The salary of the president of Uruguay, José Mujica, is about $12,500 per month but he only keeps $1,250, giving the rest to charity. His farmhouse, on the outskirts of Montevideo, is in the name of his wife, Lucía Topolansky, a senator, who also donates a portion of her salary. They live there rather than in the expansive presidential palace with its staff of 42.
Uruguay's economy is growing at a healthy clip: 3.6% per year, and according to Transparency International’s global corruption index, it ranks as the second least corrupt country in Latin America
In the U.S., JFK and Herbert Hoover did not accept a presidential salary, and Jerry Brown, when first elected governor of California, refused to move into that state's new governor's mansion.
During a recent speech to the UN General Assembly denouncing excess and frivolity, Mujica said:
- “Today, man does not govern the forces he has unleashed, but rather, it is these forces that govern man; and life. Because we do not come into this planet simply to develop, just like that, indiscriminately. We come into this planet to be happy. Because life is short and it slips away from us. And no material belonging is worth as much as life, and this is fundamental.“
- “But if life is going to slip through my fingers, working and over-working in order to be able to consume more, and the consumer society is the engine-because ultimately, if consumption is paralyzed, the economy stops, and if you stop economy, the ghost of stagnation appears for each one of us, but it is this hyper-consumption that is harming the planet.”
- “I’m not talking about returning to the days of the caveman, or erecting a “monument to backwardness.” But we cannot continue like this, indefinitely, being ruled by the market, on the contrary, we have to rule over the market.”
- “Development cannot go against happiness. It has to work in favor of human happiness, of love on Earth, human relationships, caring for children, having friends, having our basic needs covered. Precisely because this is the most precious treasure we have; happiness. When we fight for the environment, we must remember that the essential element of the environment is called human happiness.”