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The following speech was delivered at a US Libertarian Party convention on July 4, 2002, by Otto Guevara, the first member of Costa Rica's Partido Movimiento Libertario(Libertarian Movement Party) to be elected to their legislature. Movimiento Libertario is currently the strongest libertarian party of any country, with about 10% representation in Costa Rica's 57-member legislative assembly. Costa Rica, incidently, is currently one of the most stable liberal democracies in Latin America.
Quote: Thank you for the honor of addressing you on July 4, which is a worldwide libertarian holiday. I want to share with you how the Movimiento Libertario is guiding Costa Rica from socialism to libertarianism.
For your reference, my country is about the size of West Virginia and has a population of four million people. Like you, Costa Rica has been governed by either of two political parties that have been stealing our individual freedoms a little at a time, year after year.
Costa Rica is a socialist country where the State has monopolies on insurance, telecommunications, oil refining, access to Internet, and even in the production of liquor. Further, 93% of students are subject to a total public school indoctrination which glorifies the State, which also runs banks, trains and grocery stores, and forces all workers to pay for compulsory health care and pensions which are a fraud.
Costa Rica is also socialist because the State has created an average annual inflation of 18% for more than 25 years. Further, the tax burden on the average Costa Rican consumes about 50% of his salary. That means that two thirds of one's salary is stolen by the State.
When the Movimiento Libertario was founded eight years ago, the word "libertarian" did not exist in the Costa Rican vocabulary. Today, the libertarian position is discussed in ALL political debates. Three persons, including myself, founded the Movimiento Libertario on May 25, 1994. The other two persons were economist Rigoberto Stewart and former Florida Libertarian Party chair Ra?l Costales, who introduced Rigoberto and me to libertarianism. As I'm sure is also the case with you, we were inspired by the libertarian philosophy as it was developed by great thinkers in the fields of philosophy, ethics, politics, law, economics and psychology -by intellectual giants such as Frederic Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand.
From the start we decided to emphasize not only the practicality of libertarianism, but also its morality. And we think that it is on moral grounds that we have won most of our successes. The free market has had many economic defenders over more than two centuries, and has proven to be the best economic system. But we are convinced that to win the intellectual battle we must emphasize the immorality of collectivism, of socialism, of statism, and the injustice, wars, suffering and poverty they bring about. Inversely, we should proclaim the justice, peace, happiness and prosperity that libertarianism provides.
Our task has always been to change minds, to undertake a large educational campaign which brings many, many people to the side of freedom with responsibility. It is not an easy task, for the State pretty much controls educational systems everywhere, and attempts to brainwash our children into becoming irresponsible, dependent, obedient serfs. But our strongest weapon is that we have reason on our side.
Another complication is that as libertarians who don't accept government campaign funding, we are at a disadvantage against the bipartisan monopoly. But fortunately in such situations, many people admire a lean David that stands up to a bloated Goliath.
For our first electoral participation in February 1998, our goal was to get our foot in the national Legislative Assembly (or Congress), which consists of 57 legislators in Costa Rica. And we did it! But from the start, we knew that only one Congressman, surrounded by 56 others representing statist parties, could not realistically aspire to pass the libertarian political agenda during a four year term. Although I introduced more law bills than anyone else, most either did not pass or are still tangled up in the legislative agenda. The subjects of the bills included economic deregulation, reducing the size of the State, eliminating taxes, breaking up State monopolies, eliminating privileges and restoring individual liberties.
But it is in improving law bills introduced by others that we were able to play a major role. We were able to change many of them significantly so as to stop or mitigate individual rights violations, close the door on financing new public entities, reduce the tax load and bureaucracy, and avoid new, burdensome economic regulations. For example, we were able to stop the extension of the social security tax to independent workers, benefiting hundreds of thousands of workers who are not forced to pay into the the Ponzi scheme which social security is.
I was fortunate to have a small but very motivated and dedicated libertarian staff in my office. That staff is now very experienced and is now helping our new libertarian Congressmen. Further, I was also fortunate to count on the excellent counsel of a group of libertarian external advisors, who without charging a cent helped me make tough decisions in the tactical and strategic areas. This was also a small group, but it consisted of highly trained professionals, primarily in the business, academic, legal and economic fields. Two of them have accompanied me here at their own expense, and I ask you to please welcome them: economist Mario Vedova and businessman Werner Ossenbach, where are you? There they are! Both of them will be part of the workshop that we will have tomorrow afternoon.
Furthermore, news media people soon learned that we could back up our statements and positions with objective proof. This enabled us to have all our newspaper articles published in newspapers, and also to become an interview favorite of journalists who welcomed our explanation of libertarian positions and solutions never before heard in Costa Rica, which get to the root of the problem and work! And this in turn helped us to spread the libertarian philosophy to every corner of the nation, for free!
Once libertarianism was represented in Congress, it became a topic of study for high school and college students, who very often visited our Congressional offices and continue to do so. Libertarian ideas have been openly discussed everywhere in the last four years. The great news is that it is precisely among young people that our message is most welcome. Poll after poll has verified this fact. And we are banking on this when we predict that Costa Rica will be a libertarian nation in our lifetime. But we still need to do much more work at high schools and universities over the next months and years.
In the recent elections no party even came close to getting a majority of Congressional seats. With Congress widely split among four parties, the Movimiento Libertario's negotiating power has increased significantly from the previous 1-against-56, David vs. Goliath situation. Proof of that is that through some hard negotiations, last May we were able to place one of our libertarian legislators as Vice President of Congress, and another as the Chair of the equivalent of the Ways and Means Committee, which reviews and votes on the annual government budget. This is the first time in history that such an important position has been in the hands of an opposition party.
One important battle that we will soon undertake is to stop a bill that pretends to tax Costa Rican individuals and companies on their worldwide income. I am sure you all know the advantages of offshore income not being taxed, as is presently the case in Costa Rica, and I am sure you can also understand why the U.S. government is putting pressure on other countries to close that wonderful possibility, which can protect one's hard earned assets against government confiscation
Perhaps the most important point that I wish to make to you today, my American libertarian brothers and sisters, is that what allowed us to get into the national Congress was Costa Rica's electoral system of proportional representation. In Costa Rica it works like this: the 57 legislative seats are distributed between the 7 provinces based on relative population. That is how San Jos? province, the most populous, is assigned 20 seats, which the voters of the province could elect. And I was elected because I obtained about 5% of the vote in San Jos?, which is equal to the proportion of one over twenty seats.
So, in contrast to the winner-take-all electoral system in the U.S., in Costa Rica we were able to get our foot into Congress without having to defeat a major party opponent in a direct race. That's how the proportional representation system enables so-called third parties to "get in" and then build on that based on Congressional performance, as we did.
Present here today is a fellow libertarian from Virginia, Bill Redpath. Where are you, Bill? There he is! Bill is making reform proposals to your Platform and Bylaws, to seek the establishment of a proportional representation system in the U.S. I fully endorse his proposal and strongly encourage you to support it. Please note that without proportional representation, we would have NEVER been able to achieve the victories we have won in Costa Rica. It is clear that your present electoral system is designed to perpetuate the bipartisan monopoly of Republicans and Democrats. A similar monopoly is now being broken up in Costa Rica, by elected libertarians, due to proportional representation.
For the elections held last February we ran an ambitious campaign for Congress, and it paid off. We spent about $217,000 in the campaign, and elected six libertarian legislators, or 10% of Congress. That equals about $36,000 per Congressman elected. Our TV campaign absorbed 87% of total costs, and another 5% went for radio and newspaper advertising near the end. We received a relatively small but much appreciated financial support from American libertarians, and if you are one of them, thank you very much, and we hope you are pleased with the results! I would also like to thank National Chair Jim Lark and the LP National Committee for enabling us to circulate two e-mails among LP members.
Since my time is about to expire, I invite you to attend the workshop tomorrow afternoon, in which we can go into more details about our political actions, and can also have time to answer many of your questions. The workshop will be held tomorrow afternoon at 2:45 PM, entitled "Political Action in Costa Rica".
But for now let me conclude by saying that the Movimiento Libertario is living proof that an uncompromising, principled, morally centered libertarianism can attract many people in a relatively short time, in countries that had never heard of our philosophy before. And that perhaps the strongest factor that motivates us is that we KNOW that we can change sufficient minds in Costa Rica so that we will achieve liberty in our lifetime!
Now that was a very interesting speech! I had heard a little bit about the Costa Rican Libertarian movement, but had no idea they had made as much progress in as short a time as is described in the speech. I'll have to try to follow them more closely.
As he rightly points out, their proportional representation system of assigning members of congress (similar to the method used in the January Iraq election) makes it substantially easier to get third-party candidates in positions of national prominence than does the US electoral college system, so I don't expect to see similar success stories coming out of America for a very long time, if ever.
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