Costa Rica offers more freedom than the US or Canada

0007_3Many years ago my friend Jim told me that the first time he set foot on Costa Rican soil he felt a sense of freedom in the air. Another friend Bruce echoed Jim’s sentiments about Costa Rica. Bruce is an exponent of freedom and his favorite book is “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne. Anyone who has never read this book, should. I know one person who keeps it next to his bed like the bible.

The other day I bumped into my friend Hardy while at the offices of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR). He invited me to have coffee in downtown San José. My friend is very bright and an incessant talker. Over the years he has managed several successful restaurant operations in the San José area. Anyway we got onto the subject of personal freedom in Costa and like many others who live here we agree that there is definitely more freedom than in North America. In most cases people just leave you alone here. Even the police are much nicer and less threatening than their U.S. and Canadian counterparts.

My Costa Rican son says that having too much freedom has its downside. People tend to take things not as seriously as they do back home and the result is that work get done a much slower pace and quality control can be lacking. Many laws are very lax and hard to enforce, so petty criminals often get away with crimes repeatedly. Traffic enforcement can also be lax at times with people getting away with very dangerous maneuvers on the highway that they would never be able to do back home.

Finally, unlike in the U.S. and Canada prostitution is tolerated here. At last the authorities can dedicate their resources to more serious crimes and issues than busting hookers. However, controversial issues like gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana seem to be years away.

There is a saying here which pretty much sums up all of the above. “Donde hay un costarricense, hay libertad.” “Where they is a Costa Rican there is liberty.”

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One thought on “Costa Rica offers more freedom than the US or Canada”

  1. I have a Tico friend who spent several year in school in the US (enough to be able to compare the societies) who agrees with you. He says that he feels much freer in Costa Rica than in he did in the US, and was even surprised by this since he expected the US to be freer.

    The jury in my mind is still out though, since to me the feeling of freedom in Costa Rica is more a consequence of lax law enforcement and informal customs than anything that can be relied upon. Pretty much every institution in the country, whether public or private, has the deck stacked in its favor–and against you. The banks are “free” not to so much as disclose interest rates, as well as to raid your account if they decide you owe them money; clerks in the government offices are “free” to make any decision they want, and then to conveniently misplace the paperwork so the client can’t appeal; fighting a simple bogus traffic ticket can take years, as the others are “free” to say anything they want; and so on.

    Basically, my experience is that Costa Rica is informally freer, but formally much more constraining. Granted, most of life is spent in the informal realm, so all is well, but I’d personally trade some of that for more formal enforceable rights.

    I mean, try getting your money back after buying a defective coffee maker at a store in Costa Rica and then tell me how free you feel. You’ll probably never see your money, and if you do it will only be after repeated trips and delays. This is because even the lowest-level shop clerk has more rights than you.

    Mind, you can probably get away with smoking pot in front of the store, since that’s one of the laws that is rarely enforced, but I’d prefer fairer and enforced laws in the first place over their slack and arbitrary enforcement.

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