Nobel Costa Rica
by Seth Rolbein

This is a pro-Costa-Rica book written by a journalist from Massachusetts who has the typical views of a welfare-state liberal.

The most influential leaders in Costa Rica were from rich families, and they went to college in Boston. So the Costa Rican government implements Boston socialism rather than Moscow or Havana socialism.

The best thing is that Jose Figueres abolished the army on December 1, 1948. He regarded a standing army as a threat, not a protection. He compared an army to a doctor. When your child is sick, it is important that the doctor make a house call. But that doesn't mean he has to live with you all your life. Similarly, we don't need a parasitic, standing army living with us all our lives just because an army may be needed at some time in the future.

Figueres was a heroic figure who led and won a revolution when the popular election of Otilio Ulate was voided by the Congress. Figueres assumed power, abolished the army, instituted some welfare-state laws, and then voluntarily relinquished power to Ulate, even though Figueres did not agree with much that Ulate said.

Costa Rica has had free elections every 4 years since then. Costa Rica is pro-USA and relies on aid from the USA, but remains neutral in the Central American wars. President Oscar Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for persuading the presidents of the other Central American countries to sign his peace plan, which differed from the policy of the Reagan administration.

Good Points about Costa Rica

  • No army.
  • Neutral in war.
  • You can drink the water.
  • Stable democracy.
  • Costa Ricans are willing to work two or three jobs to maintain a middle-class life-style.
  • The government closes down for a month at Christmas time.
  • Costa Ricans love the United States.
  • Prostitution is common.
  • There is plenty of food.
  • Costa Rican bull fights are non-violent.
  • free enterprise and private property are generally respected.
  • Wealthy people are not resented or hated.
  • Americans who retire in Costa Rica get tax breaks.
  • Squatters, by Costa Rican law, can earn land rights by moving to open lands and living there for several years.
  • Quakers have established the Friends Peace Center in Jan Jose for people who are committed to nonviolence and justice.
  • Two hours from Miami.
  • The phones work.
  • Tax breaks for exports.
  • Stable currency tied to the US dollar.
  • Government employees are not corrupt. The rule of law provides more stability than the Mexican system in which every "public servant" has his hand out.
  • Elections are honest.

    Bad Points about Costa Rica

  • Nationalized banks.
  • Social security.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Schooling is paid by the state through taxation and is compulsory.
  • Nicaraguan refugees raise the crime rate.
  • National program to eliminate cheap housing.
  • 10% of the land is under government control for conservation.
  • There is a lot of government red tape.
  • Political campaigns are financed by taxes and account for 2% of the government's budget.
  • The government guarantees loans for women-run businesses.
  • A lot of the Costa Rican prosperity comes from US aid rather than productivity.

    More Facts about Costa Rica

  • Size of West Virginia.
  • Population is 2.5 million.
  • People in the Central Plateau are homogenous: same color, religion, language.
  • In Guanacaste people are darker like Nicaraguans.
  • In Limon the people are black and speak Caribbean English as much as Spanish and are Protestant rather than Roman Catholic.
  • 30% of the people live in San Jose.
  • Unlike most countries in Central America, Costa Rica has never been invaded and occupied by the USA
  • Limon is a rough, port city with a high ratio of bars per block, and the custom is to drink until your forehead falls on the tabletop.
  • Limon has an inordinate number of Chinese restaurants because Chinese people were imported to build the railroad.
  • Liberia is the big city in the cattle country in Costa Rica.


  • Named by Columbus.
  • The aboriginal tribes were decentralized, unlike the Aztecs or Mayans.
  • Spanish rulers left Costa Rica alone.
  • It never had a feudal system of land ownership.
  • From the 1830s to 1900 the military was in power at least half the time.
  • Nearly all the generals were part of the new elite, the coffee growers—who began to concentrate land ownership in their own hands.
  • A solid block of independent farmers in the middle of the country held out.
  • In 1855 an American adventurer named William Walker organized a band of filibusterers and seized control of Nicaragua, and in 1856 he declared war on Costa Rica for the purpose of making the slaves.
  • Juan Mora organized Costa Rican resistance into a voluntary and democratic army of farmers who successfully routed the invaders.
  • Unfortunately, the resisters brought back cholera that killed 10,00 Costa Ricans.
  • On the east coast, after many others died of disease, Jamaicans were imported as slaves to build the railroad because they were resistant swamp fevers.
  • United Fruit ran banana plantations on the east coast until the Panama disease wiped out thousands of acres.
  • The disease stopped at the mountains so United Fruit developed banana plantations on the west coast.
  • The black people were not allowed to move west nor were they allowed to vote.
  • Eventually a disease-resistant kind of banana evolved in the east.
  • Since the 1950s the people of Limon have been allowed to vote and to live wherever they choose.
  • These days palm oil is the biggest cash crop.
  • In 1955 Nicaragua invaded Costa Rica, but the invasion fizzled.

    Year Read: 2000

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