That’s Nicholas Kristof’s argument today over at the New York Times. He thinks it is no coincidence that Costa Rica has the top ranking in the World Database of Happiness and is also one of very few countries to get by without a military force. Instead of spending money on bombs, the country wisely invests in education.
What Kristof fails to mention is that Costa Rica is at least partially able to do without a military force because it depends on someone else to provide one.
I know a little bit about this because my husband and I spent our 25th wedding anniversary in the fabulous Central
American country a few years ago. During one of our many rides with our guide, we listened as he complained about the “rot” of illegal immigration from Nicaragua and Honduras, mentioning that those countries (particularly the former) at times seemed ready to invade Costa Rica militarily. My beloved, who does number crunching for a U.S. defense contractor, asked him who would provide protection for Costa Rica if that happened.
“The U.S., of course,” was the guide’s answer, with a chuckle.
I agree that the U.S. would do far better as a country if we spent more on education than on military might, but I’m not sure it is a fair comparison to say, “Hey, this gorgeous country with high literacy rates and no military is happier because they don’t fund their own military.”
Perhaps it is more likely that this gorgeous country of beautiful sunsets, beaches, jungles and people (which is racing to top economically in large part b/c of U.S. tourism and luring U.S. companies down there to develop land) has the luxury of not funding their own defense force because another country has its back that way. Just sayin’