Disrespect for Government Is as American as Fried Bananas

by: Felipe Franco

After decades of travelling throughout Latin America and years living there, I have developed a painful twinge every time I return to the U.S. and realize the loss of freedoms and rude behavior that is in store for me. It all comes flooding into my brain. What’s the rule on shoes and searches at the airport? What will the cops do if my 7-year-old son is not in a government-approved booster seat in the rental car? What if a family member needs antibiotics or stitches? What are the things that will cause US residents to call the cops on me? What are the rules on car and health insurance that will get me in trouble? What kind of ticket will I get if I forget to turn on the headlights when there is a drizzle? Can the children stick their heads out of a sunroof or ride in the back of a pickup? No. Daddy might be arrested. Why? The cops are different here. The kids don’t understand the oppressive environment. They don’t understand the government worship and the angry woman screaming at Dad while he putts around on a motorcycle, “Where’s your helmet!” Why do people want to control their neighbor’s lives via the state in this country? We don’t get it.

Then come the financial worries. What if someone is injured during the trip and we have to go to the unfriendly ridiculously expensive fascist hospitals. Is everyone’s dental work caught up before the trip? What if the car breaks down? There aren’t friendly roadside mechanics everywhere like there are in Latin America.

The pliant state-worshiping population seems like a crazy infestation to us in this “freest of all nations.” We are used to societies made up of friendly entrepreneurs of all ages happily assisting the population. We are used to neighbors that tolerate each others’ actions. In Latin America, there is no such thing as calling government goons to invade your neighbor’s house when he has a birthday party lasting until 3 in the morning with a live band, clowns, a bouncy castle, fireworks, and lots of laughter. People expect the same allowances from their neighbors and they definitely don’t trust the police to do anything, but cause problems. Why would you ruin your relationship with your neighbor by calling in government forces? Nobody would think of doing that.

The populace is openly disrespectful to the state in these countries. Journalism is real journalism. News articles blast state employees for their lavish lifestyles and thievery from the people. These aren’t just editorials. They are regular articles filled with anti-government venom in the major newspapers. The newspapers don’t spout pro-government rhetoric at the rate it is seen in the U.S. They continually point out government thievery and scandals and they hammer away repeatedly as they investigate and develop more on the stories. After all, newspapers are private businesses owned by entrepreneurs and they don’t want their wealth stolen by the government either in these countries.

Latin American Governments Walk a Fine Line

These governments know that their existence is precarious. They don’t own the presses for the world’s reserve currency and many of them have experienced hyperinflation when they have ruined various issues of their own currency. They have a limit on the amount of wealth they can take from the people via inflation before the currency stops working. Most people don’t pay any taxes. The entities that do are the major brick and mortar corporate businesses (e.g. Coca Cola, McDonalds, private airlines) who can’t escape the government’s predations and licensing schemes. Practically every other business is mobile or easily uprooted and replanted in another part of town. The tax base isn’t there to support a large intrusive government. Most businesses will ask you when you make a purchase, “Con factura o sin factura?” This is universal language throughout Latin America meaning, “Do you want us to use the government serialized receipt and pay the taxes for this purchase?” The answer, of course, is always “sin factura” unless you need the receipt – like if you are travelling on business – in which case you may decide to pay the sales taxes or VAT via the government serialized receipt. Even then, they look at you in an odd way and ask if you wouldn’t rather have a “recibo” than a “factura” so you don’t have to pay the taxes. The “recibo” is an unofficial factura that you can use to claim expenses if you are travelling or purchasing something for business where you need a paper receipt to claim the expense. In the open air markets, where most of the business is done for everything from electronics to food, there is not even the option of paying taxes. For those people that really need receipts, they carry around a pad of pre-printed recibos and get a signature from the person selling the item or providing the service (like a plumber, electrician, or carpenter).

Most businesses don’t even think of reporting any income or sales to the government. Since everyone has this attitude, the government stays poor and weak and can’t afford to mess with the people very often.

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Reposted from LewRockwell.com