This article is taken from scribblings on the back of a coffee receipt.

Travel dispels prejudice and banishes ignorance.

Here are a few liberty-minded observations from a recent vacation to Costa Rica. While these observations are not new or groundbreaking in any way, they have helped me see first-hand many of the ideas that non-libertarians see as pure conjecture. I hope that they can be of use, perhaps as talking points, against the common misconceptions held by statists.

 

 

The Good

  1. Costa Ricans utilize multiple private toll highways to supplement public highways, and new toll highways are apparently being built on a regular basis. These toll highways allow for new travel options, especially direct routes, in a country where transportation is not as efficient as it could be. Efficient travel made possible by these private roads can only aid a country, particularly one where tourism is its number 1 economic industry.
  2. Costa Rican utilizes two currencies concurrently: the Colón and the US Dollar. Due to past and ongoing issues with inflation and the deficit, one may exchange $1 for roughly ₡500. Many tour companies appear to prefer USD and will give minor discounts if you pay upfront with US Dollars. Shops generally have POS software that allow consumers to pay for various goods with USD and receive Colónes as change or vice versa, in accordance with current exchange rates. In this same way, businesses in a totally free market could use similar software to take competing types of currency, including precious metals concurrently.
  3. Costa Rican environmental features are either publicly or privately managed. Larger features, like volcanoes, are typically national parks. But smaller features, like hot springs adjacent from volcanoes, are typically private resorts and thus privately managed. These privately managed pieces of environment must be managed well otherwise they lose business, and they compete in their quality with one another. Privatizing the volcanoes themselves would surely result in the same competition and drive for environmental quality. This clearly goes against the statist fallacy that without public protection the environment would be mismanaged.
  4. Costa Rica has no standing army as of 1948, which marked the end of their last civil war. Costa Rica allocated the budget for military spending towards education and agriculture. Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to this reform (To compare: Costa Rica has a 96% literacy rate while its neighbor Nicaragua has only a 67% literacy rate). Costa Rica last had a military engagement, albeit a one-sided one, with Nicaragua in 2010. In this engagement, Nicaraguan officials created a border war with Costa Rica due to a border-marking error with Google Maps. While Google fixed the error, Nicaragua was forced to abandon its invasion due to the intervention of the US and other allies of Costa Rica.
  5. Going with the last point, Costa Rica replaced its war industry with free trade agreements and acting as a trade hub for the Americas. Costa Rica doesn’t require a standing army because it has big friends. Costa Rica has multiple free trade agreements with other countries; agreements that establish tariff-free exchanges with countries like China. It also acts as a primary hub for Asian imports into  By making choices like this, Costa Rica chose commerce and peace over war. Costa Rica shows that a country can exist not by threatening its neighbors, but by acting as an important economic power.

The Bad

  1. Costa Ricans pay no income tax. But unfortunately Costa Rica makes all employed citizens pay roughly 9% of income for social security. Costa Rican businesses must pay roughly 20% of income towards employee social security. Costa Ricans have socialized medicine due to this, though public hospitals are known for mediocre care and long waits. Many Costa Ricans, and foreigners, choose private care instead. US citizens often choose to get private care in Costa Rica, since they usually pay 1/4th of the price they’d pay in America.
  2. Going with the above, the Costa Rican government sets minimums on prices for private care. For example, a private doctor could choose their maximum prices for various services, but they must charge a minimum. This minimum changes and is dictated by the government, supposedly in order to promote income fairness.
  3. Costa Rican children are required by law to attend school up until college. While this does foster education and literacy, it takes the choice out of parents. At this time, it is unclear if homeschooling is legal or not in Costa Rica. Costa Ricans told me that it is illegal, though I can’t find documentation to support that. It could be that it is legal though not formally recognized by educational bodies in the country. Costa Rican girls who are pregnant in school may continue their education but are forced to wear special uniforms that label them as such. I am told that this is to discourage pregnancy at a young age.
  4. Costa Rica forces travelers to pay an exit tax at the airport. Travelers pay about $29 in taxes in order to fly out of the country, which must be paid at a special counter before checking into your flight. Due to government bureaucracy this only inhibits travel and adds more stress to traveling, aside from the fact that tax is theft.
  5. Costa Rica has a minimum wage that equates to roughly $500 a month. Almost 1 million Nicaraguans work illegally in the country in fields such as agriculture, since Costa Ricans tend not to want to do jobs that they deem beneath them. These workers must work in the black market since they would otherwise not be hired for the minimum wage. If these false laws didn’t exist, more workers could be employed and better themselves without having to work off the books.