Has Chile Joined the First World?

Watching the rescue of the 33 workers at the San José Mine in Chile, I was amazed at how well organized it was. I probably shouldn’t have been after reading about the earthquake in Chile earlier this year and how few deaths (relative to the quake’s magnitude) resulted because Chile long ago instituted building codes to make structures more earthquake resistant. But the mine rescue was truly spectacular–it wasn’t just good, it was something unique in history.

In light of these two emergencies that became examples of good management instead of tragedies, I’ve been wondering if Chile is close to becoming a First World country.

First, a little history: the terms First World and Third World originated during the Cold War. The United States and its allies were the First World. The Soviet Union and its allies were the Second World. Everyone else–the “non-aligned countries” were the Third World. It was partly a coincidence that the First World included the most technological and economically advanced nations and the Third World the least advanced, yet toward the end of the Cold War and ever after those have been the definitions most people used. (The term “Second World” was never used as frequently and faded away with the Cold War’s end.)

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