Monday, September 12, 2011

You government, get off my lawn!

My mom was recently here for a visit, and she commented that Ecuador is essentially what the Tea Partyers want--a very unregulated system where just about anything goes. And even though Mom calls herself libertarian these days, it was both a jab a the Tea Party and an expression of distaste of Ecuadorian chaos.

And, though Ecuador is at times ludicrously over-regulated, for the most part it is a study in contrast to the oft-bitched about regulation in the U.S. I don't believe the formula is quite so simple that the U.S or Ecuador would look much like one another should they trade their degree of governance, but for our purposes it can at least let us dip our toe in the waters of deregulation. So let's look at some snapshots of life in Ecuador to see what that might get us, shall we? Sure we shall.

Traffic: Clearly cars are the evolution of transportation, so get out of my way or be a footnote in the annals of natural selection. When you have to drive to survive, I think you've got a convincing argument for regulating vehicles and their masters. But, child car seats, motorcycles helmets, stoplights at midnight...all optional, and I love it. My head, my kids, my business.

Pollution: Perhaps the best argument for government regulation anywhere in the world, pollution has a nasty habit of occurring where the population has the fewest resources to prevent it. One need pass but one (hack) bus in Ecuador to (cough) begin to feel the true cost (wheeze) of cheap transportation here. Emission control costs money. So does cancer, but most people will choose today's nickel over tomorrow's dime. And the problem is, it's someone else's dime (isn't it always?). Chock one up for regulation.

When Playgrounds Attack! It takes approximately one bloody hand plus one near concussion for a kid to learn that they are responsible for their own well-being on playgrounds here just as they are on a tree or on a riverbank or on a sidewalk. Until we figure out a way to rubberize the whole world, the sooner they learn to watch out for themselves the sooner they can leave their rooms, their homes, their yards, their towns, their countries and our worries. Clear case, in my mind, for keeping the government out of my sandbox.

Simple taxes: I understand that taxes are necessary to get many things most of us want from government, so you won't hear me arguing for zero taxes. But I would give my left jewel to make taxes in the U.S. simpler. I would even be willing to pay more, but my guess is that when taxes are simple and the shell game is exposed, most of us commoners would pay less. Anyhoo, I don't know what income tax filing is like here, but judging by the good nature of rich and poor alike it can't be bad. And "sales tax" (actually a VAT...I think) is 12% on everything. That's a lot, but it's really frigging simple, and I am willing to go to great lengths to achieve simplicity.

Food control: There isn't any. And food is inexpensive, fresh, wholesome, and great, for the most part (note: candy is not food). Chickens, pigs, corn, and cows are produced on nearly every block in Cuenca, which means the chicken on a stick you bought for $1 on the street corner was probably scratching the dirt inside that fence just this morning (too bad it wasn't the damn rooster). Pigs roam relatively free here eat slop just like Wilbur and not some chemical soup. Now do I want pigs and chickens living down the street? Damn straight I do. I know my neighbor's business (and how she raises pigs and chickens) better than the government will ever let me know Monsanto's business. And they're the ones making food regulation.

So could every country learn from these examples freedom and regulation? No, probably not. After all, the U.S. started with a pretty good hands-off approach with its own constitution, but having the government take care of us just sounds so nice each time it comes up.

"I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them." -- Thomas Jefferson.


  1. Here here!!! I couldn't have said it better. Actually I really couldn't have said it better. What you wrote is all in my head, but I can't make it sound eloquent enough and succinct enough to be uttered aloud. So, thank you for saying what I have always thought. Can't wait to move to Ecuador next year and grow my veggies and milk my goats unregulated

  2. Sounds like Mom could learn a thing or two from Matt, since most of your points leaned in favor of the less-is-more stance when it comes to government :-) Great post! I haven't been to Ecuador yet (hubby's still not buying into the whole 'retire in Ecuador' idea, although he's pretty trainable and I think could be cured with a visit) but it sure sounds like someplace we could enjoy and appreciate.

  3. Oh, I think if pressed, Mom would agree with much of what the Tea Party seems to want. I'm guessing she just doesn't like the Tea Party itself. She's not really even a liberal anymore, but isn't it funny how "every radical movement has an equal an opposite counter-movement"? The polarity of the TPs seems to be summoning the ghosts of liberals past.