Today, I got listening to a podcast called Expat Files that you can find here.
It covers the life and experiences of a man named Johnny who lives in Guatemala.
I haven’t listened to it in some odd months but got around to checking it out again.
It’s overall a good podcast in my opinion though it does have some flaws like the overly broad generalizations. For a well nuanced perspective on the podcast, check out this review on My Latin Life here.
Still, I was bored and got reading some online content about the podcast to see what other folks have to say about it out of curiosity.
There’s one negative and long comment about the podcast that you can find here that I found funny but a bit interesting:
“Try and understand this weird podcast if you will. This fella hates government, hates regulations, hates paying taxes, fees, etc., and so leaves the U.S., to go live in Central America because of course, his U.S., dollar goes so much further down there.
Yet, after his ideological rant leads him to do this he spends almost each podcast telling us about the problems of having to “grease palms” to get local licensing and regulatory documents for various necessities of life. Otherwise applications will linger forever, or just get lost….
He then without concern explains how one must be careful when traveling the roads outside of habituated areas because there are armed ambushes on the open roads who will pull you over like a train in the old west, to rob you of everything you have. I could go on and on but that is the general flavor of his experience - and he seems to prefer it over the U.S.
He discusses in detail everything from the problem of incompetent and not up to the same standards of contractors, medicine, higher education, etc., as in the U.S.. He will discuss the necessity of having to constantly hire a bi-lingual Attorney who is familiar with the system and will “grease palms”, all along the way with the cash, yes cash you provide him in advance for that purpose. –
Do you want to build a house because it’s so much cheaper here? Sure, can do! Just don’t forget to provide the bribery money to move your applications through the system. - Do you want to ensure that the contractor you hire will have his employee’s show up each day to do the job? Make sure you grease his palm a bit before hand. - Do you want to be sure they actually finish the job or worse, come back to repair the shoddy work that they did in the first place? Make sure you … . . . well, you get the point by now.
And so it goes on and on. This guy leaves the U.S., which is ahead of the game on so many levels because he has an ideological hatred of government. He would rather pay unknown amounts in bribe money to criminals, elected officials, and inept public workers, and god knows who else, rather than pay for actual licensing and regulatory fees that would help to avoid the problems he encounters continually in Central America in the first place.
I’ve only hit the tip of this crazy little ice burg, but if you are one of those nutty conservative uber right wing people who hate government of any kind, don’t mind living as if it’s the wild wild west a century and half ago then have at it. This podcast is right up your alley.
There were a few more sentences to that review but I figured to cut it off there given its long enough as it is.
You get the point though – the inability of the review writer to understand how someone would prefer to live in a country with the problems above and yet still dislike government regulations.
Being that, from this person’s perspective, it must be thought that having more government oversight will lead to a reduction in the problems above.
Is she right?
It’s a topic I won’t go into too much but here are my thoughts on the matter with a little story to boot first.
The Informality of it All
A few months ago, I remember being on a phone call with my sister.
We do a weekly call every so often just to catch up and all.
Whenever we do call, it’s quite common to discuss how life is down here in Mexico City and she’ll mention the differences with life up there.
One of the things that my sister really didn’t like about what I was telling her was how, from how I described things, it almost sounded like you can’t trust the average person down here.
With the idea being that there’s more “informality” to life down here.
With crooks like corrupt cops demanding bribes and getting away with it more often.
Or things not being done properly.
Perhaps someone fucked you over somehow and, realistically speaking, there isn’t a strong likelihood in getting your money back or whatever the issue might be.
Of course, this isn’t always true.
Depending on the circumstance, issues could potentially be resolved legally.
And not everyone down here is corrupt looking for a bribe to get things done either.
However, your mileage will vary on how “informal” things are down here depending on how developed the area is.
The nicer a city, the more often things are enforced and a little bit less informal is what I’ve noticed.
And vice versa.
And how, from my sister’s perspective, she couldn’t imagine living in a place that was that informal because she put it as “you know for sure you can fix what you need fixed.”
Like how she has more confidence in being able to get the landlord to fix something up there if she really puts the heat on them.
Versus life in Latin America where the landlord very well might work with you but there are cases where said landlord might try to fuck you over and you have more limited ability in resolving the issue.
Because, from my perspective, there are negatives and positives to all of this.
But let’s explain.
So is the Libertarian an Idiot for Preferring Guatemala?
When it comes back to the podcast, the guy behind it lives in Guatemala.
A country relatively poorer than Mexico City where things are perhaps even a little more informal than life in Mexico City in some respects.
Well, here are my thoughts on the manner.
First, you get used to the positives and negatives of the informalities. It becomes the new normal and the negatives don’t bother you as much as you think.
Second, it is true you have less protections against people fucking you over. Of course, that’s not entirely true because obviously there are legal and police systems down here also. But while said legal systems might be more inefficient and less reliable, you can also fuck other people over more easily without consequences.
Third, for the gringos who prefer it, you can more easily enjoy your vices down here without getting into trouble. A cop caught you doing drugs or having a beer outside? A quick bribe and he goes away. Among other vices and whatever else the gringo prefers that he can more easily enjoy down here.
Fourth, there might be an argument to be made that older people or at least those with children prefer a more stable and developed community (even in Latin America). It might be why Chile is relatively more popular with some expats.
I’m young with no children. It’s something I’ve considered in the long run though. If I do ever have children of my own, would I prefer maybe living in a country like Chile to raise them? I can’t comment heavily on this but it’s something that does cross my mind.
Fifth, if you have money and are not naïve with people and not an idiot with your money, then life in Latin America with its irregularities can be great. For us gringos, a “decent sum of cash” to enjoy in life is a bit less than what you’d need to enjoy life in the US. Of course, everyone has their own budget but the general idea is true.
Sixth, not everyday in Latin America involves “greasing hands,” getting robbed or mugged or secretly plotting how to fuck over someone else before they fuck you over. Most days of the year are completely chill without some crazy story of fuckery to be told. Though, to be fair, some gringos down here prefer living in 24/7 fuckery. For those interesting characters, fuckery is a common thing but one could argue that maybe they prefer it that way? Goes back to Points 1, 2 and 3 mentioned above.
Anyway, if you fly under the radar though and are not flashing your wealth constantly, you’ll likely be OK. The fuckery of life down here isn’t likely to fuck you over on a consistent basis. As I said, most days will be chill.
Seventh, the government has a much greater ability to fuck you over with its manpower, money and oversight than any street criminal looking for 20 bucks. And, keep in mind, there isn’t necessarily a real world correlation between big government and a more stable life. Most countries in the world with big governments are not some Scandinavian paradise that every college kid dreams about living in. Or think of all the businesses that went under during the Covid lockdowns in any part of the world.
In worst case scenarios in Latin America, think Cuba or Venezuela. Enough said.
Eighth, without all of the extra government regulation on every single little thing, life feels freer almost.
You don’t have to worry about every little regulation somehow fucking with your ability to just enjoy life.
And I’m not just talking about vices like some gringos might think about for themselves personally.
Things like being able to set off a firework without worrying about the police around the corner on 4th of July.
Or maybe being able to fly a mini drone into the sky to take footage from above without needing some permit.
Or whatever weird examples out of a million that could be brought up.
Of course, in the two examples mentioned, some might say how fireworks can cause a house to burn down or how mini drones can somehow be dangerous.
Similarly, there are those who want people to wear masks for things like the flu for certain parts of the year and not just Covid as you can read here.
Above all, as we'll point out in the next section, it really comes down to how much government regulation you prefer to what individual freedoms you think should be permitted without government approval.
Simply put, life feels a little bit nicer and freer when you don’t have regulations up the ass for every little thing.
Easier to enjoy life in general.
The Overarching Theme
Of course, this all really comes down to one overarching theme above all.
Do you prefer that freedom to be more anonymous, without an excessive amount of regulations and ability to enjoy life with minimal involvement with authorities?
Where there might be some increased risk of getting fucked over by another individual but where that isn’t a daily concern and requires some social intelligence to mitigate.
Or do you prefer the feeling of being safe with government regulations that check up on everything you do and barriers to doing a lot of normal things we all enjoy?
All provided by a government.
But always remember how history shows that the government doesn’t always have your best interest at heart, can always turn on you and isn’t likely to be some college wet dream of what Norway is supposed to be like.
And, above all, is likely to produce a life that is duller and more unexciting.
Of course, that’s my own biased take on it.
I don’t identify as a Libertarian by the way nor as any ideology.
But that’s just how I’d frame it.
Maybe a more neutral way of framing it would be something like…
How much formality or informality do you prefer in life?
How much government regulations and on what specifically do you want?
Because, keep in mind, I’m not 100% against the government either with every little thing they do.
Sure, some formality helps in life.
Especially if, as I said, I were to ever have kids. Maybe that’d change the calculus? I don’t know.
But I do think a more neutral way to frame it really is “what type and how much government regulation and involvement do you want in society?”
Because I don’t see everything the government does as bad either.
It just depends on the context.
Though, in large part, I do lean towards having more informalities in life and that’s all around a benefit I see to living in Latin America.
Especially with the reasons considered above.
At any rate, if you have anything to chip in, throw your 2 cents below in the comment section.
Would be interesting to hear any other perspectives on this topic.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.