"Safe" places to live outside the U.S.
November 28, 2005 5:12 PM   Subscribe

What countries would you consider the safest and free-est places on Earth to live? Personal freedom, rule of law and access to modern technology a plus. Lower cost of living than in the U.S. a double plus.
posted by clango to Law & Government (35 answers total)
Probably China, because rich people rule over there. And there is basically no crime in cities.
posted by mhuckaba at 5:16 PM on November 28, 2005

Oh yes. While I understand China is not a "free" society, I'm saying that if you have wealth you can get away with pretty much anything. It is extremely safe though.
posted by mhuckaba at 5:18 PM on November 28, 2005

If low cost of living is a priority then there are plenty of very, very cheap and safe, friendly places to live in Eastern Europe.

If safety and freedom is the priority then anywhere in Scandinavia is a good bet, but it's exceptionally expensive.
posted by fire&wings at 5:22 PM on November 28, 2005

New Zealand
posted by Nelson at 5:23 PM on November 28, 2005

Race and gender will have a large bearing on your listed factors in many countries.

Are you asking for a general average for any type of person or specifically for yourself?
posted by Espy Gillespie at 5:33 PM on November 28, 2005

I think you would want to correlate from multiple information sources to compile a list of candidates.

Here's two good places to start looking:

Freedom House
is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization that rates governments on a scale of 1 to 7, with "1" representing "most free" and 7 representing "least free" in both political liberties and civil rights. (Some prominent "combined" 7's include Burma, Libya, North Korea, Saudia Arabia and Sudan... avoid.)

See also Freedom House's Map of Freedom (PDF format.)

For a second point of view, check out Aon's Risk Maps. Aon is a global insurance and risk management company, and they rate risk on many different dimensions as well; since they've got shareholder money in the game, they certainly have good motivation to take a hard-eyed and realistic look at what might wind up costing them money. You can sign up for access to Aon's Risk Map here, or just drop me a line and I can mail you a copy (warning, it's about a 4MB PDF file.)

Just correlating these two sources (Freedom House and Aon), I'd say that for the Western Hemisphere, Costa Rica (for instance) looks like a decent blend of freedom, safety and affordability.
posted by enrevanche at 5:34 PM on November 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

posted by seawallrunner at 5:34 PM on November 28, 2005

New Zealand - a little bit cheaper than Australia, full rule of law, non-corrupt political class, free but ordinary (not terribly diverse) press.
posted by wilful at 5:50 PM on November 28, 2005

Keep in mind that a some of the places being listed are not only extremely nice places to live, but are extremely difficult places to immigrate to.
posted by Justinian at 5:57 PM on November 28, 2005

australia's nice. personal freedom, freedom of speech, access to technology, and cheaper than the states.

new zealand sounds good too.
posted by twirlypen at 5:59 PM on November 28, 2005

Thirding New Zealand, on all counts.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:04 PM on November 28, 2005

"Thirding" meaning "I would second the nomination, but I was late to the party", not "third place" :)
posted by -harlequin- at 6:06 PM on November 28, 2005

If you meen "free" in a Classical Liberal sense, I suggest looking at Heritage's Economic Freedom Index.

Estonia and Ireland are worth consideration.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:06 PM on November 28, 2005

I've been to new zealand. Who wouldn't want to move there? Which is why, at least when I visited, immigration was very difficult, as already mentioned.

Also, freedom.
posted by justgary at 6:13 PM on November 28, 2005

posted by Ken McE at 6:19 PM on November 28, 2005

Costa Rica.
posted by Sagres at 6:20 PM on November 28, 2005

New Zealand.

As an Australian, I would have said Australia up until a few years ago; but since the massive expansion of compulsory detention for asylum seekers, the ramping-up of anti-freedom-of-association union-busting industrial relations laws and three quarters of the public supporting the provisions in the Howard Government's new "anti-terror" laws that allow "terror suspects" to be locked up in secret without charge I can't do that any more.
posted by flabdablet at 7:01 PM on November 28, 2005

I would disagree about Ireland. It's very expensive and in some parts, you can still only get dial-up. It's also quite socially conservative (abortion is illegal, etc.) and racism and hate crimes are problems. It's not the worst place in the world to live, but it's certainly not one of the best (IMO) and doesn't fit the requirements clango stated.
posted by speranza at 7:14 PM on November 28, 2005

It's the fact that the public supports what the Howard Government is doing that is the kicker.
posted by figment at 7:14 PM on November 28, 2005

what about the US?
posted by lohmannn at 7:35 PM on November 28, 2005

Lower cost of living than in the U.S. a double plus.

There are plenty of cheap places to live in the USA. Seattle, for example, is a much less expensive place to live than San Francisco or NYC. The hills of Montana are even less expensive, but you probably won't be able to get 7MB DSL there.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:41 PM on November 28, 2005

I'm torn. If you value personal freedom and rule of law, then I would like to see you come here and reinforce those values. On the other hand, much of what makes NZ spesh is that we're underpopulated, and I'd like to keep it that way. This isn't xenophobia, but enochlophobia.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:44 PM on November 28, 2005

Ha! I knew it! New Zealand is awesome and they've been hiding it all along, keeping it all to themselves.
posted by phrontist at 8:39 PM on November 28, 2005

i asked myself that question some time ago and came to the same results: canada, australia, scandinavia, holland, rural south france (for a white man, speaking english, not wealthy enough for having servants and guards)
posted by suni at 9:02 PM on November 28, 2005

What do you mean by freedom? Political expression? Reproductive rights? Economic liberty? Access to drugs? Public sex with animals? As a previous poster said of China, there are many places in the world where you can do pretty much any damn thing you want if you are rich. Other places, like some Scandinavian nations, are highly regulated and heavily taxed but try hard to protect a certain set of social rights for everyone.

I would put Costa Rica on the list, but I don't know about internet access.
posted by LarryC at 9:11 PM on November 28, 2005

The Isle of Man is a beautiful place, is reasonably safe, has a high quality of life, pays good salaries, charges (very) low taxes... and is especially good if you like motorbikes...!
posted by Chunder at 6:50 AM on November 29, 2005

One problem with Austalia/NZ is the cost to fly from there to Europe/Americas. If you don't want the US cost of living, then keep away from UK, but generally you can get by for less in Europe (although certain luxury items may cost more). Places like Eastern Europe, Portugal, and many parts of Spain are particularly cheap and all of them are fairly safe. As for the Americas, Chile and Argentina are both great options. Argentina isn't as safe as it was before, though.
posted by BigBrownBear at 7:35 AM on November 29, 2005

You need a place with rights guaranteed in a constitution, which effectively rules Australia out and Canada in.
posted by joeclark at 9:12 AM on November 29, 2005

You need to go to the NationMaster Stats Page. THere you can see comparative graphs / maps etc on just about any category you can think of.
For example, here's a graph and map showing crime per capita globally. You can also create your own graphs using the tool provided on the top of the page.

Here's a few other graphs that seem to be relevant, lots more on the site though...
Economy GDP Per Capita
Population below poverty line
Net Happiness
Broadband Access
posted by kev23f at 9:15 AM on November 29, 2005

i'm not sure chile is best for any particular mix of political freedom, safety, facilities and cost of living, but it's probably a moderately good compromise if you earn a fair amount. where i live (a rich area of santiago) is pleasant and safe, there are good hospitals, the level of corruption is fairly low (comparable to usa, for example) and basic necesities (local produce) are very cheap, as is local transport. the downsides include political influence by the catholic church (no legal abortion, for example), a rather intolerant/insular culture (largely through lack of experience of the wider world, i think), and a large fraction of the population being rather poor.

within south america, it's probably your best bet (argentina is politically and economically less stable).
posted by andrew cooke at 9:23 AM on November 29, 2005

I've always heard Switzerland has a good reputation for all types of freedom, but it's really expensive.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:09 AM on November 29, 2005

New Zealand++

Women have had the vote in New Zealand longer than in ANY other country.

We haven't executed a criminal since 1957.

You get sort-of-free healthcare. (There's no need for health insurance, but you can get it if you want treatment in private hospitals.)

Free primary & secondary education, and while Universities and polytechnics charge a fee, they are heavily subsidised, and some tertiary training providers charge no fees at all.

The police here don't routinely carry firearms - though they can get them when they need them.

Oh yeah, we vote with a pen and paper.

But yeah, we probably won't let you in, sorry.
posted by The Monkey at 7:17 PM on November 29, 2005

I'll second Switzerland as being the best choice in Europe - although expensive (but salaries are also high, so who cares?)
posted by m.openmind at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2005

a friend of mine, living in switzerland, had a red towel with the hammer + sickle. they had it hung up inside their appartment to dry (not obviously in the window, but visible if you peered in). they were visited by the police and told to remove it.

just sayin'.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2005

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