What liberal country should I move to?
July 30, 2006 11:29 PM   Subscribe

What liberal country should I escape to?

(I apologize if this offends anyone, or starts a flame war. That is not my intention.) Every time I turn on the news, I find something or other that makes me feel like the country I was born into (USA, lots of civil liberties, strong economy) is not the same country I'm living in today. Even though they haven't come for me yet, I don't want to stick around until it's time.

What country could an English-speaking single guy move to that doesn't have rapidly-eroding civil liberties? My requirements include English being widely understood (I'm open to learning another language if English isn't the primary one, but I'd prefer to not have to), a stable economy (and a good job market: I'll be fresh out of college), reasonable taxes (deliberately vague), and, most importantly, civil liberties that aren't on the decline. Ideally, same-sex marriages would be recognized and performed. Decent health care is important. I am not religious, if it's relevant. I'm not too picky about climate; I currently live in New England, so I can tolerate the cold.

So what country should I move to, and why?
posted by fogster to Law & Government (75 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Netherlands.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:30 PM on July 30, 2006

New Zealand?
posted by vizsla at 11:33 PM on July 30, 2006

Seconding New Zealand. I've never met an asshole from New Zealand.
posted by Savvas at 11:34 PM on July 30, 2006

Best answer: The Netherlands is a classically Liberal (weak "libertarian") state which meets all your criteria but language: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and same-sex marriage is recognized and embraced.

Dutch shares a number of cognates with German — and by extension, English — so you should be able to pick it up quickly, and English is a strong second language option there, so that you can more or less communicate in any case.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 PM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

You're probably looking at this backwards; the first question should be what countries could I, with my skills / resources / experience / etc emmigrate to?", then filter the resultant list.

The UK has a Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, as do (I suspect) many other countries.

I moved here before they started it but some buddies have recently entered by means of the programme, and it seems to be fast and effective. Best of luck; I long ago decided I wasn't moving back to the US.
posted by Mutant at 11:38 PM on July 30, 2006

New Zealand has a strong undercurrent of racism (hell, sometimes it's overt). Their Foreign Minister has made some pretty disturbing remarks in the past.

Full disclosure: I'm Australian and we're even worse. Don't move here, either.
posted by Jimbob at 11:40 PM on July 30, 2006

I'm in Australia, and I like it just fine. It's not ideal and there's definitely a lot of room for improvement... but as there are a lot less people, I feel like I have more of an opportunity to make a difference here. Gays seem to be more accepted (at least in the cities, where 90% of the population live) and the Liberals (capital "L" liberals are the bad guys here) haven't managed to undo every bit of progressive legislation yet. I'm sure a lot of Aussies will chime in to say how crap it is here, but speaking as an American, I think it's just that they don't realize how good they have it. :) Unfortunately the only problem is we're zillions of miles away from just about everything. (NZ has the same issue.)
posted by web-goddess at 11:41 PM on July 30, 2006

Heh. Jimbob posted that as I was previewing. All I know is, for a Midwesterner from an American town that had all of one black family, two Asian families, and a despised underclass of Hispanic migrant farm workers, Sydney seems like a multicultural utopia from where I'm sitting. (Granted, I don't live in Cronulla...)
posted by web-goddess at 11:44 PM on July 30, 2006

Erm, if you just go north a hundred miles or so, it's all good. Canada awaits you.

The taxes seem pretty reasonable once you figure you're getting health care out of the deal.
posted by jokeefe at 11:44 PM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should stay in the USA and fight for your values.

Don't let the bastards win.

The world needs more good Americans who oppose your governments current sillyness.
posted by sien at 11:48 PM on July 30, 2006 [8 favorites]

I'd say the Netherlands too, being an Aussie who has met the odd kiwi arsehole. NZ second.
posted by pompomtom at 11:49 PM on July 30, 2006

Spain seems to be be pushing the envelope all kinds these days. And the food is excellent.
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:49 PM on July 30, 2006

Well the food in Spain is absolutely terrible, and english is definitely not everyone's second language there, though spanish isn't too hard to learn.

The anglosphere is going to be the first place you look. In which case, why not Canada? You can go home to visit easily, you don't mind the cold, they speak english...

Australia has its pluses and minuses. The Aus PM is busily trying to imitate the US. New zealand really is a bit small town and insular and insecure. plus you've really got to like rugby. But their beer is OK.
posted by wilful at 11:55 PM on July 30, 2006

New Zealand has a strong undercurrent of racism (hell, sometimes it's overt). Their Foreign Minister has made some pretty disturbing remarks in the past.

Winston is half-Maori/Polynesian yet he is against Polynesian immigration or Maori land rights. He claims he has half-Chinese blood but warns about Asian immigration. "Racist" isn't really the word for him. "Contrarian" might be better?
posted by vizsla at 11:57 PM on July 30, 2006

Sydney seems like a multicultural utopia from where I'm sitting.

That's probably true, but try asking the great unwashed masses what they think of the (shamefully treated) underclass of indigenous people around Australia. A poll I read last week found that 40% of Australians consider Muslims a threat to our way of life. Hell, try asking a federal minister or two these same questions, off the record.

Look, I love the place to bits, and we don't have photos of John Howard and Peter Costello above the entrance to the customs area at our airport yet (hello LAX!), but a liberal oasis it ain't. But I guess, to be honest, there aren't that many places that are better, or that fit fogster's criteria. The Netherlands aren't well known for their low taxes, for instance.
posted by Jimbob at 11:59 PM on July 30, 2006

Blazecock Pileon writes "The Netherlands"

Of course, with global warming raising the sea level, it might not last.
posted by orthogonality at 12:06 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just popping in to say that almost everyone in the Netherlands can speak English.
posted by trip and a half at 12:07 AM on July 31, 2006

I7d like to pop in and say the food in Spain is terrible, too. Paella? Ugh.

And there are plenty of arseholes in New Zealand. And it is smalltown, but not neccessarily too insular. And pretty racist. And Winston Peters is a fool but don't let that stop you moving there.
posted by dydecker at 12:17 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: As I recently (within the past six months) became a Canadian repatriate, I would recommend it here. The political climate is much more measured and reasoned, there is a lot less of the hissing, spitting Ann Coulter vs. hippy liberals dialogue you see on cable tv.

But it isn't that easy to just walk in and get citizenship here, and you can't expect any of the comforts and benefits of citizenship if you came on a travel visa.

I also have to say that having the benefit of dual citizenship allowed me to make it an easier process rather than "oh I can't wait to call myself an expatriate and escape" situation.

If you're looking for a glamorous exotic locale where you can write treatises about the country you abandoned, Canada ain't it. If you're looking for a place to live which is pretty much similar to the US, with a lot fewer scary red-stater types, then yeah, consider it.
posted by SassHat at 12:21 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: Canada is the smart move for someone in New England. Canada is close enough that you can visit family and friends, it's near the top of all the "great places to live" lists, and it doesn't have to be your last stop (if badness spreads like a disease from the US).

Canada is also close enough that you can make a couple of scouting trips (combined with vacations) first. You can drive there. Every liberal American should take a Canadian vacation with an eye to possibly moving there should they need to vote with their feet. The most populous areas of Canada will even benefit (in an immediate sense -- the weather will be nicer) from global warming, making more of that vast country pleasant to live in, so there will be plenty of room for you.
posted by pracowity at 12:23 AM on July 31, 2006

Spanish wine is fantastic. That said, you're going to have a helluva hard time getting by there if you don't speak Spanish - even in Madrid.

What about Sweden? Yes, taxes are ferociously high, but in turn a lot of your needs are taken care of. The country is beautiful. Most Swedes with whom I am acquainted speak excellent English, but I think you would also find Swedish relatively easy to learn.
posted by anjamu at 12:28 AM on July 31, 2006

I think I may understand part of how you feel, fogster. For what you're looking for, I haven't found where that country is. I know that this isn't a perfect answer for your question, but you may just need to take a different look at things.

First, find a better reason to move. Every country is shit for a variety of different reasons. Remember that. So while you may be moving away because you don't like our current political climate, you would just be trading it for some other environment that you may or may not hate once you get used to living there.

To begin, take a load off. Set aside some money and travel for as long as you can. I would recommend three months plus.

Once out, you will be relieved to have a break from the daily assault of news and general Americanness. Naturally, you will meet plenty of people from other countries that will want to talk to you about all kinds of stuff. And, just like how WWII comes up when any Germans are around, US foreign policy since 2001 will come up. All. The. Time.

If you're out for a while, you might get tired of being so angry, or simply saying again and again that you hate your whole country. Maybe you'll meet some other Americans who piss you off because they're being stupid and pretending they're Canadians. Maybe you'll see that your fellow Americans traveling around to interesting places are consistently some of the most interesting and well-behaved people you've ever met. Maybe you'll be relieved that the drunken, loud, misbehaving people with North American accents are identifying themselves with Canadian flags.

In my time traveling, I found a great deal of beauty in the world and its inhabitants. I also found many reasons to hate other countries other than my own. I also found many ways to stereotype and mock people from other countries, including places that I thought I would have liked to move to. I found new reasons to like my country as well. I found that much of the criticisms that foreignese use to criticize this country are completely ridiculous.

Don't think that I'm this big yee-haw America motherfucker, though. I learned more about what I like about this country and I learned about how to focus my hatred of the things I don't like here. I became more interested in politics. I learned a little more about my place in the world. I learned that I have a lot to learn (oh barf). Ultimately, I learned that I would move somewhere else because an interesting opportunity presented itself, but never because I was fed up. Almost every angry American expat I met out there was an annoying, rude, offensive asshole. You don't want to be that guy.

I recommend learning a new language.
posted by redteam at 12:33 AM on July 31, 2006 [7 favorites]

This is very easy:

You'd be happy in just about any OECD country, except maybe Turkey (which retains some pretty strong authoritarian qualities) or Mexico (which is riddled with corruption).

Really, all of them (including the US) are just different variations on the same theme. All of them have more or less stable economies, but they put different emphases on growth, inflation, and unemployment. All of them have reasonable taxes, at least after you take into account what you get from your taxes. All of them provide strong protections for civil rights and liberties, with different emphases and quirks, and have done for a long time. All of them have very good health-care systems, with different weirdnesses.

So take your pick. Hell, flip some coins. No matter which one you pick, you'll find some things a lot better for you than the US, a whole damn lot that's just different but neither obviously better or worse, and a few things that really piss you off.

English is the/a national language in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK. In addition to what others have noted, you will also find large numbers of anglophones anywhere in Scandinavia.

The hard part will not be picking which one to go to. Throw a dart at a map and pick whichever OECD country you hit first. The hard part will be getting in. You can expect immigration that isn't family-based to be time-consuming, difficult, and expensive.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:47 AM on July 31, 2006

Just popping in to say that almost everyone in the Netherlands can speak English.

Which is great for tourists, but as someone who lived there for two years I can attest that the only real friends you keep will be other expatriates unless you become fluent in Dutch.
posted by randomstriker at 12:48 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: Maybe you could consider San Francisco - you'll at least be around a lot of other people who think like you. It's an enormously enjoyable place to spend a few years as a twenty-something. Check out this discussion.
posted by teleskiving at 1:27 AM on July 31, 2006

Honestly the US Right now is still one of the best places to be from a practical standpoint, as long as you're not of Muslim decent. Take everything you don't like about the US and multiply it by 10 and you'd get Australia.

Canada is probably the easiest. Similar culture and a very liberal immigration policy. The Netherlands is the classic example, but it might be hard to move immigrate. Japan would also be a nice place, while technically more authoritarian the police are much more polite and civil, and you're far far less likely to end up in Jail there (but don't even think of doing any drugs).

You could always move somewhere like Kazakhstan, which is actually a very nice place with nice people. Very low-tech and backwards, though.

Definitely NOT The UK if you don't want the stink of oppression.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: One word. Iceland. I lived there for almost three years and loved every second of it. The government is very liberal, they have universal health care and have welcomed political refugees from many different countries. The people are warm and friendly, even if the weather is sometimes not. Iceland has the highest literacy rate per capita of any western nation and is one of most non-polluted countries in the world as most of its energy comes from geothermal sources.

Yes, Iceland is the place you are looking for.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 4:06 AM on July 31, 2006

The problem is that emmigration is not easy. Canada does not have a liberal immigration policy - it has a really difficult test you have to get 67 or more points on. Take the test here. Australia and New Zealand have similar tests.

No matter where you go, getting immigration visas is very difficult, unless you have a position lined up. Even then, you can be on temporary visas for years.

As for the Netherlands, it's a nice country but the current government really hates immigrants and is looking for any excuse to kick people out. You can be married to a European citizen and have Dutch children, and still be told you aren't allowed to stay.

I'm sorry to sound harsh, but as someone who's been on a student visa in the States and a spousal visa in Britain, immigration is never easy, even when you have reasons for visas like I do. Even after marrying a British citizen, I won't have the right to apply for residency until I've lived here for three years. If at any time before that we choose to move back to Canada, I will lose all residency in Britain, and have to reapply for a visa to live here should we ever return, just as if I had never been here. It's as bad in the States - I know a man who was married to an American for 30-odd years, had two children who were American citizens (through their mother), was a retired professor, and still had to wait over a year longer than he thought to get a green card - and he was not allowed to live in the States with his wife (where she was working) through that whole year.
posted by jb at 4:31 AM on July 31, 2006

As an American living abroad, I have to ask you, are you prepared to be challenged by friends, co-workers and random strangers about every stinking thing the US has ever done? Regardless of how you feel about your home country, you'll be asked to answer for it. A lot. This gets really tiresome after a few months. Ask anyone who lived in the Netherlands during the first Gulf War (for example).

Are you prepared to jump through hoops every time you want to vote absentee? I do hope that as a person with strong political interests (strong enough to want to leave, anyway), you wouldn't just roll over and give up your vote too.

Are you prepared for the fact that eventually you'll see the cracks in any so-called liberal haven? After six years in the UK I've read and seen enough to be incredulous that they accuse us of racism.

Are you prepared for the fact that living abroad is not just about language, but about culture too? That even if everyone speaks English, a lot of conversations will leave you behind because you don't know the history, the references, the mood? It takes a lot longer than a year or two to fit in. In some places you never will. Even if I live here until I'm eighty, I'll never be a Yorkshirewoman. Compare that to the fact that anyone with the desire to live in the US is effectively an American.

Re: the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme in the UK. It's not actually that easy to qualify if you don't have post-graduation job experience making in the region of £30K a year. Want to get a work permit anywhere in the EU? Good luck. Most employers will only be able to hire you if there is no other qualified EU applicant. Even if you're the better person for the job.

Why not stay? If I could do it over again I'd live in Santa Fe. Still the US, but an easy place to get on and live life without mass media.
posted by methylsalicylate at 4:32 AM on July 31, 2006

Okay, I just did the Canadian test, saying everything true about myself (except for the fact that I'm actually a Canadian citizen), and even though I have a masters degree, belong to a "skilled profession" (albeit with less than a year of experience and no arranged employment) and have family in Canada, I still failed (63 points). If I had another year of work experience or an arranged position, I would pass - barely.

If you are serious about emmigrating anywhere, you will have to find a job there first.
posted by jb at 4:40 AM on July 31, 2006

delmoi writes "Take everything you don't like about the US and multiply it by 10 and you'd get Australia. "

Delmoi, you're getting to be a repetetive and ignorant dickhead.

I like the answers given by redteam and ROU_Xenophobe. You will find reasons to be pissed off everwhere.
posted by peacay at 5:15 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: I second the travel suggestion. If you aren't even out of college yet then your perspective is still significantly limited. Go around the world, interact with different people in different places, read history books, read sociology books, read about politics and foreign policy, realize that the current government is not indicative of the US as a whole in the past present or future, and that the country isn't the government or the people. No place is perfect, and people everywhere love to complain about everything while feeling proud of their nationality. If you are too broke to travel right now and too bored to read non-narratives I would recommend reading Bill Bryson's travel books, which are very funny, insightful and don't embelish. For example, reading about Australia you would learn that until early last century it was legal to hunt aboriginies in some areas there.
posted by blueyellow at 5:19 AM on July 31, 2006

Anywhere in Scandinavia.
posted by fire&wings at 5:20 AM on July 31, 2006

By your criteria, avoid anywhere in the EU. The EU's influence is pervading the most liberal of European countries. New Zealand is looking to be the best option.
posted by wackybrit at 5:35 AM on July 31, 2006

You'll have a hard time moving anyplace worthwhile without an advanced degree and a pile of cash: if you start looking at the immigration websites for all the worthwhile places to emigrate to (Canada, NZ, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc.) you'll notice that they don't really want or need you unless you are a political refugee or have very valuable, highly specialized skills.

So if you're serious about emigrating you'll go back to school and get a Ph.D in someting useful -- an applied science would be your best yet -- and then start asking this again. If you really want to leave now you'd be better off heading to someplace in the rapidly-developing third world (viz, Thailand, Vietnam, etc) and freelancing on anything you can do over the internet (get paid in dollars, spend in bhat).
posted by little miss manners at 6:17 AM on July 31, 2006

My daughter - dual UK/US national - born and brought up in US, spent two years in the UK, actually did this. She did detailed research on various countries, visited a few (though not Canada, NZ) and finally chose Sweden. She has been there three years, learned the language and is going to apply for Swedish nationality. Obviously, she loves it.
posted by TheRaven at 6:29 AM on July 31, 2006

Please stop talking up NZ as a place to go. The sheep will start becoming restless. :)

As a member of a family that generally picked up and left the US, we have independently lived in The Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Japan, New Zealand, Iran, Oman and Australia.

In addition to the countries above, I have spent time working in many more. There isn't a perfect place. Embed yourself in your career or making your world a better place. Better yet, both.

Finish your education. Decide to live abroad. You're smart, learn a new language. But don't do it simply because you have political issues with the shite going down in the US today.
posted by michswiss at 7:06 AM on July 31, 2006

You should stay in the USA and fight for your values.

Don't let the bastards win.

Seconded! Illegitimati non carborundum! I still wince when I think about all the people who loudly declared in 2004 that they were leaving the U.S. if Bush won a second term. They're all still here, and their counterparts on the right are still gloating about "all talk, no action liberals." STAY.
posted by kittyprecious at 7:20 AM on July 31, 2006

posted by chunking express at 7:28 AM on July 31, 2006

The Utne Reader had a whole section on expatriatism (or whatever the word is) in their Jan/Feb 2004 issue. You can order a copy from their site. Or search the site. I searched for "expatriate" (sorted by date) and it looks like hits #6-14 might be of interest to you.
posted by booth at 7:31 AM on July 31, 2006

I have no input other than the fact that I just took the Canada test and got a 72 (probably b/c I'm in a good age range, have a master's degree, and lots of work experience) so if you're young, just out of college, and have no work experience, you probably won't pass.
posted by echo0720 at 7:36 AM on July 31, 2006

if you're young, just out of college, and have no work experience, you probably won't pass.

You can't immigrate necessarily, but if you get a job offer you can get a TN visa pretty easily - depending on your field of work.

You don't have to be a citizen to live in Canada.
posted by GuyZero at 7:49 AM on July 31, 2006

Sien is right. Stay and fight. The pendulum is going to swing way back left anyway. Then you can enjoy the ride.
posted by sgobbare at 7:55 AM on July 31, 2006

It's fine to want to live outside the US - much like redteam said, it's eye-opening and has made me proud of the fact that "our government" and "our people" are very different entities in the minds of people abroad.

I left the US after finishing college a few months ago and I can't say I'm totally happy about it, even though my chosen career path for now, teaching English abroad, is pretty stimulating. At the end of the day, I'm not watching my brother grow up, hanging out with all my friends from school, or enjoying any of the foods I've come to realize I have always loved. However, I know that with my qualification, I can basically pick up at the end of my contract and move on to the next place to enchant me. If you're looking for a way out of the US that doesn't involve a permanent commitment, this is a good way to go. Furthermore, I know if I wanted to stay on, I could - as someone with a "rare skill" here (being a native speaker of English and being qualified to teach it), it's easy enough to get my visas renewed.

Consider also that while on paper you may have more rights in the developed world, life might be comparatively hassle-free in an "emerging market" in the developing world, much cheaper, and perhaps will give you the break you're looking for. Perhaps a country like South Africa or Brazil (you're in New England, so I'm assuming it won't be too hard to find Portuguese classes) will fit in ways that Europe won't.


Are you prepared for every transaction you have with people to be colored by your race or nationality or language skills? Going to the store becomes intellectually strenuous, arranging a plane ticket takes a phrasebook and engaging in a casual discussion about politics becomes either a simplistic farce or totally impossible.

Are you prepared to completely lose any influence over local politics and decision-making until you become a full-fledged citizen? It's not too nice to be hassled by officials you can't elect or recall.

You talk about "rapidly eroding civil rights," but consider that as an immigrant, you probably wouldn't have the same rights as locals for a long time, if ever.

But really, if after all that, you can still say that this is what you want to do, you might be in luck: if you've got any Italian blood (check if you qualify here), you can get an Italian passport and live and work anywhere in the EU, forever, as you're already an Italian citizen. It's a bit of a paper chase, but for the $500 you might drop on paperwork and stuff, I think dual citizenship would be worth it. E-mail's in the profile if you've got questions.

On preview: With my bachelor's degree, native English/"moderate" French (ie, passed some college French courses), age of 21-49, one year of job experience, and no firm job offer: 69 out of 67 on the Canada test. And they said they'd take an application even if you don't have exactly 67.
posted by mdonley at 8:10 AM on July 31, 2006

You will find that there is no Utopia anywhere. One has to look at the multitudinous inputs of media streamed garbage to find reasons to either love or hate the US. You need to think this out VERY carefully before giving up your American status. Your country offers more freedom than Canada (although recent changes by the Harper government have made me hopeful) and arguably more so than most other countries in the world.

Your liberal (MSN, CNN) media tends to portray conservatives as "pro Bush, pro development, anti environment" which tends to whitewash the good points that the conservatives have. In a similar vein, the conservative media tends to point to "its all good, we're monitoring the bad guys, just keep working and paying your taxes" while once again whitewashing the real issues. Where is the balance? There has to be a meeting point of liberal and conservative values. I can't find it very often in American media. (Nor Canadian for that matter) The medias job is to polarize the people it seems.

Escaping to a country that has greater civil liberties because of perceived erosion of US liberties seems shortsighted to me. (Liberia has lots of civil liberties....) What are you planning on doing? If, as I think, you are planning to work, live, love, raise a fambly, etc., then I would argue that moving to a new country would only be disruptive to your life. If you want to go for other reasons, then by all means, "giver" - but at least be honest with yourself.

I agree whole heartedly with TV above. You should stay and fight (metaphorical fight) for those liberties that you perceive are being eroded. Many others did not run, they stayed and fought (and died) so that we could have this discussion. Don't quit so quickly.
posted by fox_terrier_guy at 8:17 AM on July 31, 2006

And FYI: you don't lose your American citizenhsip by becoming a dual citizen. Wikipedia has more, but basically:

"In the wake of administrative practice changes adopted by the U.S. Department of State during the mid 1990s, it is now virtually impossible to lose one's citizenship without expressly renouncing it before a U.S. consular officer."

posted by mdonley at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: The Economist's take on the countries with highest quality of life. 1) Ireland 2) Switzerland 3) Norway 4) Luxembourg 5) Sweden

(I don't think the Economist's values are exactly the same as yours, but it may be of interest.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 8:43 AM on July 31, 2006

When I last considered this option, my wife and I had the points we needed to move to Canada, but I ended up agreeing with Siem. I am by no means a jingoist, but I do think that US ideals are worth fighting for. Some things that influenced my decision to stay:
  • The United States' form of government is designed to be changeable.
  • Almost half of my fellow citizens agree with most of my views. Leaving would weaken their power further.
  • The US is probably the most powerful and therefore the most dangerous nation, and it would be irresponsible of me to leave it to people who would abuse that power.
  • Though much damage has been done in the short-term, overall things have been improving in the long term. Some examples are civil rights, scientific advancement, and environmentalism.
  • The my values have survived relatively short, but brutal times before, such as the robber-barons, McCarthyism, and Watergate.
  • Politics is about conflict. People don't get their interests met by politely asking, they get them met by constanly defending them.
  • War isn't the only way to defend one's country.
"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them." - Frederick Douglass
posted by elderling at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't come to the UK.
posted by alby at 9:20 AM on July 31, 2006

I have no experience on this, but I would like to chime in that upon doing my own research, Canada seems like the best/easiest place to emmigrate to.

I've done the research, and have been keeping an eye on the job market up there, I'm prepared to stay though the next election, and if we can get some good leadership then, I'll be willing to stay, if not, well, I've got everything in order to leave.
posted by hatsix at 9:52 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: Don't forget that it is very unpopular to be an American just about everywhere. It may take awhile to be accepted, and you will constantly be referred to as "the American," regardless of your liberal politics. You may be surprised to find yourself defending this or that American policy after months of ridicule. I would say--based on a visit several years ago--this may be especially true in New Zealand. YMMV.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:59 AM on July 31, 2006

(By the way, I second Canada. It's beautiful in parts, easiest to move to, and will have a wonderful climate in a few decades.)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:02 AM on July 31, 2006

I got a 71 on the Canadian test - I have a bachelor's degree, belong to a "skilled profession" and have several years of work experience, plus I can read French pretty well. The thing I'd worry about would be bringing pets with me.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:14 AM on July 31, 2006

What Mutant, ROU_Xenophobe and jb said, and SassHat elaborated upon (for the Canadian destination). Really bugs me, the ease with which conservatives say "If you don't like it here, why don't you leave?" Because you're not allowed to, legally! (At least, for the long term.) But redteam really pegs it for me. Split for a while, see what it's like. I know how homesick I get after just a couple weeks away -- so glad to come home. So, yeah -- see the world, then come home and fight the power!

BTW, fox_terrier_guy -- IMO, CNN is NOT liberal media.

posted by Rash at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: You should stay in the USA and fight for your values.

One practical, unemotional response to those making this point: leaving while retaining dual citizenship is likely one of the most effective means of resistance that U.S. citizens worried about the country's direction have. You can still vote, but deny the federal government of a large tax revenue (no taxes on the first $70,000 earned, I believe). And, in the process, you make that many more of those staying behind aware of how serious your concern is.
posted by gsteff at 11:03 AM on July 31, 2006

Gsteff: at the risk of going off topic, the income that you can shield by working outside the US is actually a little above $82K, anything above that you pay taxes on. Also, there is a bill currently making the rounds to exempt all income earned abroad from US taxation. This was raised in reponse to higher, retroactive taxes on housing subsidies to US expats.
posted by Mutant at 11:20 AM on July 31, 2006

Yeah, fox_t; by the traditional descriptions of Liberal and Conservative, CNN is only liberal by comparison to FNC, which is *expressly* Conservative.
posted by baylink at 12:04 PM on July 31, 2006

gsteff, my perception is only a minute percentage of US citizens qualify for Dual Citizenship. If this is incorrect, or if there's some simple way of aquiring DC, please enlighten.
posted by Rash at 12:05 PM on July 31, 2006

Gsteff: Please provide evidence that the expatration rate is linked to apropos changes in government policy. Government officials' compensation isn't tied to how many US citizens leave the country. As far as how "practical" this is, please remember that you still have to pay taxes in the country you move to.
posted by elderling at 12:13 PM on July 31, 2006

"...please remember that you still have to pay taxes in the country you move to"

True, but you get credits on the US side for any taxes you pay in the foreign country - you aren't double taxed, at all. This doesn't change the fact that the first $82K you earn while working abroad is tax free. I use KPMG for my taxes, and while the US return alone is about 100 pages (come the revolution those bastards will pay!), my overall tax burden is definitely way lower than if I'd stayed in the US in general, and New York specifically.

Also, you're ignoring that all cost of maintaining a residence abroad for the purpose of employment is tax deductable; not just mortgage interest, but pretty much all expenditures. I think about the only things I can't deduct are water and my TV license.

Fact is, as an ex-pat you can maintain an equivalent or higher standard of living on a lower income than you could back in the US, with all the attendant career benefits gained by international employment and living in foreign cultures for prolonged periods of time. Dual Citizenship isn't necessary either - I've been in the UK since 1997, have the papers for UK citizenship, just haven't gotten around to "doing the deed" yet.
posted by Mutant at 12:31 PM on July 31, 2006

all cost of maintaining a residence abroad for the purpose of employment is tax deductable

Used to be, but not any more! In the IHT: Uncle Sam takes a bite out of expatriate incomes.
posted by Rash at 2:17 PM on July 31, 2006

my perception is only a minute percentage of US citizens qualify for Dual Citizenship. If this is incorrect, or if there's some simple way of aquiring DC, please enlighten.

I'm not an expert, but have read that obtaining dual citizenship isn't as difficult as it used to be, and can find some confirmation of that here.

Please provide evidence that the expatration rate is linked to apropos changes in government policy. Government officials' compensation isn't tied to how many US citizens leave the country.

The ability of almost any private individual to affect government policy is miniscule. But we can make a quantitative estimate: U.S. GDP is approximately $12.5 trillion. Assume that 5% of that will be be used in other ways depending on the results of a presidential election (which I think is optimistic, considering that the federal budget is only approximately 2.6 trillion). So, over 4 years, the results of a presidential election will affect the use 12.5 * 4 * .05 = $2.5 trillion. In the 2004 election, 122 million people voted, meaning that the marginal effect of each vote, over 4 years, was approximately $20,500, or about $5,100/year. If you expect the amount of federal taxes you pay to drop by at least $5,100 by moving abroad (regardless of the dual citizenship issue), as would be true for many but not all people, then the marginal effect of that action is likely larger than the marginal effect of your vote.

Of course, that assumes that losing tax revenue has any effect at all on the government. But unless you think our entire fiscal system is broken, which is fun to yell about but not actually true, it will. The effect may be stretched out over years via loans, but it will in an economic sense. Eventually, the government will raise taxes, cut services, or let inflation skyrocket. Granted, the effects of the lost revenue in a model this complex probably won't be the ones fogster is aiming for, but I don't think he or any of us actually expect to effect government policy with our decisions. Your vote doesn't actually matter (MTV's infomercials to the contrary). Most people, I think, vote out of moral duty. And if that's your analytic approach, I think its personally reasonable to feel that expatriation is a more effective way to express your resistance than voting.

I realize that this is a bit of a derail, but its an honest attempt to argue that previous advice to accomplish fogster's goals by staying is misguided.
posted by gsteff at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2006

poor word choice above: the marginal effect of your vote is zero. The mean effect is worth $5,100.
posted by gsteff at 2:37 PM on July 31, 2006

gsteff: I didn't ask you to demonstrate that lost revenue affects the government, I asked you to demonstrate that the expatriation rate affects policymaking as it relates to liberal values. You seem to think I'm disagreeing with you out of hand, but I actually think your theory is plausible. Unfortunately, without evidence your assertion is merely a speculation. A few examples maybe?

"...I don't think he or any of us actually expect to effect government policy with our decisions."

I think you're confusing the word "effect [sic]" with "control." Every member affects the system, much like the molecules in a gas. Every molecule participates in the net pressure, even though any individual molecule's influence is very small. Individual molecules don't control the system, but their participation is required for the net effect. In other words, US government is a giant balloon that runs on hot air.

I'd also like to point out that your model of US government seems to be ignoring other forms of participation, such as protesting and using one's sphere of influence. If you aren't around to protest, and you aren't around very many other US citizens to influence, you actually decrease your political power.
posted by elderling at 3:36 PM on July 31, 2006

I'd like to say I've had some wonderful experiences in Korea and, if not for life, I heartily recommend a stint teaching over there just to do some time in Asia.

As far as the reasons for leaving, I'm sorry but if the poster wants to cut and run, so much the better for her. The party in power has entrenched itself to the degree that its made real change for the better hopelessly stymied at best.

We are now to the point that choice for women is a supreme court decision away from going bye bye, where real science doesn't count as much as religion in the discussion of stem cells, contraception or evolution. And where even real opposition to all of this, done in a public groundswell, can still be completely negated by a properly rigged Diebold voting machine.

I say go away for twenty years. Come back after the inevitable decline and then buy some lovely southern real estate after the current occupants lose it from spending all their time lynching children who look like Harry Potter.
posted by rileyray3000 at 4:12 PM on July 31, 2006

gsteff, your link confirms what I've thought -- to get Dual Citizenship you either have to choose your parents wisely, or become a citizen of another country -- no mean task, unless you acquire one of those dubious African passports. And I understand that renouncing your US citizenship can be very expensive: the IRS will cut you loose only if you pay them the balance of what you would have ended up paying in taxes.

More, from Harpers: Electing To Leave.
posted by Rash at 5:01 PM on July 31, 2006

For what it's worth, I've been living outside the US for seven years now without too much difficulty. I went to the UK on a BUNAC work visa (6 months for students and recent graduates) and then found a company willing to sponsor me to stay longer. Initially my application was knocked back - I didn't have enough post-grad experience - but then they loosened the restrictions on IT workers so Britain didn't fall behind. I was granted a three-year work visa. Two years later I migrated to Australia with my Aussie boyfriend as a "defacto spouse". (If you're not married but you've lived together for a year, the Australian government treats you exactly the same as if you were married.) Got my permanent residency without too much difficulty. (I could've gotten in on Points, but the defacto thing was faster.) Applied for citizenship a few months ago - online! - and I've already been approved. I'm just waiting for the swearing-in ceremony, and WHAM, I'll be a dualie.

It's not impossible. Yeah, there are a lot of forms to fill out and it may take time/money, but there are still ways. (Falling in love with someone from your destination country is, I grant you, a huge help...)
posted by web-goddess at 6:45 PM on July 31, 2006

Boston comic Barry Crimmins used to say that he was often asked, "Since you criticize the USA so much, why don't you go live somewhere else?" His response would be, "What? And be a vicitim of American foreign policy?"

I agree with the multiple posters above. Stay and fight the good fight and be sure to be vocal in your thoughts on how this country has changed. Relocation to a heavily "blue" state or city would probably ease your pain a bit.
posted by General Zubon at 7:46 PM on July 31, 2006

Rash, the situation you refer to applies only to folks getting housing subsidies from their employers; almost always these are short term contract workers - like the blog you linked to - he clearly mentions he was on a contract, and returning to the US.

Also, from the IHT article:

"...the new law caps the exclusion for housing allowances - rent, utilities other than telephone, property insurance, occupancy taxes, maintenance and furniture rental - that U.S. corporations often provide..."

The operative phrase here is what the corporations provide. Effectively, they are now treating housing and other subsidies as income and taxing it. I've got no problem with that. I don't get any subsidy - I own my own home, and these changes you've linked to don't impact me, or a large number of other Ex-Pats I know.

The Ex-Pat community learned of these changes long ago - we were bouncing many emails about discussing pretty much as soon as they were announced.

The law actually had the perverse effect of pushing many folks into off contracts where they would return to the US someday, and into permanent Ex-Pat contracts, a niche were you can still deduct all the cost of maintaining a residence abroad for employment purposes.

Net/net - we'll see far less of the short term, one year contract workers abroad now, and those that do come will probably switch out of their contracts for long term or permanent residence at their first opportunity. And once you've given up the corporate link back to the US, you're far less likely to return, as you'd have to bear that cost yourself (i.e., most Ex-Pat contracts cover moving costs both ways).

Finally, I can't find a link but there is a bill floating about in response to the changes your IHT article outlines that will render all income earned outside America free of US taxes.

The US is one of the few countries on earth that taxes on the basis of citizenship rather than residency.
posted by Mutant at 10:22 PM on July 31, 2006

Don't forget that it is very unpopular to be an American just about everywhere. It may take awhile to be accepted, and you will constantly be referred to as "the American," regardless of your liberal politics.

This may apply to Europe and certain some countries in the Middle East, but I don't think this is generally true for most of East and Southeast Asia. It certainly was not my experience when I lived in Thailand, nor in any of the many other Asian countries I visited.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2006

So busted. (See the comment).
posted by bovious at 7:52 PM on August 1, 2006

I am surprised at all the Netherlands love here. I think many western countries are not that great these days. Here in the Netherlands we do have decent health care (though health insurance recently became much more expensive and other European countries have better systems) and same sex marriage, but "we" hate immigrants these days, I am sorry to say. Like jb said, you can be expected to be thrown out of the country after years, for some stupid bureaucratic reason. We also have rapidly-eroding civil liberties. You are required to carry a passport at all times and show it to the police when they ask. Of course they are only allowed to ask if they have good reason, but as you guess exactly what is good reason is not clear yet among police officers.

If you come here be prepared to do an immigration test (that costs quite a bit of money, of course) that tests things like how many cookies you should offer to your guests when they visit you. We do not want diversity, we want you to become exactly like us!

That's not to say that this is not a great country relatively speaking. I am very grateful to be born here. It is not ideal though, and I suspect it is very hard to find a place that meets all your needs.
posted by davar at 7:05 AM on August 2, 2006

I am surprised at all the Netherlands love here.

There's a very obvious reason.
posted by Rash at 1:57 PM on August 2, 2006

You may be able to run from the bullet-headed, bible-thumping, country-invading US "conservatives" - but you'll never escape from the forces of capital - which is what has reeked the most serious damage to our political, idelogical and moral systems and values. Our two "political" parties - the Moneycrats and the Republicashians - for all their protestations to the contrary - respond only to market forces. And market forces are not something you can escape by going to New Zealand in this increasingly globalized world. If it turns out there something worth strip-mining in Christchurch - you'd better get ready to live on the edge of an open pit - because money is God. The political hub-bub amounts to smoke-screen for the wholesale destruction of the mountains of West Virginia, the buring of the Amazon bio-region, the clear-cutting of Madagascar, etc. Political "discussion" is sold as air-time to the highest bidder. Money controls content. This is something that has "gone global" - to a certain extent - in every country in the world. Or is headed that direction. I completely understand the impulse - I've had it myself many times since 2000. But the action of capital on civil liberties, the environment and the political process is in no way limited to the USA. Can you say "Royal Dutch Shell in Nigeria"? I think you can.

I agree with "Stay and fight"-ers. Come the revolution, Comrade!
posted by Mattydread at 11:21 AM on September 11, 2006

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