Terms of Art – Defining Developed Countries

October 2012 Topic

Resolved: Developed countries have a moral obligation to mitigate the effects of climate change.

  • Key words and Terms of Art: Keywords are words from the resolution that should be defined to clarify their meaning or to provide a certain view of the topic. Terms of Art are words that only scholars in the field of study would know. A recent example is “failed nation”. In scholarly publications, the term is actually “failed state.” But either term is something that the average person would not know the meaning of. In this case, you need to define the term for the general clarity and comprehension of arguments. Both key words and terms of art are worth defining because they shape the judge’s understanding of the topic and may be helpful in building your arguments.” From Beyond Resolved:

The October 2012 topic features a term of art that has appeared in PF resolutions in the past: developed countries. Upon searching for the scholarly definition, you will find that there is not set definition. In reality, there are a group of terms that are used for this concept, depending on the organization who is publishing the article. Besides Developed Country, which is abbreviated as DC in many texts, you will find the terms “Developed Economy” and “Advanced Economy” used. The Princteton online dictionary also lists the following terms, but these are less common or defined: advanced country, industrialized country, more developed country (MDC), more economically developed country (MEDC), Global North country, first world country, and post-industrial country.

On doing a basic search, you will first run into Wikipedia. While we don’t want to cite Wikipedia, it links you to relevant pages where the information comes from. One of these pages is the CIA World Factbook. Let’s look at the definition for Developed Countries from this publication:


  • Developed Countries (DCs): the top group in the hierarchy of developed countries (DCs), former USSR/Eastern Europe (former USSR/EE), and less developed countries (LDCs); includes the market-oriented economies of the mainly democratic nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Bermuda, Israel, South Africa, and the European ministates; also known as the First World, high-income countries, the North, industrial countries; generally have a per capita GDP in excess of $15,000 although four OECD countries and South Africa have figures well under $15,000 and eight of the excluded OPEC countries have figures of more than $20,000; the DCs include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holy See, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, NZ, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, US; note – similar to the new International Monetary Fund (IMF) term “advanced economies” that adds Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan but drops Malta, Mexico, South Africa, and Turkey

The World Factbook also defines advanced economies:

  • a term used by the International Monetary FUND (IMF) for the top group in its hierarchy of advanced economies, countries in transition, and developing countries; it includes the following 33 advanced economies: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, NZ, Norway, Portugal, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UK, US; note – this group would presumably also cover the following nine smaller countries of Andorra, Bermuda, Faroe Islands, Guernsey, Holy See, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino that are included in the more comprehensive group of “developed countries”

Both definitions are mainly a list of countries. Where is the definition?

  • DC: “…also known as the First World, high-income countries, the North, industrial countries; generally have a per capita GDP in excess of $15,000 although four OECD countries and South Africa have figures well under $15,000 and eight of the excluded OPEC countries have figures of more than $20,000…”

This definition is still not what would be effective in a debate round. It is too clunky and does not connect the numbers presented to any significance.

Let’s now look at the Princeton definition:


  • Developed Country: used to describe countries that have a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue and is surrounded by fierce debate. Economic criteria have tended to dominate discussions. One such criterion is income per capita; countries with high gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would thus be described as developed countries. Another economic criterion is industrialization; countries in which the tertiary and quaternary sectors of industry dominate would thus be described as developed. More recently another measure, the Human Development Index (HDI), which combines an economic measure, national income, with other measures, indices for life expectancy and education has become prominent. This criterion would define developed countries as those with a very high (HDI) rating. However, many anomalies exist when determining “developed” status by whichever measure is used. Countries not fitting such definitions are classified as developing countries.

This sounds similar to the definition found on Investopedia, a comprehensive financial dictionary owned by Forbes.


  • Developed Economy: While there is no one, set definition of a developed economy it typically refers to a country with a relatively high level of economic growth and security. Some of the most common criteria for evaluating a country’s degree of development are per capita income or gross domestic product (GDP), level of industrialization, general standard of living and the amount of widespread infrastructure. Increasingly other non-economic factors are included in evaluating an economy or country’s degree of development, such as the Human Development Index (HDI) which reflects relative degrees of education, literacy and health.

Further explanation is provided:

  • The most well-known current examples of developed countries include the United States, Canada and most of western Europe, including England and France.
  • Terms such as “emerging countries,” “third world countries” and “developing countries,” are commonly used to refer to countries that do not enjoy the same level of economic security, industrialization and growth as developed countries. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) points out that the least developed of the developing countries are “deemed highly disadvantaged in their development process – many of them for geographical reasons – and (face) more than other countries the risk of failing to come out of poverty.”

These definitions are closer to what we want for the debate. They hit on a few key characteristics of DCs that qualify the term and are also accessible to a judge. The defining characteristics of DCs, according to the above definitions, are:

  • economic security, industrialization, economic growth, general standard of living and the amount of widespread infrastructure, and high Human Development Index (HDI) rating, which combines an economic measure, national income, with other measures, indices for life expectancy and education has become prominent

For the actual debate case, the best definition would be a paraphrasing of a published definition. Perhaps something such as:

  • According to the Princeton dictionary, a Developed Country, or Developed Economy, is a nation that has economic security, industrialization, widespread infrastructure, and high Human Development Index ratings for quality of life.

Why not list some developed countries? This list would not only be time-consuming, but it is doubtful the judge would remember or note all the countries listed. If you wanted to list a few relevant countries that you will discuss in your case, that is fine. The stronger arguments for the debate will deal with developed countries in general, and therefore painting a picture of what these countries are overall will be a stronger definitional foundation. You would want to have a list of these countries on hand, however, in case of a problem in the debate. Both the UN and IMF have made lists for DCs that can be found on Wikipedia’s page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developed_country#Definition.

Remember, defining a term of art included in the resolution is not only important for the judge’s understanding, but this definition will also help you craft impacts and create a framework that links into the resolution.


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