Friday, January 8, 2010

Tico Thinking

When I was 12 and 13 years old I lived (with my parents) in Costa Rica. The experience helped me deal with other cultures and ways of doing things, and often led to interesting discussions.
Why do we have to stand in line for everything, and why do you need six notarized forms and two passport-sized photos for any interaction with the government? Wouldn't it be easier to do only wait in one line?
Oh, that's gringo thinking.
Why don't they actually fix the potholes instead of just filling them with gravel?
That's gringo thinking.
Why doesn't the United States buy fewer tanks and fighter planes and spend the money on schools?
Silly, that's tico (as Costa Ricans are known) thinking!
Times columnist Nicholas Kristof seems to have discovered the same thing on his recent visit to Costa Rica, and names that choice as a primary reason why ticos are the happiest people.

What sets Costa Rica apart is its remarkable decision in 1949 to dissolve its armed forces and invest instead in education. Increased schooling created a more stable society, less prone to the conflicts that have raged elsewhere in Central America. Education also boosted the economy, enabling the country to become a major exporter of computer chips and improving English-language skills so as to attract American eco-tourists.

I’m not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery.

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