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The Unvarnished Truth About the US

2010 January 22
by Ian Welsh

I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time and in light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited corporate money into the political system, I think it’s time.

Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state.  Roosevelt’s definition of fascism was control of government by corporate interests.  Unlimited money means that private interests can dump billions into elections if they choose.  Given that the government can, will, and has rewarded them with trillions, as in the bailouts, or is thinking about doing so in HCR, by forcing millions of Americans to buy their products the return on investment is so good that I would argue that corporations have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to buy out government – after all if you pay a million to get a billion, or a billion to get a trillion, that’s far far better returns than are avaiable anywhere else.

And no politician, no political party, can reasonably expect to win when billions are arrayed against it.

The one faint hope is that politicians in the Senate will panic, know they have 10 months to do something and ram something through.  Of course, that will only be a stopgap measure, until the Supremes overthrow it, but in the meantime, maybe Dems will get serious about the Supreme Court and not rubber-stamp radical right-wingers like Alito and Roberts.

That is, however, a faint hope.

Add to this the US’s complete inability to manage its economic affairs, and its refusal to fix its profound structural problems, whether in the financial system, the education system, the military, concrete infrastructure, technology or anything else and I cannot see a likely scenario where the US turns things around.  The US’s problems in almost every area amount to “monied interests are making a killing on business as usual, and ologopolistic markets and will do anything they can to make sure the problem isn’t fixed”.

Even before they had the ability to dump unlimited money into the political system, they virtually controlled Washington.  This will put their influence on steroids.  Any congressperson who goes against their interests can be threatened by what amounts to unlimited money.  And any one who does their bidding can be rewarded with so much money their reelection is virtually secure.

This decision makes the US’s recovery from its decline even more unlikely than before—and before it was still very unlikely.  Absolute catastrophe will have to occur before people are angry enough and corporations weak enough for there to even be a chance.

So, my advice to my readers is this.

If you can leave the US, do.  Most of the world is going to suffer over the next decades, but there are places which will suffer less than the US: places that have not settled for soft fascism and a refusal to fix their economic problems.  Fighting to the very end is very romantic, and all, but when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and your odds of winning are miniscule, sometimes the smartest thing to do is book out.  Those who came to America understood this, they left countries which were less free or had less economic hope than America, and they came to a place where freedom and opportunity reigned.

That place, that time, is coming to an end.  For your own sake, and especially for the sake of your children, I tell you now—it is time to get out.

I am not the only person thinking this.  Even before the decisions, two of my savviest American friends, people with impeccable records at predicting the US meltdown, told me that within the next few years they would be leaving.

There’s always hope, and those who choose to stay might stop this terminal decline.

But you need to ask yourself, seriously, if you are willing to pay the price of failure: if you are willing to have your children pay the price of failure.  Because it will be very, very steep.

93 Responses
  1. Twisted Martini permalink
    January 22, 2010

    So which countries are you recommending, and how does one go about this?

  2. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 22, 2010

    Can’t really recommend. It depends on you. A friend of mine is planning on China, but he has contacts there and speaks fluent Mandarin and figures that if he’s going to live in an unfree state, he prefers one that’s upfront and has 8 to 10% growth.

    In general, Northern Europe is pretty good. Europe’s swinging right, in general, but they’re starting from a much better place.

    I’d avoid England.

    Immigration details depend on the country. If you have European ancestry that you can prove and is fairly recent, some countries have right of return.

    English skills will still be worth something for a while, if you have other skills as well, a lot of places are open.

    I’m no expert on S. America, but it’s one of the few places generally swinging left. If you can maintain a western income, or have money put away, certain places aren’t a bad place to spend the last 20 or 30 years of your life.

    But, really, it depends, and if you’re considering it you should do a lot of research, and visit.

    If you’re young, somewhere more towards the poles than the tropics would be wise.

  3. jo6pac permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Yes, I agree and as we slip in to milton friedman dream country, if you can leave you might want to do that. I’m stuck here but being 61 it will take some time for them to get to me. If you’re young it would be a good thing to make a living some were else, because we are slipping into the darkness. Shock Doctrine can’t be far behind. Some countries list trades/educations they are looking for worth a check.
    jo6pac

  4. DancingOpossum permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I’ve actually been thinking seriously about this for a while. I’ve lived overseas and speak a couple of languages so I’m not scared of “culture shock” — the problem is, I don’t have any of the skills these countries need in workers (although I’d be willing to work at almost anything, really), and I don’t have a large fund of money socked away to support myself with. Makes it very hard, on a practical level, to figure out how to make this work. Other countries also have stricter immigration policies than we do, and it isn’t as easy to just slip in under the wire and take an paid-under-the-table job as it is here.

    OTOH, my SO does have those in-demand skills and I’ve been dropping strong hints about places like New Zealand…that seems to be all I can do at this point.

  5. January 22, 2010

    Agreed on the merits – see here
    http://www.ianwelsh.net/no-carrots-for-lawmakers-without-sticks/#comment-4797

    Undecided on the recommendation: Some unwinnable fights you cannot quit. The OBanana Republic and its permutations will continue to have plenty of nukes, and retain the dominant incentive structure that privatizes public money through deployment and use of military gear. Between that and the energy crunch kicking off during our children’s (if not our) lifetime, a case can be made that while the fight might be lost, it is the only fight that might possibly matter. If you are certain nothing more can be done, having children might be an irresponsible act.

    There is also the small matter of abandoning your fellow man. MLK could have emigrated.

    History’s irony: after decades of worrying about Russia, the first black market sale of an atomic warhead to terrorists will originate from US stockpiles.

  6. January 22, 2010

    They are already sending mail-order amerithrax…..

  7. Twisted Martini permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I was thinking about New Zealand as well…

  8. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Thanks for writing about this, Ian, but I’d disagree about northern Europe. With the slowing of the warm water ocean flow up the Atlantic, winters like this one will become more common in Sweden and Finland, rendering them more like Labrador.

    I came to Canada, but with Harper channeling Bush and Canadians unwilling to kick him out, we’re the dinghy going down with the U.S. ship. Fortunately, there’s enough cheap agricultural land that will warm up in future years. Just don’t buy near the coast.

    New Zealand is a wonderful place (and I blew an interview for a job there) but sea levels will rise, and all three islands (yes, there’s a small one at the far south end) are sitting on volcanoes. Wellington might not survive a rise of a metre of ocean.

    Visit first, then apply.

  9. anonymous permalink
    January 22, 2010

    All I can say is thanks for a big useless DUH! moment that’s exactly 9 years and 1 month too late. The writing was on the wall with Bush v. Gore, probably even before, but that’s when I knew it deep down in my bones with certainty. Basically unless we’re independently wealthy or can find a sugardaddy/momma from a more desireable country than the US who is willing to marry us and support us at least until we are employable overseas, we’re screwed. So mabe I’ll go play the lottery after work today, and if you know any Canadians looking to marry a cynical 47 year old white gay male, please give them my email address. Hot French Canadian mecs preferred, but all considered. The line forms to the left.

  10. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Anonymous: Who knows? Take a holiday and visit Montreal and Quebec City. Read the papers there, look for jobs, talk to people. Canada likes Americans to move here. Then go back home and apply for permanent resident status. It takes a while.

  11. whiskyrebellion permalink
    January 22, 2010

    new zealand, (i feel like australia will have bad water problems soon)

    southern cone S. America

    northern europe

    Canada?

    Is this what im hearing?

    NOTE: im a freshman in college

  12. uni.mo permalink
    January 22, 2010

    BC Nurse Prof: You say Canada likes Americans to move there. What makes you think that? I lived there for 2 years in the 90s, and my strong impression was the opposite of what you say. There was resentment toward Americans. We had to have a work permit in order to live and work there. The work permit was good for 2 years, after which time we had 30 days to leave the country. Has any of this changed?

    I loved Canada; I didn’t want to leave. I would love to go back.

  13. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    January 22, 2010

    “Canada-the-country” likes Americans to move here because Americans bring skills and can speak English. “Canadians” both resent Americans and like them at the same time. For example, Canadian musicians are never appreciated here unless they have “made it” in the U.S. first. None of the things you cite above have changed, uni-mo, so you’ll have to jump through all the hoops to make it happen. Still got contacts here? Can you get someone here to sponsor you? That makes it easy.

  14. uni.mo permalink
    January 22, 2010

    btw, in the 90s, anyone with enough money could essentially buy their way in (not me, obviously). iirc, if you had $250,000 Canadian to invest in a business (or start a business) that employed Canadians, you could get in. Is that still true?

  15. uni.mo permalink
    January 22, 2010

    BC Nurse Prof, my previous post about investing in a Canadian business was being written before I saw your reply.

  16. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 22, 2010

    It may be a DUH moment for you, anon, it isn’t for everyone.

    Fraid I don’t swing that way, alas.

  17. January 22, 2010

    I’m going to Turkey: Istanbul to be exact. Sure, it’s swinging right also, but the Levant will always be the Levant. And why not have a decent view when the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Plus I’ll be close to my friends in Northern Europe. I might evne consider Cyprus, as I have friends there too. But I’m done. I’ll be out of here in the next five years, hopefully sooner.

  18. John permalink
    January 22, 2010

    This post makes me think of the old Martha and the Vandella’s hit, “Nowhere to Run to, Nowhere to Hide” or the apocryphal story of the person in the 1930′s who, fed up with it all during the Depression, fled to the serenity of an island in the Pacific, which turned out to be the site for a huge WW2 battle.
    I just discovered Octavia Butler’s ‘Parable of the Sower’ which describes the chaos and soft fascism of the US in the near future in science fiction. I think she describes a war between the US and Canada at some point in the chaos….better watch it, Ian…:-)))
    Being agile, mobile and flexible may be the best option.
    The most interesting thing about the decision yesterday is how it opens up the US political process to foreign interests through their US corporate entities…that has to include various sovreign wealth funds. The law of unintended consequences may lead to some unexpected places in all this.
    I’m certain the xenophobic wingnuts and teabaggers can’t be happy with this aspect.

  19. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Last one out, don’t forget to turn off the lights. /s

    If everybody leaves, where am I going to get the real news?

  20. alyosha permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Ian, you have a gift for expressing very clearly what’s in a lot of people’s minds. This is an important post – do us a little favor and run it through spellcheck – the typos minorly mar some very clear thinking.

    I am working overtime on following your advice about leaving the US. The Supremes’ decision is just one more blow that makes me redouble my efforts. I didn’t need you to explain to me the state of affairs, but there is power when people think alike and express their common thoughts (just ask Sarah Palin or any of her followers). Thanks again for posting.

  21. Detlef permalink
    January 22, 2010

    With all that talk about Northern Europe, don´t forget that with the exception of Norway, they are all EU members too.
    Which means that with a EU passport you can live and work in any EU country.
    Even UK citizenship would help here.

    So, what Ian said.
    If you have fairly recent European ancestors you might take a look at the citizenship laws of that country. At least basic information is available on the Internet.

    Oh, and just to add to Ian.
    “Europe’s swinging right, in general, but they’re starting from a much better place.”

    Of course, it depends on the country. But here in Germany the “swing to the right” still leaves us quite a bit left of the Dems in the USA.

  22. alyosha permalink
    January 22, 2010

    @John – I read “Parable of the Sower” a few years ago. I had to read it quickly, because it is a most depressing book (it reminds me a bit of “The Road”). I’m not sure if there was war with Canada in the book – if there is, it’s a marginal detail – but I do remember borders being closed.

  23. Jim permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Leave…when finally the objective conditions make it possible for real change? The deep economic polarity is finally being reflected in a political polarity and it is time to run? No, it is time to stay and develop a deeper understanding of the change that is possible. It is time to side with those who have no choice but to fight back to survive.

    Please don’t look at this as an opportunity to leave. Many workers in other countries are depending on us helping them get the boot of US Globalization off their backs. We are needed in this fight. It is our moral duty and very much in our self interest to participate in this coming difficult period. It is our moral duty because the ruling elite have been paying us and giving us this elite democracy as a result of the suffering they imposed on other workers in places like Haiti, Chile, Honduras, Brazil, Nicaragua, El Salvador et cetera. Now it’s time for us to pay back those workers by helping to change things in the U.S. Now, it is finally becoming possible for us to do so.

    Yes, we very clearly have fascism developing in this country as the ruling elite try and protect the economic relationships that have served them so well. On the other hand, the working class in this country will fight back–they are not able to leave–and they need all the allies they can get. They need people to help develop the political understanding and they need skills at organization. Talent is needed to develop the strategy and tactics to take on this developing beast. Please do not let this country–and really the world–be controlled by this minority fascist gang.

  24. alyosha permalink
    January 22, 2010

    @Jim – I’ve thought long and hard about the kinds of things you wrote. Everyone has to assess their own situation, and more importantly why they think they were born into this time, and where they can best make their stand, whatever that is for them.

    There is an argument to be made to stick around both to fight the cancer that’s taken over our country (and is trying to spread to the rest of the world), and to build what is going to replace the USA after it leaves the stage (and believe it or not, that building is going on right now, although many don’t know it). There’s also a question of where best to do this from. I’m not alone among those who think this might best be accomplished from outside the USA. There will be a population of expats, doing what they/we can to try and right things back in our country of origin.

    Although I don’t like his methods or particularly what he created, but Vladmir Lenin lived outside Russia for at least half of his life, re-entering periodically when times were ripe for change.

  25. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 22, 2010

    I think Jim has a point, I just judge that the odds of the left hand side winning are much lower than the odds of the right hand side winning…

  26. please fix permalink
    January 22, 2010

    …for their to even be a chance.

    there

    not their

    thanks

  27. please fix permalink
    January 22, 2010

    and not ruber-stamp radical righ-twingers like Alito and Roberts.

    rubber-stamp

    right-wingers

  28. jomaka permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Ian, I think your blog is terrific. I just discovered it three weeks ago. Keep it up. Yes, it is over. Let me ask you an important question. How will peak oil (withing the next 2-10 years) affect the strengthening of the corporatacracy?

  29. Jim permalink
    January 22, 2010

    @alyosha-I understand your position, and when the times comes the tactics that you mentioned may be needed. I am not trying to be a cheerleader for staying and fighting; I’m trying to pose it as a very practical question. My point is that fascism is going to be a world-wide means to prevent the working class from creating a world that represents their interests rather than the interest of a small minority. There will not be a place anywhere in the world where one can hide. The tactic of an underground movement in this country, such as was developed during the fight against slavery, could serve to protect those who choose to stay and be part of the active solution. All hands are needed to stop this fascist threat from all walks of life; many tactics will be necessary.

    You are so right when you say ” (and believe it or not, that building is going on right now, although many don’t know it)”. I have mentioned on this thread a couple of times the US Social Forum which is building for a gathering in Detroit June 22-26. Their motto is “Another World is Possible-Another US is Necessary.”

  30. January 22, 2010

    It’s very possible I was the proximate cause for Ian writing this post. We left for Canada in the wake of the Iraq War and the PATRIOT Act, which was all the excuse my husband needed to get us the hell out. That was six years ago.

    And yet — we are, apparently, moving back this summer to Seattle. Long complicated family reasons, but also a work reason. Canadians like Americans; but the bald fact is that they do not hire immigrants. Several studies over the past couple of years (the pile is growing) have found that 90% of all immigrants get jobs via their own immigrant group, or start their own businesses. Almost none (including Americans) will ever be hired by native Canadians.

    We’ve lost six of our prime earning years due to this fact. My husband even went to a Canadian university and got an MBA, in the hope that a local credential would make him visible to local employers. He went in with a GMAT of 770 and came out at the top of his class. In the year following graduation, he had exactly two interviews. (Oh, and he’s had 25+ years of management experience in the game business, which is the single biggest industrial sector in Vancouver. You’d think, right?)

    So: if you come, bring money to live on for a long time, and/or the wherewithal to start your own business when you get here. Because people are sweet as pie, but none of them will cut you a break if a native-born Canuck is also in line for the job.

    We will be nailing down our citizenship before we leave, so we can always come back. And there will be go-bags in the garage if we need to get in the car and make the trip back up here in a hurry. But for right now, we need to be on the other side of the border, for half a dozen good reasons having to do with our own financial future.

    And yeah, the whole idea makes me rather sick to my stomach. There’s bad shit coming down in the U — and I saw it coming, and did all the right things. And I’m still going to be part of it.

    But the harder truth is: as long as you’re an American — and I can never really be anything else — no matter where you go, you’ll always be part of it.

  31. alyosha permalink
    January 22, 2010

    @Sara: But the harder truth is: as long as you’re an American — and I can never really be anything else — no matter where you go, you’ll always be part of it.

    Holy Karmic Obligation. Or in lighter terms, quoting the Eagles, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.

    My deep condolences for it all not working out as you would’ve liked.

  32. jumpjet permalink
    January 22, 2010

    And what about those who can’t leave, Ian? What about those who are trapped by debt, by familial obligations, by a lack of marketable skills? About the ones who aren’t informed enough to plan ahead accordingly?

    What about the great teeming underclass that’s stuck in the United States? Are they doomed? I refuse to accept that. I reject that formulation. They deserve better and I’ll not abandon them.

  33. dugsdale permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Thanks for the informative posts, everyone. I had kept relocation in my back pocket as a Plan B for when things got really rough in America, but now I see my Plan B is as fanciful as my Plan C, which was “drop 30 pounds, drop 30 years, and go to Hollywood & get my own TV show.” Still reeling from the nonchalance with which the corporations at the last minute kicked the props out from under progressives’ tough, hard-fought struggle to get a puny, weak-kneed ghost of a public option in the HCR bill; now, with the Supremes’ flicking aside years of settled law to give corporations the tiller of our ship of state, I’m really stunned at how completely the conservative movement has kicked the left’s ass, lock stock and barrel, and built up an insurmountable power base–especially during the last 8 years. I think longingly about relocating, partly because a continual surfeit of outrage takes a tremendous emotional toll, and both outrage and the toll it exacts (leaving aside the corporate-engineered political and social prices yet to be paid) seems very much my future right now. Relocate? C’mon, get real. (If you’re writing seriously about relocating, you obviously have the means to do so, and good luck & God bless!) I’m afraid it’s a lot of folks’ destiny now to get ground down fighting on the margins for what’s right, even as the energy to do so gets leached by a cascade of corporate victories. It looks crystal-clear that President Empty Suit will not be an ally, or even a factor, nor will his cabinet (except that those in his cabinet who are already working for Wall Street will no longer take the trouble to cover up their involvement, viz. Mr. Geithner’s recent statements).

    Rep. Grayson’s five bills in response to the Supremes’ decision are something to start with, small beer and perhaps never enactable, but if that’s all the comfort progressives can take going forward, let’s be grateful for it. I’d say “See you in the soup lines,” but…will the corporations let us HAVE soup lines?

  34. Andrew M permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I can’t believe nobody suggested Australia! (Disclosure: that’s where I live.) But as much as I’d like to see more Yanks moving down here, I think this post is awfully pessimistic. And anyway, what’s happening in the U.S. is not unique to the U.S. (although it has a unique set of problems). The influence of corporations over the political process exists in every democracy. Money in politics is pernicious not just because politicians can be bought (i.e. outright corruption) but more significantly because it undermines the rationality of public discourse. The German social theorist Habermas talks about the distortion of communication in this regard: what should be a process in which people exchange and evaluate arguments with the aim of reaching a rational consensus is in effect taken over by the systemic logic of money and power, which doesn’t have rational consensus as its goal.

    Presumably there are steps a society can take to try and mitigate the effects of this. Does the Supreme Court decision may make it harder to do in the U.S.? Perhaps, although Greenwald seems to think it doesn’t matter much and that the real solution lies in publicly financed campaigns. Personally I think this is a complex issue which needs more research and real-world testing done. But it’s a problem all democratic societies need to confront urgently.

  35. tjfxh permalink
    January 22, 2010

    “Yesterday’s decision makes the US a soft fascist state.”

    I beg to differ with you on this, Ian. The US is already a fascist state and has been for a long time. It just hasn’t been as obvious as it is now becoming.

    The US began as a fascist state, and it is written into the Constitution, which permitted slavery. The founding fathers were “capitalists” or land owners, not workers, and they organized the state so that ownership would have the upper hand over democratic government, lest the rabble some day take charge. Alexander Hamilton as the nation’s first Treasury Secretary established the pattern in national finance.

    The rights guaranteed in the Constitution were devised to prevent tyranny, but not to prevent or circumvent the rule of a non-aristocratic elite through wealth and influence. The difference between the US, and Britain and Europe at the time was the possibility of entering the elite through industry and falling from it through indolence or blunder.

    The reason the US was founded was because of a deep seated fear of “big government,” which all the colonials has sought to escape from by emigrating to the colonies. The US still has a deep seated distrust of government, which is why conservatives who seek to limit government generally outnumber liberals who seek to bridle big money and big business.

    However, I agree that the ruling by SCOTUS legalizing unlimited bribery seals the deal. This, coupled with Bush’s unitary executive doctrine, which Obama has implicitly ratified by not reversing, creates a very dangerous situation. The US is still engaged in the “GWOT,” which gives the president emergency powers. In light of all of these, the future looks bleak. Nothing is set in stone, but the odds are heavily weighted toward the dark side.

    On the issue of where to go, it all depends on one’s age, resources, education, and skills. You can’t just go wherever you want these days. Each person will have to find a fit based on what he or she has to offer for which there is a buyer.

    For those who decide to stay in the belly of the tiger, I’d suggest getting acquainted with the the counter-revolution of the 60′s and 70′s, when an underground was successfully created that now persists only in the drug culture. Everything else was co-opted and went mainstream, or was pretty much forgotten about in the rush to get rich that began in the 80′s. But there was a lot created back then, and there was a lot of good thinking about options and possibilities. It was really an exciting time to be alive. Yet, things were a lot worse then. Kids were dying in droves and more were being horribly maimed physically and traumatized psychologically for life. Get caught with a joint, or even a roach in many placers, and disappear for many years. It was really a crazy contrast.

    There are pockets out there physically and there are a lot of nodes on the net internationally. Unless you are a political activist, forget about the mainstream, and plug into the growing underground network that will burgeon as times get darker for those who don’t want to be a cog in the machine or an Establishment whore as the US becomes increasingly a corporate state bent on global hegemony based on wealth and privilege.

    Instead, “pick something great to do and do it,” as a wise man once advised.

  36. DancingOpossum permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Jim, I was very moved by what you wrote. And since leaving doesn’t look like a realistic option I guess I will stay and fight.

    I also hate the idea of abandoning my fellow wage slaves, poor people, and assorted wildlife to the mercies of these monsters.

  37. tatere permalink
    January 22, 2010

    And I came here intending to leave a comment asking about this very point…

    It’s a dilemma. On the one hand, as long as I’m here, I am supporting and participating in the harm that US policies cause worldwide. On the other hand, if I’m not here, I can’t do anything to change those policies.

    I have been gradually been moving toward the “get out” option because I’ve come to believe that the way things are here is just not all that unpopular. Not yet, anyway. And that the changes that people would support, at least initially, would be to the worse. It’s not that the US is unusually full of awful people – I think it’s just that we’re still in a position to cause an unusual amount of trouble.

    It’s definitely a bad time to suck at languages, alas.

  38. adrena permalink
    January 22, 2010

    What the U.S. needs is a climactic catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. It will then be easier for those left behind to forge a new foundation out of the smouldering ashes of the past. To prepare for this, start an underground movement of like-minded people to create a vision of a new and just society. This is a pipe-dream. :-)

  39. adrena permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I just read tjfxh’s response and I totally agree. Although, increasingly, the U.S. is beginning to resemble a police state. I wouldn’t be surprised therefore, if the corporatocracy employed the color-coded Threat Level System against it’s own people. Just call them domestic terrorists.

  40. January 22, 2010

    Thanks, man, way to rub it in. When i left the last time in early 2003, the reason was to get out of Dodge. When i came back it wasn’t supposed to be for more than 6 months. That was five years ago. And while i’ve always been ready to get gone, my SO has not felt the same…she’s why i stayed longer.

    I think that the southern end of the Western Hemisphere is probably the place to be, but i’m not so sure that prospering in the mid-term future will be possible without access to land. When the US crashes, it will fall on its own shadow and that has a lot of reach. Some places will feel the crush less than others, but i don’t think anyone will be spared all pain and it might be hard to be an expatriate American.

    So i guess unless i ask the organs for permission to move to Russia, i’m here. And if i have to be here, exactly where i am here is the only place i’d want to be. Besides, what Jim says strikes a chord. I’m not going to “make” anything of myself at this point, at least not anything greater than what i might make by staying on for the fight. Everybody dies someday, and it’s not like i’d be the first person in my family to see the inside of a concentration camp.

  41. Linden permalink
    January 22, 2010

    It’s too late for me to leave, but how difficult would it be to send my kids to college in Canada or some other country? Would that give them a foundation from which to get citizenship and employment? They’ll be 18 in 12 years, and I’d like for them to have something better, if things keep going like they are. Anyone know?

    The way education is going in California these days, they’ll have to leave the state for a quality, affordable education anyway. They might as well homestead in a new country, too.

  42. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Since I teach in BC I may be able to answer that one. Sure, you can send your kids to school in Canada, but they’ll pay out-of-country tuition which is higher than for residents. Since enrollments are down in Canada, they are actively recruiting students from other countries.

    But why not send them to another country for a REAL education? Do you have time left to have them study another language? Then do a student exchange in France, say, and they’ll be set with friends and a knowledge of the lay of the land, so to speak.

  43. Tim McGovern permalink
    January 22, 2010

    @ tjfxh

    Comparing 20th century terms like facism to times so long back like that is a disservice to people like Ian and his pals. Ian especially, as I believe he’s been the best person on the net to point out how the various commanding heights of The Great Game have changed, and why.

    @ everyone else

    From the classical slave-based economy to steam, coal, etc., means a lot when it comes to how vital the peasants or the retainer class is to any system. For military tech, it ended up requiring those lazy peasants to become educated enough to hold an arquebus – and w/e ideology convinces them to stand out in front with a brightly colored uniform (Napoleon says thanks).

    To the Cold War, about which Ian and Stirling had a great convo somewhere, probably at Jay Ackroyd’s, about how the ‘great compression’ of the 1940s-70s rested on the fact that, due to the Soviet threat (whether you want to put that in brackets or not, I’m not on Team B) made the ruling class at the time want millions of Americans to be properly educated and paid well, just in case the elites needed them to die in a bigass war. As one of em said in so many words, in the Game, if the commoners wanted to have strong unions, they needed to be willing to die in Korea and Vietnam – George Meany (with a heavy dose of ‘divide n conquer’ racism) to a T.

    Now, not so much. For a crude paraphrase of Ian’s work, lemme say this. I just watched about 15 mins of Glenn Beck. It was all Hitler, Goebbels, and jackboots. For all intents and purposes, these Goebbels-esque people (they’d never go down with the ship, that’s what gated communities are for) have KILLED GODWIN’S LAW DEAD. No one’s known what a real, honest-to-god commie, nazi, socialist, liberal, have been for decades. Thus, weirdass backlash. Thus, the ability for the supposedly moderate George W. Bush to steal 2000 and put in the judges necessary to accomplish this… dons black pajamas… new world order.

    If anything, call this decision what it is, and what pretty much everyone here has said at one time or another:

    The entrenchment of Feudalism. Or Neo-Paris Hiltonism, if the yen takes you – but if it does, then please, as a favor to me, figure out what comes after post-modernism. I can’t wait to see what this does to Net Neutrality. I wonder why Google decided to have a tiff with China right at this moment?

    As to the Survivorman stuff, well, it seems to all come down to how bad global warming is gonna be, and that’s impossible to tell for at least a couple of years – depends on if some tourist trap island gets sunk early and the power of w/e media’s left to ring the alarm bells. Or, more likely, if scientist’s warnings about w/e it is that keeps the EU warm gets increasingly frantic to the point where some kinda Mexican standoff with the U.S. and China starts to develop – I’m interested myself as to where global opinions may lie in that scenario, and truly, why something like that hasn’t made itself more clear in more forceful terms.

    Otherwise I’d say learn french or german. As others have pointed out, New Zealand is a nice place but probably doomed before most others, and I’ve heard that it’s hell to get a teaching job there. Besides, Saruman is one hell of a taskmaster. The EU, as Detlef said, allows you to run around all over, so stay fit and go for it. Otherwise, all this talk is really more about 10-20 years out, rather than now. For those of you who are college-ageish, learn a language – anything. The 65+s, why not canvass your fellow socialist Medicare types, and take the death bet if it all falls through in the end?

  44. gtash permalink
    January 22, 2010

    There is what I take to be “rightwing” slogan that may deserve mention here: There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America.

    I know that sounds over-the-top, and it is no accident I see this banner everyday in the office of someone who is a very proud booster of the folks in the armed services–not the Pentagon leadership, but all the friends and family she knows who live and work at Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune and Ft. Bragg.

    But it seems to me there is still something essentially correct in that idea. I have family in another country and I often tell my son that my wife and I will retire there. It started out as a joke to get him to learn his second language better, but since 2000 it became a more real to me.

    And yet, that other country isn’t me. It’s my wife’s and probably my son’s if he wants it, but it will never be me. I would agree America appears to be declining. All the evidence is there, –just as you say—and it seems with yesterday’s Court ruling we are bound-and-determined to go to after-burners to find oblivion. However, today I was going to lunch with one of my arch-conservative colleagues and when I mentioned how utterly awful that SC decision was, he revealed how utterly disgusted he was by it too. He loved George Bush and Sarah Palin. He hates President Obama. He is Fox News’ biggest fan. He and also believes there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with it.

    Maybe it isn’t just a slogan. I am too old to seriously think about splitting. I suppose I have to be hopeful about this underlying belief.

  45. anonymous permalink
    January 22, 2010

    “On the other hand, the working class in this country will fight back–they are not able to leave–and they need all the allies they can get.”

    Uh, I doubt the working class has shown any indications of having any fight in them yet, and when it does, I think it will mostly resemble the ignorant misdirected teabagger outrage of last summer’s town hall meeting.

    But in the end, I have to agree that emmigration, even if it were possible, is probably just a crapshoot anyway. The financial reverberations of the disasters that will come from ever stronger corporatist control of our economy will be felt well beyond our borders, and may even be worse outside the US than within.

    Places like Australia and Norway with natural resources that would look to prosper are potentially subject to even greater climactic changes than other parts of the world, and could also be targets for invasion or subversion by despotic goverments that could assert themselves (China, Russia, even the US). Although I doubt the US will ever invade Australia, I could easily see it undermining democracy there (just as we have done to Latin America many times) if the US wanted an advantage over China in access to Australia’s mineral wealth, should China become more able to pay for those minerals than the US.

    Bad times (or should I say worse times?) are coming for the US, but I think bad times are coming for most of the world. And places that seem more stable now may not be in 5 or 10 years. Also, when things get ugly, will it be a good thing to be an American in that foreign country you’re thinking about if relations between them and us turn sour? I wouldn’t want to be living in China if there is a sudden wave of xenophobia. I wouldn’t want to live in Latin America or the Carribean if/when the US decides to invade Venezuela or anywhere else (not to mention possibly being on the receiving end of “shock and awe”). Eastern and Southern Europe are on the verge of being basket cases already. Forget about finding jobs in Iceland or Ireland. The UK is not much better than here. Germany, the Yugoslavia and assorted African and Asian have shown their murderous souls when the chips are down. No way I’d live in those places even in good times.

    So if you’re dying to live somewhere else, go ahead, try your best. Life’s too short not to attempt to live your dreams. But as a survival strategy, I don’t think it can beat the odds of staying right where you are.

  46. scruff permalink
    January 22, 2010

    I don’t really have the resources to leave the US right now, and it’s likely that I never will. But if I could, I’m not sure where I’d go, because just about every other nation on the planet seems to pose significant problems for American ex-pats, at least when you take peak oil and climate change into account.
    Oceania wouldn’t be a great bet in this case – for the reasons against Australia read Jared Diamond’s Collapse, and for NZ, well… in addition to being subject to the climate changes caused by other, more populous nations, more polluting nations, it will also lose modern amenities when rising oil costs reduce travel and commerce to and from the area.
    The problems that central and south America have, along with Africa, is that when US imperial power recedes from those places, the native people will be safer in expressing just how much they hate what has been done to their countries by Americans and by white people. I wouldn’t even say that Hawai’i will be a safe place for white people to be after a certain degeneration of US central power.

  47. adrena permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Another scenario – what is Canada going to do with all those gun-toting American refugees beating at its door.

  48. January 22, 2010

    I think Glenn Greenwald has it right when he says that this does not exactly change much. Not only did the corporate sector already own the system as much as they possibly could (I mean, they just paid themselves billions of dollars looted from The People), but they have a far more pernicious corruption technique: the Implicit Retroactive Bribe.

    Much better than campaign finance reform would be a rule preventing certain forms of employment for political candidates after they achieve federal office. They should, perhaps, be pensioned for the rest of their lives at an inflation-adjusted amount equivalent to their working legislative salary. No paid lobbying or PR jobs or media jobs or whatever. No speakers fees. Maybe teaching in public institutions.

    But that’s just in a fantasy world.

  49. adrena permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Re: Canadian citizenship. Things must have changed since I emigrated to Canada. After 5 years of “Landed Immigrant ” status, getting my citizenship was a piece of cake. As for jobs, if there aren’t enough Canadians to fill a position, landed immigrants are next in line. Hence, you might want to find out which profession has a shortage of applicants. If you’re a physician, there are plenty of jobs in small towns and up north.

  50. adrena permalink
    January 22, 2010

    and nurses, of course.

  51. jo6pac permalink
    January 22, 2010

    tjfxh

    This fine but this time lets leave out the violence this time that seem to take over the movement at the end. Also this a long fight, when everyone thought they had won in the 70s the right went under ground and regrouped and others went and partied. I’ve never forgiven them for that.

    http://reclaimdemocracy.org/corporate_accountability/powell_memo_lewis.html

    If this doesn’t open go here and go down court decision

    http://www.atlargely.com/

    jo6pac

  52. January 22, 2010

    I’ve looked at the leaving thing several times over the past six years, because it has been abundantly clear that the country is not going to right itself but, rather, is on a swan dive to national disaster that will end up most likely with a fascist dictatorship by a charismatic dictator promising to lead the nation to the promised land (and conveniently blaming the nation’s problems upon gays, liberals, socialists, Jews, and Communists — you know, just like the last time) and then, most likely, national disaster akin to that which struck the Japanese and Germans in 1945 with major areas of the country turned to rubble, millions dead, and the economy in utter ruins. Not necessarily due to invasion — the U.S. has *big* moats on both sides of the country — but from civil war.

    But despite this apocalyptic bent to my thoughts, I pretty much stopped looking at leaving, because I’ve concluded it simply would not work for me. I don’t particularly like people — American or not, doesn’t matter — and learning sufficient stuff about a new culture to be able to operate well there would take more time than is probably left to me given that I’m not a kid anymore. So I’ll stick it out here and be your rearguard. Good luck, folks.

  53. uni.mo permalink
    January 22, 2010

    In reference to employment in Canada for non Canadians:

    Sara Robinson said: Because people are sweet as pie, but none of them will cut you a break if a native-born Canuck is also in line for the job.

    It’s Canadian law. If there is an eligible and qualified Canadian for a given job, the employer must hire the Canadian before anyone else. (btw, it’s also U.S. law.)

  54. someofparts permalink
    January 22, 2010

    Thanks for that useful information about getting a job in Canada, or rather, not getting one if one is American.

    This matter of having an income in the host country is the stickler for me too.

    I’ve already taken a few steps based on listening to Ian. Rented the house I can’t afford to a nice family and moved into cheaper lodgings. Now I can save hundreds each month and it sounds like time to double down on that.

    If it comes to that, I’ll be able to draw minum social security in a couple of years, though I’ll try to wait longer if I have the time.

    If I have two years I can leave with about 20k cash and 800/mo soc security. Each extra year before I have to go adds another 10k to the cash pile and another 100/mo to the social security payout.

    So it sounds like there may be a double-wide and lots of canned beans in my future. God. I hate bugs and love trees. Mexico really doesn’t appeal to me. I actually like everything I hear about Buenos Aires, but I’m not sure I could afford it. Maybe instead of thinking I need to buy an apartment to move there I should look for an inexpensive room in the home of a local family. Might be better anyway to start out sharing housing with natives so they can help me learn the language and the ropes.

    Another thing that gives me knots in the stomach is the idea of leaving my friends here. But if I lost my job tomorrow none of these friends and relations could/would do a thing to help me. The ones that could, wouldn’t and the ones who would, can’t. I think I just summed up our current incarnation of U.S. culture with that sentence – those that can won’t and those that would, can’t. Nice to know it’s the zeitgeist and nothing personal I guess.

    Frightening as all this is, I’m still certain that it’s better to know stuff like this in time to plan an exit stategy than to realize the situation too late to escape.

  55. January 23, 2010

    I know my wife and I are looking to nail down a few more good earning years and book it, if we can. We’re also thinking Northern Europe. I wish England was less… well, creepy. Hard to believe that England, of all places, went for 1984 style pervasive surveillance first.

    Unfortunately I lost a few years deathly sick and uninsurable, and am just now climbing out of that medical hellhole. In a real, civilized country, I’d have been fixed up in a few months (like it took once I had good insurance). Instead I spent four years in and out of emergency rooms and barebones treatment regimens.

    The pill that fixes it, fyi, is a 30 year old generic. It was totally worth keeping me ill and unemployable, a burden on my family and society, to avoid that expense. Go American healthcare!

  56. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    A friend of mine is an American shrink coming to Canada, and he’s had no problem finding a job in Canada (in a major metropolitan area, too, not the boondocks, although actually he would have preferred slight boondocks, but he’s a specialist shrink.) I think it depends on the job.

  57. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    Someofparts,

    I don’t see that there’s a rush to leave, unless you’re worried about your job situation. I’d try and get out by 2013.

  58. kiramatali shah permalink
    January 23, 2010

    There’s a movement to radically change California government, by getting rid of career politicians and chopping their salaries in half. A group known as Citizens for California Reform wants to make the California legislature a part time time job, just like it was until 1966.

    http://www.onlineuniversalwork.com

  59. beowulf permalink
    January 23, 2010

    It’s Canadian law. If there is an eligible and qualified Canadian for a given job, the employer must hire the Canadian before anyone else. (btw, it’s also U.S. law.)

    Why on earth would there be a US law giving Canadians an employment preference? :o )

    I know what you meant, but its not quite accurate. True, if someone comes in with a special work visa (e.g. H1-B), then its difficult to get a job other than one that brought you here, but that’s government red tape and not the employer’s fault. Otherwise, its rather frowned upon (OK, and a violation of federal civil rights law) for an employer to give hiring preference to US citizens over any foreign nationals who can document their eligibility to work. In fact, its illegal to inquire about citizenship or immigration status until after they’ve been hired. Its only then that an employer is allowed to ask for proof of work eligibility, which everyone, citizen and foreigner alike, is obligated to provide.

  60. someofparts permalink
    January 23, 2010

    I have a question about that 2013 date. I take it to mean the year after Obama loses the next election.

    If my job is still there through 2013, 2014 and maybe even beyond that, what would be the reason for leaving?

    What do you think will happen starting in 2013 that would make it wise to leave even if it means walking away from a low-paying but steady job?

  61. January 23, 2010

    As for the matter of where to live, I am a Canadian who moved to the USA to get ahead in my field. It is highly likely that I will stay in the USA for some time yet, even when I find another employer. I would really like to return to Canada, but it is very hard to find a job in what I specifically do in Canada. I will try, but in some ways I am more likely to find a job in Europe than I am in Canada. If it becomes really dangerous, I might be willing to bite the bullet and return to general software hackery, which I’ve done before and am qualified to do again.

    I remember in the 90s there was this whole right-wing panic about the Canadian brain drain to the USA. We must lower taxes and gut health care, they kept screaming, Canada has no opportunities. They were correct about the symptoms in my experience, but obviously wrong about the diagnosis. The problem in Canada was a lack of investment in basic research and science and tech—lack of investment by the government, in fact. During the Chrétien period, there was a large and promising expansion in research funding, but it has foundered and stagnated in recent times as Harper converts Canada into a two-bit petro-state. I’m not a big fan of Chrétien, but Martin, Harper, Iggy, etc make me miss the guy, he was a paragon of competence compared to them.

  62. January 23, 2010

    Also someone mentioned the late Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower: seriously, it should be required reading for a would-be doomer, but also especially for anyone who takes a “we must kill the beast in order to save it” approach. I read it in 2005 and shivered as I read it with the propheticosity of it. There’s no reason to think it is any less prophetic now, five years later. And IIRC it was written in the 90s.

  63. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    Perhaps there is no reason for leaving. In fact, if you keep a good job in bad times, things might not be bad for you.

    But if there’s a full fledged societal collapse along the lines of Russia, you may find that what looked like a secure job, isn’t, and you may find that what looked like a good salary, isn’t.

    And a lot depends on your social group. Are you in a group likely to be scapegoated?

    I’ve had major gay figures, for example, tell me that they feel like staying in the US is stupid, because they know if things really go wrong, they’re high on the list.

    “first they came for, then…”

  64. January 23, 2010

    “Absolute catastrophe will have to occur before people are angry enough and corporations weak enough for their to even be a chance.”

    Surely that is occurring now? But it will be several years before we know the outcome.

    More practically, it’s unlikely that I would adapt to life in another country–I am not young. My education and work history might just get me work in Vancouver…or might not. My lover was born in the USA and grew up in Mexico: she could live there, but does not want to return permanently. There are also scads of reasons not to move there: it’s very difficult for a non-citizen to be hired in Mexico and very difficult to get Mexican citizenship; it’s an amazingly corrupt place; the USA is heating up the drug war in Mexico; and so on.

  65. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    Nah, not catastrophe yet. Disaster, a couple times (Katrina, the financial mess) but not catastrophe.

  66. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    I miss Chretien. He was mildly corrupt, and I didn’t agree with a lot of his policies, but as you say, compared to Harper, he was a paragon of competence. Harper’s wrecking Canada. I don’t think it’s terminal yet, or even close, but he’s definitely got us on the wrong path.

  67. January 23, 2010

    someofparts: President Palin might be a reason to leave.

    I don’t see a USSR-style collapse in the USA. Things may get very hard, but the USA does not have a command economy, so there is no state economy to collapse.

  68. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 23, 2010

    Ummm, yes, there is a state economy to collapse. It’s called

    1) the military-industrial complex
    2) the prison-industrial complex
    3) at this point, the majority of the construction industry
    4) the majority of the financial industry

  69. uni.mo permalink
    January 23, 2010

    beowulf, thanks for the clarification about U.S. law. I would have given more detail, like you did, but I was rushing when I wrote that.

    I wrote:
    It’s Canadian law. If there is an eligible and qualified Canadian for a given job, the employer must hire the Canadian before anyone else. (btw, it’s also U.S. law.)

    beowulf wrote:
    Why on earth would there be a US law giving Canadians an employment preference? :o )

    I know what you meant, but its not quite accurate. True, if someone comes in with a special work visa (e.g. H1-B), then its difficult to get a job other than one that brought you here, but that’s government red tape and not the employer’s fault. Otherwise, its rather frowned upon (OK, and a violation of federal civil rights law) for an employer to give hiring preference to US citizens over any foreign nationals who can document their eligibility to work. In fact, its illegal to inquire about citizenship or immigration status until after they’ve been hired. Its only then that an employer is allowed to ask for proof of work eligibility, which everyone, citizen and foreigner alike, is obligated to provide.

  70. Paul Fleming permalink
    January 23, 2010

    No courage of your own convictions; fair weather patriots. I read this in blogs in 2000 with the Bush v Gore decision: “Leave the country, the fascists have taken over!” Problem is, you never left and you won’t this time, much to my dismay.

    Big government, regardless of who’s in charge, regardless of who’s on the Supreme Court, is the problem.

  71. Detlef permalink
    January 23, 2010

    Linden asked:

    “It’s too late for me to leave, but how difficult would it be to send my kids to college in Canada or some other country? Would that give them a foundation from which to get citizenship and employment?”

    What BC Nurse Prof said.

    And speaking for Germany here… :)

    http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/en/WillkommeninD/LernenUndArbeiten/Studium/WusstenSie.html

    This website gives a good overview of the requirements.
    Essentially:
    - some fluency in German
    - school diploma equivalent to the German “Abitur” school diploma
    - proof that you can pay for your cost of living while studying
    (although you are allowed to work part-time while studying)

    And afterwards…
    “If university graduates find a suitable position their previous residence permit [for studying] can be converted to a temporary residence permit for the purpose of employment. After five years of working you can receive a permanent residence permit. ”
    (German laws were changed in the early 2000s to make it easier for foreign university graduates to stay in Germany.)

    And if you stayed and worked in Germany legally for 8 years you can become a German citizen.

    I believe – but I´m not sure – that several other continental European countries have similar laws.
    Tuition fees certainly seem lower than in most English speaking countries?

    Of course, learning a foreign language – be it German, French or Spanish – also restricts your choice. If your kids learned French or German for example then they are restricted to French or German speaking universities in Europe (see requirement of fluency above).

    Not mentioning English-language universities here because these are either UK or Irish universities (with a higher tuition fee?) or private universities in continental Europe with a definitely higher tuition fee.

  72. Mad Hemingway permalink
    January 23, 2010

    I always like “V for Vendetta”. I thought the point was really good.

  73. Drew permalink
    January 23, 2010

    I’ve been wishing for awhile now that I was a professional writer so that I could write something like this, but I don’t need to be because Ian expressed my thoughts precisely.

  74. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    Unfortunately for most Americans; they haven’t saved enough and drank the kool aide. Becoming an expat takes some careful consideration. Every country has it’s own rules to qualify for a visa that allows one to stay (not a tourist visa). I left a month after asshole attacked Iraq and have been living in Thailand for the last 7 years. Thailand is very inexpensive if one can survive outside of the big cities like Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya (I positively hate that place) or Goh Samui.
    Rent a great townhouse for $75 USD/mos. or a house for $100 – 150/mos. Food is very cheap; lunch for less than $1 USD and dinner for $1.50 – $2,.00 if your on a role (including a beer).
    That’s the good parts; non Thais cannot own land; visa requirements require money per month or between $10,000 to $20,000 USD in a Thai bank every year, depending on the visa one gets. Lacking money in the bank, one must show an income of $1,250 – $2,155/mos. again depending on the visa one qualifies for.
    Cambodia is cheaper and less developed. Lao I’m not sure and Burma is also a possibility depending on ones political persuasions.
    Anyway; just some food for thought for those actually thinking to make the jump.
    Mostly, I love it here; but like everywhere else; everywhere you go, there you are. ;)

  75. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    I should probably add that I think Ian’s closing paragraphs are wise advice. I saw this coming in the lead up to the invasion and knew it would happen as sure as spring was coming.
    There is an illness on the land the likes of which I’ve never seen before; I was too young to remember Joe McCarthy. I’ll be 65 in a few months and health care is important to me.
    I’m very lucky, my wife is a civil servant (teacher) here and has excellent world class health care and being her husband so do I.
    There are many other health care benefits available to foreigners here that afford excellent care. My previous plan was $12 USD/mos. with no co-pay and medicine was included for no charge. Some of you may be aware that Bangkok is “the” medical tourist destination in S.E. Asia.
    My heart goes out to what’s happening in America; but there has been sign for many years and I’m afraid denial is in full play. Peace.

  76. January 24, 2010

    We live in Portland, Oregon. We have a carpet cleaning business here. I’m anticipating work with a local CSA, perhaps as their delivery driver.

    We are not far from Canada here. The Willamette Valley of Oregon is great farming country.

    Portland is one of the most progressive cities in the USA. There are a lot of like-minded people here who completely “get it”–topics like peak oil, climate change, universal healthcare, etc.

    Our personal best option is not to leave, but to live out our lives here. I fancy our chances in Portland. I wouldn’t in Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Dallas if you know what I mean.

  77. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    @John Andersen
    Portland is good; I lived there before I left. Lived there for 40 years actually. My friends there say it’s pretty bad, employment wise, but they won’t leave either. Too much invested and all that. Good luck, hope it works for you.
    My reason for leaving wasn’t so much financial as political. Each to their own. Peace.

  78. John B. permalink
    January 24, 2010

    As commenters above have noted, there are still good, even great places left in the USA, communities, pockets within larger communities…people trying to figure it out, local activism, local government, barter and exchange, farmers markets and produce locally grown and raised. Alternative transportation and living models in anticipation of many of the coming events that Ian and others continue to write and warn us all about. Poeple, many that I know in SW VA are trying to come to terms with the oligarchic and soft fascist state that continues to grow. People do want change and they are trying; maybe not enough, fast enough, but this is happenning and will only continue to grow, perhaps even in your community. We will need you folks and we do now.

  79. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 24, 2010

    Like C233, becoming an ex-patriot is a serious decision, among the most life-changing there is, and not to be taken frivolously or for inconsequential reason; none-the-less the option, if it is being considered, can provide certain benefits as well as a perspective that is obtainable in no other fashion. My emigration dates to 1994 and as that date recedes into history, the need or desire to return fades as well; aided and abetted by the insanity installed at airports anymore. One issue that should be mentioned is to have a plan “B” or even “C” in the unlikely event plan “A” fails to mature favourably.
    The near and medium term exchange rates for the conversion of dollars will affect many decisions you will make. For now, China has an interest in maintaining a strong dollar which will be favorable for a while, probably until Washington embarks upon some further military adventure or egregiously ignores the costs of present adventures; the world economy will be effected by those psychotic policy aberrations emanating from D.C. You will have a front row seat watching the economic carry-on, and probably obtain a better economic education than available at the “finest” universities there.
    Your education will be amplified as an expat as well. Language and its uses are sharpened immeasurably. The lingual sloth of the US will become highlighted, and traditional lingual conventions are observed elsewhere in the English speaking world, e.g. in Ireland “the corporation” is the designated/chartered public body administering: a town, a city, a county – much closer to the original legal meaning of the word (clearing much of the demagogic fog that now surrounds its modern usage). Nowhere else in the world is “bad” used as approbation for something.
    Once the decision is reached to emigrate, with empathy, education, and awareness, you will find your horizons shifting to further, more distant aspects; this can become an inheritance unavailable to those not leaving or not availing of the opportunities to travel.

  80. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    @ Formerly T-Bear;

    Emigration is indeed a life changing event. And the dollar has lost 25% here in exchange rate. Ouch! But not fatal at this juncture. But something to be aware of.
    But the expansion of perspective is also life changing and at some point going back becomes not a possibility. Going forth/forward/ahead/ or whatever suits your future vision is as natural as breathing and just as rewarding. Life.
    Some are just too thick to see; but for those with an open mind and heart, limits do not exist.

  81. January 24, 2010

    i’d love to get out. can’t. ain’t got no money, and without that, really doesn’t matter how hard or easy it is to get into another country. and i’m surprised by all the people dissing england. i was in london last year, and fucking loved it. yeah, there are cameras everywhere. but i’m not a criminal, so beyond annoying me, they didn’t bother me so much. the food was better, the people were more intelligent, they have a functioning press, less stupid teevee shows…if i could live in london i’d do it in a heartbeat. hell, even their ‘projects’ looked like midgrade apartment living compared to US standards.

    the problem with “nice pocket” communities in the US is that the feds can always step in and fuck things up, when they want to. unfunded mandates (which are coming) can kill a community pretty damn quick. if one accepts ian’s analysis, no one is really “safe” just because they live in a liberal town with a good job market. indeed, i expect the destruction of the remaining pockets of liberalism in this country to be a high priority, for the more active fascists.

  82. Forty2 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    I decided in 2005 that I wanted to be living outside the US by 2010. Obvs. that hasn’t happened. When the Dems won Congress in 2006 I thought that that was a light at the end of a dark, bleak tunnel, more so when Hopey McChangey beat Gramps and Dimwit Moose Lady. Now? Not so much, the tunnel is getter darker and more stinky and that old “I gotta get outta here!” nagging thought is nagging again.

    What many fail to understand is that with few exceptions, if you do not have a substantial amount of money, it is extremely difficult to emigrate from the US; at least, to English-speaking countries, and I don’t have another language. I visited Sydney in 2002 and explored that option, but the Australians have fierce immigration rules and basically do not want Americans if they’re over 40 and not millionaires, no matter your skill-set.

    Great, you have a parent born in the EU or whatever, you get a pass. Being a Jew, I could emigrate to Israel under Aliyah (Right of Return), but I hardly think that Israel will be a good option. Plus, the weather’s awful. But generally, Americans are pretty much stuck here.

    So, for now, I’m going to stay and bear it, save as much money as I can, then pack it up in maybe 8-10 years and decamp for Thailand, Mexico, Belize, etc where the living is cheap and easy and there’s no goddam snow. Sure, these countries are corrupt messes, but so is the US. I’ll be in my mid-50s then and don’t plan to work much longer than that.

    Oh, and while doomer talk about the US dollar has been a popular topic, I am not that concerned about it. I might buy a little gold or silver to stash away but cash in the bank is and will be my main asset. Inflation isn’t an issue now but it will certainly come back, so I’ll have to prepare for that.

  83. Forty2 permalink
    January 24, 2010

    Oh, and wherever I go, it’ll be someplace not dominated with batshit-crazy nonsense like this — http://mediamatters.org/blog/201001240003 h/t @StopBeck — where people just don’t give a shit about politics. I’m sick of it all.

  84. Quiet black liberal permalink
    January 24, 2010

    @Badtux

    I see the same future for America. A civil war followed by a surprise invasion from China is what I’ve seen in my own specific nightmares. If China’s economy should collapse, which some are forecasting it may late this year or in 2011, I think they may become bold and expand in this direction. One scenario from which it might start is a surprise attack by two specific nations I won’t name, upon Israel. The US, feeling it is our divine duty to become involved, will be attacked by the larger and more dangerous of the two. Meanwhile we’ll already be fighting an internal civil war. China will seize the advantage presented and attack us while our back is turned and we are facing the Middle East. I say bring it on. As a liberal, I’m tired.

    Frankly, I’m fatigued by being American: I’m exhausted by having to keep up a steady psychological wall against unending propaganda, having to steadily sustain hope in dreams that no longer live, tired of constant “Terra! Terra! Terra!”, lone gunmen shooting up school buildings and shopping centers, an insulting and partisan, juvenile news media lying to us, by endless Auto-Tune, American Idol, celebrity belly buttons, hypersexuality, and ignorance.

    I’m also black, so since I have no prized “European ancestry” any EU member country is going to acknowledge, I’m stuck here and not going anywhere. It’s a pity the descendants of slaves here, who did nothing to deserve being part of the world’s hatred of America, will partake in America’s punishment. It isn’t fair. But so be it.

    I say to right-wingers, please go ahead with it. Start. Get the blind worship of your without doubt Christian charismatic leader, the goosestepping, scapegoating, seig heils, waving flags, state police, house searches, racist beatings and lynchings, and mass arrests and murders overwith and be done with it already; then, as you afterglow from that orgasm, China will come straight up and finish you, and things will finally get quiet in the world.

    As for me, this anchorman welcomes our new Chinese overlords. In their wake, I will live as a hermit in a cave near a farm, grow my own rice and vegetables, and study the Tao Te Ching in silent, peaceful obscurity.

    Unlike the current America, a China-ruled America might actually provide useful people a living stipend to do exactly that.

  85. alyosha permalink
    January 24, 2010

    @QuietBlackLiberal: Frankly, I’m fatigued by being American: I’m exhausted by having to keep up a steady psychological wall against unending propaganda, having to steadily sustain hope in dreams that no longer live, tired of constant “Terra! Terra! Terra!”, lone gunmen shooting up school buildings and shopping centers, an insulting and partisan, juvenile news media lying to us, by endless Auto-Tune, American Idol, celebrity belly buttons, hypersexuality, and ignorance.

    You said it. I’m certain everybody you speak for everybody on this thread. I concur with you about China eventually “calling in its loans” so to speak. It may not happen militarily, they might just offer us a deal we can’t refuse on that prime midwestern farmland or US coal deposits their population so desperately needs.

  86. Formerly T-Bear permalink
    January 25, 2010

    If you are planning to apply for asylum in Britain, here is some advice – don’t unless you have a truly compelling story:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/jan/25/americans-claim-asylum-britain

  87. BC Nurse Prof permalink
    January 25, 2010

    Well, this has become a long thread, hasn’t it? Because of all that’s been said here, I have thought a lot about my decision over this last weekend, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s long, so hold on. It’s also going to offend people.

    We agree that the U.S. is going down. The timing may be debatable, but the Empire is collapsing in Jared Diamond fashion. We also know that a perfect storm is facing humanity: peak oil, peak fish, peak population, peak water, peak food, climate change and financial meltdown. How did all of this happen to occur at the same time? Biology. This is simple biology: a species has expanded to its physical limits and is now in precipitous decline, with all resources growing scarce and groups of organisms fighting over the last bits. Kunstler call us the yeast people and we’re behaving in exactly that manner. We expand, we collapse. Unfortunately, it’s looking like we might take a lot of other species down with us.

    Is there any chance of human survival? Yes, but we have to hope that the collapse comes quickly and decisively, so that a few humans will be able to survive on a hotter planet and rebuild a much smaller sustainable society. Do we have models for that? Yes. From Jared Diamond again, there are societies in the mountains of New Guinea that had a sustainable life. Until we outsiders fucked it up. And they had a good life. They had enough food, shelter, religion, good government and a vibrant culture. How did they manage? THEY PRACTICED INFANTICIDE. They knew exactly how much food their territory could produce, and they kept their population below that limit. So no world wars and no resource scarcity. Voila, it can go on forever.

    Now, WE don’t have to do what they did because WE know how to keep children from happening in the first place. BUT WE DON’T DO IT. Furthermore, we are against anyone else doing it. This is what’s going to turn the whole planet into Haiti.

    I once heard a radio interview with the man who invented nitrogen fertilizer after WWII using leftover materials from the war. He died shortly thereafter, but I will remember his words to my dying day. He said he was very proud of what he had done, “because if we didn’t have nitrogen fertilizer, 5 million people in Africa would have died.” Now, of course, we know that 50 million people in Africa and even more in other parts of the world are going to die because we have artificially propped up food production using fossil fuels and fertilizer, both of which deplete the soil for future production.

    What I’m saying is that we humans are entirely responsible for the mess this planet is in because of our good intentions to save the children. We have no qualms whatsoever regarding slaughtering adult men in gruesome wars. But whoever manages to be born gets to live. And eat. And reproduce. Great. Now we’re all gonna die because of it. Probably even die horribly. I’m a nurse, I suffer from these same feelings, but I’ve learned to think in biology instead of medicine. I tend to think that this kind of short term thinking came from religion, but I’m not sure, so I’ll leave that one up in the air.

    When I think in biology, I remember that Mother Earth bats last. We can yell and scream and flail our arms around all we want, but biology wins in the end. Soon no nation will have the resources, financial and otherwise, to help another nation in times of ecological or geological disaster. When it comes to your town, what disaster might befall you? Typhoons? Earthquakes? Hurricaines? Avalanches? Ethnic cleansing? Military occupation? Drought? Floods? Soon there will be no one to help. Think looting, think gangs, think The Road, all because of total social collapse. Read Dimitri Orlov and James Howard Kunstler. Is it possible we could ease our way down to a sustainable future under some social system with laws and regulations, instead of disintegrating into cannabalistic chaos and rebuilding from the dirt up? Yes, but what are the possibilities of that happening? I don’t see it, maybe you do. I see people clawing and killing their way to the bottom with help from nuclear weapons and then down to axes before someone re-invents civil society based on law.

    It’s been 4 billion years since the Big Bang. In another 4 billion years the sun will die. We’re halfway through this story and the odds are that we’re the only sentient life in the universe. Is our story about to be over?

    So a totally artificial, human-created thing called a country is coming apart at the seams and you live there. You see it coming. You know it’s going to be bad. You have kids. What are you going to do? I weighed these options in my head.

    Stay
    1. You owe it to your country to stay and help in the fight to save it.
    2. There are lots of people who can’t leave who need your help as it goes down.

    Go
    1. There are places in the world that will be marginally safer for a few more years.
    2. If you go, your children might get to be the ones who figure out how to do it right.

    When I wrote it like this, it was clear to me. Think species, not family. Think planet, not home town. Who’s gonna live, you or someone else? Do flagellated bacteria stay in a toxic area to help their dying relatives or do they wave their little cilia and get out? They leave because that’s the way to ensure that there will be more of their kind in a new ecosystem. Now there are bacteria in the stones a mile deep, within the ice of Antarctica, and in the boiling springs of water at the bottom of the sea.

    It’s very noble and all, and some will choose what they believe is moral, but I choose biology instead of morality. It’s called triage. When I first heard about that, I was like, “You LEAVE someone to die and treat someone ELSE? That’s like, UNETHICAL!” My teacher responded, “But you can’t treat them all. What are you going to do? How are you going to make the best use of your skill?” And I responded, “You treat them ALL!” But you can’t. And when I thought deeply about it, I saw how it must be.

    Now I teach nursing students bioethics and I go through utilitarianism, deontology, intuitionalism, religion, etc. We always end up using logical, reason-based arguments to put forward the best evidence for our claims. Which is as it should be, in a society based on law. But when law breaks down, biology takes over.

    When my daughter was young, her kitten got run over and killed. She was crying on my shoulder and said, “It’s not fair! She never hurt anyone!” and I responded, “Life is not fair.” She pushed away from me, stood up, put her hands on her hips and said, “Whatdya mean, life’s not fair? You’ve been telling me my whole life – ‘don’t do that, it’s not fair.’ ‘do this, you should be fair.’ Now you tell me life’s not fair???” I had no answer for her. Why do we do that? We tell our kids to be fair, and we tell them life’s not fair. I now think both are true. We should be fair, even though life is not fair.

    Soon, biology will be all that matters. Life, the thing that’s not-fair, will take over. Position yourself according to your views.

  88. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 25, 2010

    ^ Is the only difference between us and the other animals that we use toilet paper?
    Possibly, but I owe no allegiance to any country or religious doctrine; they’re both the beginnings of trouble, IMO.
    Thoughtful piece. :)

  89. January 26, 2010

    And a lot depends on your social group. Are you in a group likely to be scapegoated?

    I’ve had major gay figures, for example, tell me that they feel like staying in the US is stupid, because they know if things really go wrong, they’re high on the list.

    “first they came for, then…”

    Well, in my case, you KNOW what group I belong to and where on the list it is. However, it’s at roughly the same place on the list everywhere else, including in places where it is the overwhelming majority.

    So I’m not going to let that get in my way.

  90. TW Andrews permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Indeed. My wife (who has both Swiss and EU citizenship) and I are going to stay in the US for the next few years to maximize our earnings, and then move back to Switzerland. Some of the contagion from the eventual collapse of the financial industry will inevitably impact a country that’s got a lot of private banks, but Switzerland’s got a lot of social capital that will mitigate that.

  91. matt permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Once my kids are out of school I’m off to Romania, near Cluj in Transylvania. I have a pension that will be mailed to me and enough money to purchase a house. I am healthy and won’t be a drain on their social services.

  92. John Smit permalink
    January 26, 2010

    Talk about a defeatist mentality. Strange though, the common theme I hear is that you’ll stick around for a few more years to maximize your earning potential. Others calculate their ability to live abroad within the means of their social security benefits. If there was a way to expedite this process for all these whiney pessimists to expatriate en masse, I would gladly throw my support behind that cause. The sense of entitlement demonstrated in these comments is nauseating.
    If you have a job, but don’t like it, quit and get another. If you can’t get a job based on your current set-skills, get re-trained. Start a business, start a corporation, create, innovate, produce, succeed. If you cannot thrive in a country where a person’s success is limited only by their desire and determination, then you lazy, unmotivated, burdens on any society are not likely to find welcome refuge in any developed nation. It’s time to nut-up or shut-up!

  93. Celsius 233 permalink
    January 27, 2010

    ^ Rah, rah, rah, sis boom bah! You’re on the deck of the Titanic don’t ya know?

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