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January 08, 2010

If Only America Were More Like Costa Rica!!!

Sacre bleu! NY Times columnist Nick Kristof has discovered the secret to a happy and carefree life! Just discard everything you thought you knew (cum hoc ergo propter hoc my rosy pink tuckus) and move to Costa Rica!

Hmmm. You think it’s a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it’s also arguably the happiest nation on earth.

There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.

Well there you have it: those Costa Ricans are living proof that the root cause of poverty and income inequality is the tragic misallocation of tax dollars to national defense rather than education. I mean, who can argue with results like these?

% of population living on less than $2 a day:

Costa Rica.jpg

Of course poverty levels like this in the United States would bring on an onslaught of uber-outragey NY
Times columns screeching about social injustice and the greedy rapacious ways of our capitalist overlords. But we're not talking about Americans, here... Costa Ricans are smart enough to know that it's not whether you have enough to eat that matters, but whether your neighbor has more than you do. The truly enlightened indigenous First Worlder doesn't mind being poor as long as income is fairly distributed.

Costa Rica2.jpg

Differences in national income equality around the world as measured by the national Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient is a number between 0 and 1, where 0 corresponds with perfect equality (where everyone has the same income) and 1 corresponds with perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, and everyone else has zero income).

Costa Rica: 49.8
United States: 40.8

But despite Costa Rica's dismal poverty and income inequality rankings, there's a silver lining here.

Having wisely eschewed defense spending in favor of investments in education, Costa Ricans are now smart enough to siphon off $142 per capita in remittances mostly from inferior nations that don't care about helping the poor countries that are rich enough to actually export income to poor developing countries.

It doesn't exactly hurt that greedy American corporations outsource American jobs to Costa Rica because their sadistic CEOs rather enjoy oppressing the proletariat Costa Rican workers don't need the kind of employer-provided benefits pundits like Nick Kristol consider to be a basic human right... for Americans, that is:

The country has successfully attracted important investments by such companies as Intel Corporation, which employs nearly 3,500 people at its custom built $300 million microprocessor plant; Procter & Gamble, which is establishing its administrative center for the Western Hemisphere in Costa Rica; and Abbott Laboratories and Baxter Healthcare from the health care products industry likewise. Manufacturing and industry's contribution to GDP overtook agriculture over the course of the 1990s, led by foreign investment in Costa Rica's free trade zones. Well over half of that investment has come from the U.S. In 2006 Intel's microprocessor facility alone was responsible for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of the country's GDP.

And it's comforting to know that, should Costa Ricans ever suffer a natural disaster, they can rely on the United States military to deliver humanitarian aid.

Yep. All in all I'd say Kristof's logic is darned near irrefutable:

... what does seem quite clear is that Costa Rica’s national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends.

Moral of the story: who needs a military when you can rely on America to provide jobs, ample foreign/humanitarian aid, and remittances to shore up an economy that - after all this help - still exhibits far greater poverty and income inequality than the U.S.? As Kristof points out, these people are clearly better at math than we are:

Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.

Education. It's the answer to all the world's problems. Although one wonders: if the U.S. ever adopts the smart, happiness centric tactics of enlightened countries like Costa Rica, who's going to pay the bills?

Posted by Cassandra at January 8, 2010 04:22 AM

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My family and I took a lovely vacation in Costa Rica several years ago. We toured much of the country; beautiful topography, flora and fauna, great weather. The only hitch I noticed was that every home, not just the wealthy, but two room cottages, ramshackle barely more than huts, all had heavy duty bars on the windows and most had high fences surrounding their property, many with spikes on top. I am glad to hear that their equality of poverty (though they were considered a predominantly middle class country at the time) leads to greater overall happiness, but suspect that even there, some malcontents desire an even greater redistribution of wealth.

Posted by: ShrinkWrapped at January 8, 2010 09:04 AM


Jamaica was that way, too. I am sure that Costa Rica is a lovely country with much to recommend it.

I just found Kristof's airy dismissal of pretty much everything he normally claims to think is important to be somewhat amusing :p

Posted by: Cassandra at January 8, 2010 09:12 AM

Costa Ricans are happy because the Nick Kristofs of the world go down there and spend lots of money, and (if they don't get mugged or murdered), they write about how great Costa Rica is, which in turn leads to *more* tourists visiting and spending money.

BTW, Nicky, Costa Rica abolished its army because it couldn't afford to buy *boots* for the troops, let alone weapons...

Posted by: BillT at January 8, 2010 09:47 AM

Reading this was an interesting experience for me, Cass. Every time I thought of something to add, I'd see you added it in the next paragraph down.

Either you're starting to think like me, or I'm starting to think like you. Or both. :)

Posted by: Grim at January 8, 2010 11:17 AM

Okay, a question.

Bill, who signs your paycheck? We've got to know who pays "the Bills"!

I see this everywhere, and now on Cassandra's blog. So help us here.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at January 8, 2010 11:17 AM

"Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad."
Was not that sort of thinking the de facto policy of the U.S. early in the last century? Minus the muddled thinking we could and should educated the world.

Can we really teach the world to adopt the correct attitude of peace for all, love for all humanity, do not covet thy neighbors large screen tvs, property, weemen or whatever is in short supply in villages and countries the world over? A respect for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness morality/ethic? There something about teaching unwilling students that rises to to top of the point in my little mind.

*shakes it off and starts humming, I'd like to buy the world a Coke... Eee GADS! A disturbing thought intrudes, NO Φ, I meant Coca-Cola, put away the spoon will ya?! Sheesh, can't even daydream without The ΦNE butting in.*

Fortunately for the U.S. and the world, the technology in the first half of the last century was not so advanced as to prevent our nation, and Britain, from having the time to react and to grow the forces and material needed to respond. But barely.

Ah well, there is the urge to ignore history, followed by the inevitable lather, rinse, repeat

I'm doubtful that the outcome, should we attempt to repeat history, will work as well today. We should, IMHO, keep that in mind as we daydream about a brave new world, of benevolent dictators sans greed and aggressions, of non-competing economies, peace and love, and the availability of a good hamburger world-wide.

Posted by: bthun at January 8, 2010 02:11 PM

Please pardon the stream of consciousness and inattention to detail in the comment above.

My proof-reader was outsourced to Costa Rica.

Posted by: bthun at January 8, 2010 02:13 PM

I thought Intel closed its Cost-Rica plant in 2008??

Posted by: olga at January 8, 2010 02:48 PM

It may well have done. The link may need to be updated.

Posted by: Cassandra at January 8, 2010 02:52 PM

FWIW, the Intel website still has a Heredia, Costa Rica site listed.

Shortly before I retired from BACC, the corp. project mgmt team I worked with had the task of figuring a way to move labor from expensive markets, the U.S. and Europe, to cheaper markets like India, Malaysia, Costa Rica... Of course we all know that more Federal tax and Gub'ment regulation can turn that trend around. =8^{ And if not, we can trust the Fed's to keep adding more and still more, until it does.

Moving to the third world to work for a BACC would be tempting, were it not for the constant need to be on guard from those who would like nothing better than to kidnap the wealthy* capitalist demon, or his family, for a ransom. Or just kill the demon, or his family, in a gesture of bringing justice to The People. And no, I'm not limiting the group that makes up those to just Democrats.

Power to the people. Power to the people right on!

* Wealth being a relative quantity/quality.

Posted by: bt_NeanderthalsЯUS_hun at January 8, 2010 09:26 PM

My office job employer has an office in Costa Rica, among other countries.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at January 9, 2010 01:15 AM

I liked it in Costa Rica, because unlike on my recent trip to Peru and previously to Mexico, I wasn't constantly assailed by (presumably poor) people trying to hawk their various trinkets.

Of course, regarding their abolition of a standing army, they have the advantage of the U.S. being on the job in that capacity...so they don't have to. False analogies notwithstanding...

Posted by: camojack at January 9, 2010 01:42 AM

We've got to know who pays "the Bills"!

Wait -- *they* are supposed to pay *me*?

I'm gonna *kill* my agent...

Posted by: BillT at January 9, 2010 10:07 AM

The Costa Rican National Capoeira team demonstrated their competitive abilities in a world-class demonstration for the public. With grace and movements that you have to see to really appreciate, these young competitors impressed everyone. For more information visit here: http://www.costaricaviews.com/costa-rican-national-capoeira-team/

Posted by: Domick at April 14, 2010 03:22 AM