What Do Mimes, Ladies Night, and Voluntary Taxes Have in Common?

Mimes, ladies night, and voluntary taxes are among the unusual policy interventions championed by former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus.? You can read about him here.? I challenge you to find another politician with as many intriguingly crazy ideas as this guy.

It looked, for a brief moment, like he might become the new President of Colombia, but in spite of strong poll numbers he finished a distant second in this weekend’s election.


This may be a preview of what the USA would be like if the Freakonomics authors got bored of writing and academia and went into politics. What fun it would be! There might even be a cabinet position for the "king of farts".

Paul Clapham

Keep your eyes on Iceland, then. All of the mainstream political parties have been tainted by association with the rogue bankers who faceplanted the Icelandic economy while becoming insanely rich, so the incoming mayor of Reykjavik is a comedian rather than a politician.

Wonks Anonymous

Um. None of them really work very well.

Mimes are not very entertaining.

You can't really meet women at ladies night.

Voluntary taxes never work because of free riders.

David Chowes, New York City

I accept the challenge!



Mockus failed miserably at the last debate. The subject? Defense. Unfortunately, politics of fear still carry more importance than anything in Colombia--much at the expense of development, education, and innovation.

Fred Thompson

Well, there will be a run-off featuring Santos and Mockus, so he still might become the President of Colombia.

Bryan Rosander

Churches run off of voluntary taxes called a tithe. There are lots of free riders, but it still works.

Andreas Kitzing

Agreeing with #2, Reykjavik's new mayor has much crazier ideas.

His program promises "open corruption" (instead of hidden corruption), free towels at all hot springs. He said he is willing to work together with any other politician regardless of their party, except from the ones who didn't like the tv show "The Wire" - they have such a bad taste that there's no more hope for them.


"I challenge you to find another politician with as many intriguingly crazy ideas as this guy."

Larry Langford, the former mayor of Birmingham, Alabama


to Wonks Anonymous- you might want to actually read about how Mockus used mimes, ladies night and voluntary taxes. If you did you would see that his initiatives actually worked pretty well.


@Wonks Anonymous actually they work pretty well, a big group of the richest bogotanians decided to pay the voluntary tax, the mimes proved effective increasing the civil awareness which lead to a cleaner, more respectful city, all in all Bogota reduced the criminality to the levels of the safest latin american cities (when Bogota was one of the most dangerous before he became mayor).

There was also a was on corruption which lead to better finances for the city.


Those elections you mention were the "first round" elections. There is a "second round", where Mockus has a (not likely) shot to become president.


Mimes make outstanding politicians as they speak no lies. You can meet drunk people at ladies night. And voluntary taxes work well for monks who have taken a vow of poverty.

Eric M. Jones

Mockus hiring mimes as traffic cops is just brilliant.

Where are Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, and even Jacob Bronowski (Face of Violence) when we really need them? In heaven looking down on Earthly foolishness. Rubin's clowning as a Sandanista rebel armed with plastic assault rifle in front of the House Un-America Activities Committee (HUAC) was one of the great photos of our age.

The lesson here is that civilization is all just a game of dress-up. We agree to play along. Most of us have no idea that it is just an agreement and not reality, so the joke is on them. The Romans (Saturnalia) and many other civilizations were very wise to have a few days of lunacy to relieve the pressure of maintaining such a straight civilized face.

We all just play our parts. All the world's a stage. But woe be to anyone who like Mockus who refuses to go along with the game!

(Is "Mockus" his real name or does he mock us?)


Raul Campis

Voluntary taxes? That's because he never read "The Road to Serfdom" (or "Freakonomics"). Neither his voters.


@Eric, Mockus is his last name :P
Voluntary taxes (10% extra) strangely have worked for fifteen years since Mockus was mayor the first time, that just helps a bit if you compare it with the tax evation in Colombia


Mockus' ideas are brilliant. He completely improved the way in which we, the people from Bogota behave. making our lifes better.

He is competing in the second round of presidential elections against one member of one of the richest families in Colombia, and former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos. He (Santos) is (illegally) supported by president Uribe in a moment in which the current government is being questioned by acts of corruption and persecution against oposition members and selected murderers performed by the army to young inocent people. Santos was in charge of the army at the time of the scandal.