from one third world country or another, the actual term "third world country" is not exclusively used to describe poor and developing nations.
In fact, the term was actually created shortly after the conclusion of World War II and just as the Cold War between America and the former Soviet Union was starting to spread throughout global politics.
At the time, the United States and its allies were considered "first world countries," while nations in the Communist Bloc - USSR, China, Cuba, amongst others - were called "second world countries," and countries associated with neither side were referred to as "third world countries."
Although this designation also included nations what we would typically consider "third world countries," some developed countries were also included on this list. This includes Austria, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Argentina, and Brazil to name just a few. However, as the Cold War came to an end in the late 20th Century, so did the original meanings of the terms "second world" and "third world."
As Knowledge Nuts states:
"Since the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the term 'second world' has become defunct and the term 'third world' has erroneously been applied to all poorer nations. The poorest nations are sometimes referred to as 'developing countries,' but in recent years, many economists have determined that the economic development in these countries hasn't contributed to the overall welfare of the people, and this term has lost some popularity as well."
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