How to Create Global Economic Equality: The Costa Rica Solution

I found this weird clip today where Canadian capitalist Kevin O’Leary says that it’s fantastic that 85 rich folks owns the same amount of money as the 3,5 billion poorest people on earth. Yeah, he literally says that he “applauds it”, because then the poor gets the motivation to become like the extremely rich. The reporter is stunned, she stands in silence and then just says “really?” O’Leary affirms his crazy applause of global inequality and says “don’t tell me that you want to redistribute wealth again, that’s never gonna happen!”

O’Leary’s statement is incredibly stupid on so many levels, but the thing is that many people in the West do agree with him. Many thinks inequality is not so bad. I’ve debunked many of their arguments in Seven Reasons Why Inequality Sucks, but if I am to comment shortly on O’Leary’s line of thought I would just want to say that:

  • Firstly, everyone cannot become as rich as the richest one percent simply because there aren’t enough resources – if everyone lived like the avarage American we would need five earths.
  • Secondly, poor people often work harder than rich people, so there is no correlation between hard work and wealth – a lot of wealth is inherited either financially or socially.
  • Thirdly, economic inequality is contrary to a belief in that all human beings are equal and have equal rights to a descent life – if we truly believe that all people are created in the image of God, we cannot tolerate economic inequality.

As this clip shows, global economic inequality is enormous. 2 % of the world’s population owns half of its resources. The world’s rich countries are taking more money from the poor than vice versa due to unfair trade rules and tax flight. This is contrary to the Biblical vision. Luke 3:11 says that the one who has two of something should share with those who have nothing, 2 Cor 8:13-15 says that the goal of charity is equality, Acts 2 and 4 shows us that the early church practiced economic equality through community of goods. We need global economic equality. But how should we achieve it?

I’ve already written a paper about how churches can work towards economic equality through increased aid giving and an international church budget standard that forbids churches to get too rich. But what can the rest of society do? I think we would need something similar for them – an international budget standard, both for individuals and states. And I got good news for you: there is such a standard, namely Costa Rica.

A pretty nice Costa Rican beach

A pretty nice Costa Rican beach

It’s simple: if you take the World Gross Product, that is the GDP of the world (minus the D since it isn’t domestic – economists will get what I say), and you divide it with the world population, you get the gross world product per capita which, according to the CIA, is around 13 000 USD (PPP). That’s roughly the same GDP per capita as Costa Rica. And thus, if everybody lived like Costa Ricans we would need one earth. Which is what we got, so that would be rational.

Costa Rica is also #1 in the Happy Planet Index, a index that looks at experienced well being, life expectancy and ecological foot print. What makes Costa Rica so interesting is that its citizens have a long life expectancy even though (or rather, because) they live simply and have a quite low GDP per capita, and thus also a low carbon foot print.

Costa Ricans are Christians as well. And they got sunny beaches and a female democratically elected president. I say that all countries should be like Costa Rica and all people should live like Costa Ricans. Sure, they’re not sinless and they got problems, but while the rest of us are trashing the planet and promote injustice, they are doing quite well. I’d say we give it a shot. If you live on more than 13 000 USD per year, give away your money to the poor until you live on 13 000 USD per year or less. Then tell your friends, politicians and church members to do the same.

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4 responses to “How to Create Global Economic Equality: The Costa Rica Solution

  1. I love it in theory, but then started to do the math. I looked up to find that Canada’s PPP is about 90% of the U.S.’s, so I’d have about $14,500 (rounded up a little) to work with. Double it for my wife and I and that’s $29,000. You definitely couldn’t do it in the cities, where most of the jobs are so where you need to go to even make that $29,000 most of the time. You could maybe do it in some rural areas if a big list of other requirements were avoided. I initially wrote out a bunch of budget numbers before realizing my wife would not appreciate me sharing them, but the short answer is that even with absolutely no luxuries, we need to spend at least about $32,000-$35,000, not counting taxes which you could categorize as either part of the giving or as part of the $29,000 we’re allowed. That was also using our old cheaper apartment that was filled with bugs and always inhaling the neighbours marijuana smoke that gave me a perpetual cough, not the new more-expensive apartment that doesn’t carry many of the same health hazards. In the new apartment it’s probably more like $37,000-$40,000.

    We represent a pretty average, or probably a bit better than average, scenario for Canadians. We live in a city big enough that there are jobs, but far enough away from Toronto that the cost of living isn’t that much. We both are very fortunate to have jobs within the same region, so we only require one relatively-cheap transit system, which most young couples cannot say. Our combined family income is about the national average. We don’t have kids, which cost a lot of money, probably more than it would add to how much we could spend. We don’t have pets.

    So… I love the ideal, and I’m all in favour of working toward it as much as we can, but is it possible for most people? No, it really isn’t.

    • Hi Ryan!

      I’m glad that you like the vision and that you have done calculations to see if you can make it. I’ve also made similar calculations and personally I am already living way below the Costa Rica line. 13 000 a year equals 1 100 a month. I live in the center of a pretty big Swedish town in an apartment with seven rooms that I share with four friends in Christian community. The rent is 1 900 dollars so I only pay 380. Costs for electricity and Internet is around 50. I spend at the most 150 dollars on food every month, and not more than a 100 on travels, books or other expenses. I never buy clothes, nor any sorts of entertainments. Which means that at the most I spend 680 dollars a month, or 8160 dollars a year. Then I give a lot to the poor and missions, but obviously that doesn’t count in this ecuation :)

      A friend from South Africa commented on my Facebook wall that 13 000 is higher than he expected and he and his wife are also living below that line. Perhaps living expenses are cheaper in SA compared to Canada, but I definitely don’t think that’s the case in Sweden compared to Canada.

      I guess though that it is housing that to a large extent decides if you can succeed with the Costa Rica challenge or not. Obviously, if I only shared my seven room apartment with one person I would fail to live below 1100 a month, and even more so if I lived alone. So in a way, if you and your wife really want to live like Costa Ricans – invite someone to share your apartment. I obviously have no idea what your apartment looks like, but that’s my advice if you want to take this challenge into consideration.

      God bless you!
      Micael

  2. Pingback: Seven Deadly Sins of Europe 4: Activist Sloth | Holy Spirit Activism

  3. Pingback: Is Costa Rica Heaven on Earth? | Holy Spirit Activism

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