If you are analyzing the various Latin American countries for a visit or relocation, you may have ruled out some of the socialist paradises thinking them a little too stressful for your tastes. Then, once you remember that socialism results in blowhard governments that have a hard time funding and implementing their predations via a historically uncooperative tax base (when they don’t have unlimited amounts of fiat reserve currency that they can force on the world), you look again. You may have skimmed over the likes of the petro-kleptocracies of Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia with a cursory “nope, nope, nope” as your eyes kept scanning the map to consider other tropical countries in our hemisphere.
However, in Bolivia, you would rarely notice any government interference in your life; especially, if you live in the fertile eastern tropical lowlands of the country where the populace detests the central government which is based in two cities in the western Altiplano.
Like so many countries, the government capitalizes on staged enmity between two ethnically-diverse groups. The handout-related friction flares up when one faction of government, claiming to be an advocate of its pet group, tries to use state power over the other group. In Bolivia, it is the Collas versus the Cambas. These words are not considered derogatory and are proudly used in daily conversation. The Collas are the indigenous descendants of the Incas who live mainly in the highlands of the Andes mountains. Evo Morales is the admitted socialist president who claims to represent the Collas in their supposed struggle against evil market forces which he attributes largely to the Cossacks, I mean Cambas. The Cambas are the mestizo population. They live mainly in the eastern part of the country and are involved in agriculture and light industry, primarily in the large “Departments” (think states) of the Beni and Santa Cruz. The Cambas (also known as Cruceños) would like nothing better, at the moment, than to secede and wave goodbye to the tired old Marxist gibberish spewed forth by Morales’ socialist central government in the Altiplano. The official reins of government in Bolivia have fluctuated between those (represented by the likes of military dictator, then president, Hugo Banzer) who empower crony capitalists looking for political privilege and the left wing admitted socialists looking to buy votes via government handouts. The regular people have largely ignored this ongoing left-right charade.
The bottom line is that the laws on the books are ineffective in Bolivia as in most other third world Latin American countries. People choose to opt out. People choose to not pay taxes. When inquiring about various countries in Latin America, Americans continually ask me “Is car insurance required? Is homeschooling allowed? Is the medical care run by the government?” etc. Those questions come from a people that feel they will be punished if don’t “opt in” for every government “solution.” Many Latin American countries have laws about compulsory education, mandatory car insurance, government health care, etc. but, you have freedom in those areas because they don’t have CPS and cops chasing you around. They can’t afford it. They have confiscatory taxes on the books but, people don’t pay them. Repeated bouts with price inflation have taught them that they can’t run a large oppressive government with the printing press, so they just stay small and ineffective as they grumble and pass more laws in an attempt to buy votes. People don’t care. They still shop in sprawling tax-free markets that dominate the economy. They still import every imaginable tech toy from Asia and circumvent customs fees. They still live very free of government control. Hardly anyone complies with anything the regime wants. People tend to work things out on their own.
So, the people don’t really care where the government wants them to go for medical care. Some stand in never-ending lines at the horrendous “free” hospitals while most pay the very affordable prices at the many private clinics and hospitals just as the two-faced bureaucrats do. U.S. ex-pats homeschool their kids. People, even the government employees, act like you are a fool if you pay more for something because you want to pay taxes.
When choosing a destination in Bolivia, consider the following. La Paz has a very dry landscape high in the Andes with steep mountainous terrain, thin air, beautiful snow-capped peaks, and a dense population residing in mountain crevices and in the barren flat desert terrain of neighboring El Alto. Cochabamba is a bit lower in the Andes giving some relief from the altitude and presenting a very favorable almost unvarying slightly cool crisp climate. Santa Cruz de la Sierra is Bolivia’s largest city and is the city servicing the tropical lowlands characterized by a warm humid tropical climate, palm trees, cattle ranches, farmers, and a tendency towards festive events due in part to neighboring Brazilian influences. You will feel like you are in a different world depending on what part of Bolivia you visit.
The people of Bolivia are a very gentle hard-working people. They like Americans and foreigners in general, even though the government spouts an official hatred for the U.S. government. Evo Morales is not the people of Bolivia just as Barack Obama is not us. American Airlines and foreign airlines have direct flights from Miami to both Viru Viru aiport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in the eastern lowlands and El Alto airport servicing La Paz in the Altiplano. Be aware that if you choose La Paz as a destination, the airport is over 13,000 feet and you may need a week to adjust to the altitude in the city which is slightly lower.
An advantage of visiting Bolivia in this modern era is that you will no longer be able to enjoy the services of the local secret torture and detention boutiques run by the Cold War’s Operation Condor or the Drug War’s Operation Snowcap. And, of course, remember, like U.S. Senators and Representatives do, to conduct your fact-finding trip to South America to escape the winter in the U.S. since the seasons are reversed. I kept my fingers crossed that Ron Paul would show up but, oh well, it seems like I talked to every one but him as they managed to plan their tropical sight-seeing excursions, I mean black budget oversight trips, to escape the January snow and ice storms in the U.S.