Costa Rica - A Free Trade Paradise?
In a recent column, Nicholas D. Kristof noted a study that showed Costa Rica to be quite the paradise:
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.
That’s because Costa Ricans, asked to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale, average 8.5. Denmark is next at 8.3, the United States ranks 20th at 7.4 and Togo and Tanzania bring up the caboose at 2.6.
Kristof notes that Costa Rica is demilitarized, and also notes who the bottom is:
The United States is 19th, and Zimbabwe comes in last.
What makes Zimbabwe and Costa Rica the most different? Economics.
Costa Rica recently elected center-right presidential candidate Laura Chinchilla, who has vowed to continue the free trade policies of her predecessors. She received competition from libertarian candidate Otto Guevera, an ironic last name for a libertarian leader. Meanwhile, the socialist dystopia of Zimbabwe has gone further and further into hell due to Robert Mugabe’s central planning. The difference could not be starker.
In contrast to what some claim, collectivism is not the outgrowth of pacifism. Real socialist states, not the mixed economies of Europe that the far right considers socialist, like Venezuela and Cuba were founded by militant leaders. Violent rhetoric and paranoia helps them to keep the public on their side as their nationalizations fail, leaving them an external force to blame the failures on.
Free trade, however, facilitates understanding by allowing different cultures to obtain the fruits of others. It’s what gives us sushi in Virginia and McDonald’s in India. It’s no coincidence that free trade has led to prosperity and peace in Costa Rica, just as it’s no coincidence that similar policies brought us peace and prosperity in the 1990s. We should try it again.