Matapalos and Social Programs

Written by natewhit22 on February 24th, 2009

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Nate Whitaker

One of the most interesting things about the forests of Costa Rica and Panama are the matapalos. These are trees that kill other trees and are the only thing left standing in a given area. This could be a good comparison between nature and our economic system, and especially our social programs. The wood from said trees is of bad quality and these trees pretty much destroys all other competition around. It can be argued that if these trees weren’t here and nature (or the market) would be allowed to take its course, more abundant and diverse trees would be allowed to flourish.

Although these “tree killers” came by force, the people do not cut them down; this is due to the fact they provide shade as well as life to other creatures in the area. Social programs do the same; they “shade” people from the harm of the sun as well as provide some food and shelter. Regarding the trees, if competition was allowed and not stifled by these tree killers, better wood could be produced as well as more efficient fruit producers. Social programs do the same thing; although they do some good to some people, if competition were allowed to flourish the market would produce better, more efficient products.

I believe the “hangers on” could be thought of in the same light. They live off of a host tree which will eventually lead to the host tree’s demise. They are able to get more sunlight but will have to tap into the host tree for nutrients. As with social programs, though people can get more “sunlight,” they will be dependant on the host tree which might eventually lead to the tree’s downfall.


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