75 PIVOTAL PUBLIC POLICIES: ABOLITION OF COSTA RICA’S MILITARY

Costa Rica’s military was abolished in 1948 after a revolution that lasted 40 days and claimed 2,000 lives. The National Liberation Army led by Jose Figueres Ferrer prevailed over government forces in April of that year. Eight months later President Figueres declared the end of the nation’s military. Its abolition and the redistribution of its budget into education and social security measures were added to the Costa Rican constitution in 1949. The main military barracks was turned into a national museum.


Costa Rica now enjoys a standard of living double that of most other Central American nations. It is 15th in the World Happiness Index’s rankings for happiness, two places behind the UK and three places ahead of the US. It also outperforms relative to its national income on the Social Progress Index, ranking 37th in the world (compared to 57th on GDP per capita).


Despite this, the policy has not caught on elsewhere – although Iceland, the other notable example of a country without a standing army, also outperforms relative to its GDP on the Social Progress Index.

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