pacifico ballenas What Bob used to pay for driveway work.

Bob’s paving solution only possible in MX

It would never work in the overly regulated society north of the border

I often reflect on my life in Mexico and mentally chronicle the multitudinous occurrences that affirm my choice of being comfortably ensconced in this fascinating culture.


Several months back I watched a neighbor (we will call him Bob) easily solve a problem which would have been a difficult and expensive process anywhere north of the border. Bob’s house sits at the end of a short, dead-end street at the edge of Centro, which the city decided to pave and add storm drains.

I know some readers will scoff at any Mexican city’s attempts to corral and direct the deluges precipitated by the wet season, but this was on a hill, so proper directional flow was somewhat assured.

Bob’s problem was that the finished elevation on the city street outside his home, once they had completed their initial work including grading, became two feet lower than the end of his nice, concrete driveway; a distinctly vertical precipice.

Fortunately Bob has lived in Mexico for more than 15 minutes and he can dance to the Mariachi tune that lives in the back of his mind. He approached the equipment operators and the paving crew and cut a deal to blend and patch his driveway as well as a couple of neighbors’ driveways, as part of the completed project.

His total outlay was 5,000 pesos and a carton of Pacífico ballenas (quart-size beers). The workers were happy, Bob was happy and the city either never noticed or noticed and didn’t care: viva México. Bob’s neighbors love him because he is an Anglo who is able to commune with the common worker as well as show proper respect to his neighbors.

Now, just imagine what would happen if Bob attempted to disentangle a similar dilemma anywhere north of Tijuana. He would approach the equipment operators and paving crew and arrange for the work to be bootlegged on a Saturday or Sunday when building officials are off work.


All goes well and by the end of the weekend Bob’s driveway slopes perfectly to the street. This cost Bob a couple of thousand dollars and a bottle of Jack Daniels; the crew is happy, Bob is happy and all is well with the world — until Bob gets a knock on the door.

Bob is confronted by a man in a suit who says he wants to see the encroachment permit allowing him to tie his driveway into the city street. Bob tells the man his dog ate all his city paperwork last week and therefore he cannot produce the encroachment permit.

The next day, Bob has three men in suits at his door, all with ominous expressions meant to humiliate and shame Bob for his nefarious behavior.

Bob is given the following: an application for an encroachment permit, the city’s demand for engineered plans and specifications, an application for a city permit to build the driveway extension, an application to the city surveyor to correct the plat map, a formal demand from the city to remove the illegal structure within 24 hours or be faced with further punitive action, and last but not least a court summons which could result in six months in jail and/or a $10,000 fine.

Bob spends the next eight months and countless dollars slowly extricating himself from the sticky web of rules and regulations, most of which he had never known existed until now. Bob’s neighbors shun him now because of his criminal behavior.

Now, let’s see, which attitude is preferable? Since the excavation and paving crews were private contractors and not city workers, Bob’s behavior in his Mexican neighborhood did not involve any bribes to city officials, so this is not an issue of corruption or lawless behavior.

He only paid a fair price for his and his neighbor’s driveway extensions and by doing so, never complained to the city for leaving him high and dry; simple problem with a simple solution.

This is just one example of how superb life is in Mexico and how insanely complex life is becoming in an overly regulated society north of the border.

Of course Mexico has its share of complex rules and regulations which can leave a gringo’s head spinning, but compliance is never enforced with the zeal so often seen in so-called first-world countries.

Bodie Kellogg describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time on the west coast of Mexico with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half wild dog. If you wish to give him cold beer, large sacks of money or a piece of your mind, he can be reached at

Stories from our archives that you might enjoy

  • Happygirl

    What a bunch of hogwash! I have seen paving crews in Canada do a proper job of joining and sloping asphalt – from the road bed to adjoining properties without cost to the homeowner, myself included. I would call the planning department if they didn’t do the job right and a crew would be sent out – so they do it right the first time. It’s my tax dollars at work after all. In Mexico they do a sloppy job half-ass job so they can make a few extra pesos thru extortion – it is an accepted practice. What is different is that everyone in Mexico renovates without a building permit, engineer’s report etcetera….need an extra room, a second storey, a pool, a bathroom…no problem. The exception is major building projects. And, anyone can be an electrician, plumber or air-conditioner installer. When you buy a house here you really don’t have any idea if it is safe to live in. Building code…what is building code? Back home at least there are building standards and costly consequences if you you break the laws.

    • Larry D

      Happygirl you obviously prefer Socialism over freedom. If you don’t have a level of common sense enough to guide you in everyday affairs you absolutely belong in the U.S.A.

      • Happygirl

        There was a time when I looked up to Americans, I bought into their movies where they were portrayed as intelligent, hero’s and law abiding…but as I grew older and wiser and was educated in reality…I now see them in a different light. I am a proud Canadian and though we have our own problems we understand that being safe does not mean owing a gun; that having a smoothly running city, village, house requires rules, laws and everyone pays their fair share; that everyone has the right to a good public standardized education without the input of special interest groups and we pay for it through our taxes; we have a great healthcare system so that we won’t go bankrupt should disease or age throw us a curve ball and we all pay for it, we have social programs because we care about our fellow citizens…so yes if this is socialism I am a happy member of this club. We do pay more taxes than Americans but we have a full basket of great goodies which everyone shares.The recent USA election has brought out the low life and cockroaches of American society, mean and nasty they now think it is o.k. to spread their message of hate…if they had had more social programs, support and a better education they would see that life isn’t just about them…that life is good and the sky is blue and love rules.

        • Fred Wilson

          Wow, thanks for painting the US with such a broad brush. You fail to mention the poor people that need a knee replacement or cataract surgery and wait for a year plus to be repaired AND, oh yes, they are in their late 70s! Your environmental conscience is best illustrated by the tar sands of Ft. McMurray and clear cutting of your forests leaving ugly dead zones in their wake. Yes, I lived in BC for 8 yrs as a permanent resident. Was surprised and disappointed that, despite what people like you spout, CA has just as many warts as the US, just different ones.

          • DJ

            Happygirl is mostly right. I am a US citizen, now splitting my time between Canada and Mexico. I am alive thanks to the US medical system and my parents’ union-jobs insurance that paid for my care after a motorcycle accident as a young man. I now use the Canadian system. Simply put; the Canadian medical system is better. People in dire need from accidents, breast cancer diagnosis, etc., are cared for well and immediately. The cost is lower. I love America (though a bit less since last Tuesday), but the Canadian way of paying and caring for others, within a capitalist system, is more moral, more sane, again, simply better. Where Happygirl is wrong, is taxation. Without the huge military and debt to fund, Canadian taxes are not appreciably higher than US taxes. I do both.

          • Fred Wilson

            HG & DJ, good chat and many common ground. Pine beetle killing trees is NOT the same as massive clear cutting. Reforestation is great if you plan to live to 125 yrs old. The Koch(not Coke) bros are a great illustration of what is wrong in the USA and in general of people in power. DJ, how does your CA health care work in Mexico?? I spent 18 straight winters in Baja, pretty knowledgeable about 3 countries as a legal resident of all 3. I moved to CA after Bush and may have to go back if Trump turns out as bad as it looks, sigh.

          • Happygirl

            Sorry about that, but it is how I feel. The tar sands is a sore eye ( I agree with you 100%) but before the USA started fraking you guys were real happy to have a hundred year plus supply of oil on your doorstep…you still are. With oil prices in the toilet and tar sands oil not in high demand it isn’t that big a problem anymore. Fraking is causing huge environmental damage and earthquakes in the USA…We can agree that there must be a better way than burning fossil fuels and that includes COAL…like Trump and the Coke brothers want to do. We have a managed forestry industry (we do practice reforestation) that has been disseminated by alien insect species in recent years and some major fires (global warming?) We have designated huge areas of forests as national parkland/forests – with controlled harvestation – no clear cutting. But we can do better. We are not the USA and we have lots of warts…but l rather be a Canadian any day of the week.

        • David Nichols

          Your enthusiasm for the “basket of goodies which EVERYONE shares” is apparently not diminished by the fact that your statement that “we ALL pay for it” simply isn’t true…!
          Many pay nothing, and many more put in less than they take out…
          Are you even aware of the looming economic collapse of the Canadian economy, as you run out of “Other Peoples Money” to fill up the basket..? Are you tracking the value of the Canadian dollar..?

          • Happygirl

            Canada does not have the huge national debt the USA has, it has a responsible regulated banking system, it has depositors insurance should a bank collapse. Our biggest trading partner is the USA and because we catch the flu if you (USA) get a cold our government is building relationships with other countries – the EU, China, Australia etcetera. Our government is keeping our dollar artificially low to boost our economy and trade. Our interest rates are too low…if they raise them our dollar will go up. It should be above or at par with the green back. When, not if the USA economy fails…We will be along for the ride – you and Trump will be the cause of a worldwide depression. Hopefully, our government is making plans for this eventually. You wrong when you say that not everyone pays…We have the GST, provincial and federal taxes and if you are a consumer in Canada you are paying, every time you buy something (except many food items and some other small stuff) you pay a tax, if you buy gas, oil…you are paying…those who are less able, pay more on somethings and less on other. We have a sense of social responsibility to take care of one and another. So..have I answered your question?

          • David Nichols

            No, more like you are trying to convince yourself so you can remain “happygirl”

            “and many more put in less than they take out” = an unsustainable economic negative, which you can only pay for by borrowing, which leads to more interest payments, which leaves less money for services, which leads to more borrowing….I’m sure you can do the math.

            Of course Canada’s national debt is smaller, in absolute terms, than that of the USA…Since your economy and population are a fraction of the USA’s…
            Canada currently (2015 stats) has a 64.8% net debt to GDP ratio, only 5% below that of the USA.
            BOTH are way too high…Debt service (interest ONLY) for Ontario, for example, @ $11.3 billion exceeds the total cost of that province’s welfare system, which is $11.1 billion…
            Money going to pay debt on interest diminishes the money available for govt. services, and if interest rates rise, the cost of debt service rises accordingly…
            The ONLY province in Canada without ANY provincial debt is Alberta, which I am sure you know is overwhelmingly CONSERVATIVE… They also are the ONLY province without a provincial sales tax. !
            How do they do it..? They don’t spend money they don’t have..! It is that simple…
            They don’t believe in robbing future generations to pay for today’s wish list…

    • K. Chris C.

      Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” spells out where authoritarian governments, all of them, from socialist, to communism, to fascism, end up–Totalitarianism. In other words, at a minimum, they all, regardless of what they “provide,” end up running gulags and using our children as cannon fodder in their kill and steal, or be killed, schemes.

      That is, all of those “benefits,” paid for with stolen loot (taxes) and kowtowing to the Khazarian banksters, carries a steep price–“First they came for my soul…then they came for my children…”

      An American citizen, not US subject.

      • Happygirl

        You sign off “An American citizen, not US subject.” But in reality, you are really not even a citizen because you have turned your back on your country. Citizenship is more than being born in a country or taking an oath…many Americans puff out their chests and take pride in being an American “citizen”. Many Americans (not all) living in Mexico say – they don’t want to pay taxes and they don’t want to be told what they can and cannot do…so they left…but that is what is required of a citizen. If, you don’t like it then vote in people who see things your way and change the laws…but vote with your head. Defending your country is part of citizenship and though the USA seems to like telling other countries what to do and has taken them on…there was one war that needed to be fought and won – WWII and I bet you had family members in that one. Defending one’s country is the supreme sacrifice. If you or your children do not believe in the present “war” tell them you object. You do know that there is no inscription at the present time – it’s voluntary. Citizenship requires work and yes, it requires you to take part. No country is is a work in progress.

  • K. Chris C.

    I moved my family down to Mexico for political reasons, and also because
    my children are approaching the ages where Uncle Tyranny sees them as
    only able gun-toters in their kill and steal, or be killed crime sprees (Iran
    coming up next!).

    Anyways, in Mexico, like the author, I have been
    amazed as to what can get done when the corrupt and tyrannical
    bureaucracies of the Northern tyranny are not in the way.

    friend of
    mine just setup a carwash here in what was a pension on the main drag.
    the course of a week, he bought the equipment, built a structure, ran
    some pipe, installed a sink and toilet, and then put out a sign. No
    fuss, no muss, and no payments to the government. CFE was the only

    To setup my computer business storefront about 8 years ago in a
    US tyranny
    state took over a month, and over 100 dollars–and then another 30 days
    and $75 to get approval for a sign.

    As a friend of mine likes to say: “Life in Mexico can occasionally blow, but never more than your hat.”

    An American citizen, not US subject.

    • Happygirl

      Most carwash businesses in Mexico are a guy with bucket and a rag…he has his street and customers leave their car on the street for him to wash. No need for a structure – it’s his home and don’t even think about asking to use his toilet. Your friend will find the Mexican government frowns on foreigners running businesses without paying taxes…the competition – the guy with the rag and bucket will quickly rat him out.

      • K. Chris C.

        You don’t seem happy.

        My friend is a Mexican. He setup his carwash on a walled lot. There are four other carwashes in town, also on walled lots. There are “bucket brigades” around, but they come and go.

        Regardless, my comment was in support of the author’s observations–many things are much easier to accomplish here than in the US tyranny.

        “Life in Mexico occasionally blows, but never more than your hat.”

        An American citizen, not US subject.

  • Felipe_Calderoff

    No, Bodie. Your imagined problem does not occur in the US. That is because private properties have an access easement by operation of law to a public street. If the government regrades the street, they must reestablish the access easement, on their dime. Bob pissed away 5,000 pesos he should not have to pay if he lived in a land of real laws. Bienvenido a México, güey.

  • Jumex

    Nice story and example of differences in culture.

    Personally I think both countries are corrupt, the US just has much more decorations around the corruption and it is much more expensive.

  • kallen

    Good story. I’ve often mused that the US has a tad too many restrictions and Mexico has a tad too few but really its totally subjective. Sometimes its nice to have too many restrictions on your side (like when my neighbor in Mexico burns his plastic trash or fisherman want to use gill nets and so destroy a species like the vaquita in the process) and at other times its nice to have too few restrictions (like when you want to do anything to your house that would require a permit in the US). The US could learn a thing or two from Mexico and Mexico could learn a thing or two from the US.

    • Becky Milward

      Well said and a reasonable response, Kallen…without being contentious, combative and snarky. Refreshing!!! Others (below) should take note.

  • Henry Wilson

    only one problem. north of the border the pavement would probably endure more than one year before falling apart. other than that…mexico often offers a cheaper faster solution.

  • Mike Flynn

    Good comments and as mentioned both countries could show the other a thing or two (obviously)