When your country isn’t worth fighting for

Written by Andrew Henderson

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio – a city that hasn’t won a professional sports championship since 1964. Oddly enough, ever since I was a kid, people there have been bemoaning that they haven’t won a professional sports championship since 1964. The people still support the teams – often to great extremes – despite their failures.

Frankly, I never saw the logic in teams. The fact that my parents chose to live in Cleveland when I was born is no more a reason for me to get excited than selection via throwing a dart.

To some, this is an odd choice. How could I not support “my” team? I’ve always been an independent thinker and don’t like falling nicely into neat little categories someone else pre-selected for me.

Sure, I may cheer on that team against one I’m equally apathetic about. That’s easy. However, when it comes to matters of life and freedom, I get more serious. I don’t want to support a team that taxes me to death and deprives me of personal and economic freedom just because it’s the “easy” decision to make.

Because I’ve seen teams that are just as good – even better – playing during my scouting trips around the world.

Imagine you’re renting an apartment. The landlord is a jerk, but the place looked nice when you moved in. Since then, broken appliances haven’t been repaired, you’ve got a roach problem, your neighbors throw loud parties every night, and the landlord is going to raise your rent substantially when the lease expires. Sure, the location is nice. But you can’t take it any more.

What do you do? Do you stage a rally outside the apartment complex to present your grievances? Do you write letter after letter to the landlord encouraging him to change his mind, or meet with other tenants to get them to join forces with you?

No. You find a new apartment.

If you’re a successful person in a western country, chances are your government treats you the same way. The endless sums you pay in taxes gets you little thanks; you’re still not paying your true “fair share”. Government wastes your money and is annoyed when you complain. They’ll put you and everyone else under surveillance because they know what’s best. And they’ll fix that pothole near your house or the busted streetlight whenever they damn well feel like it, thank you very much.

Yet so many people – especially in the United States – seem to romance the notion of “stay and fight”. They believe that putting their country back on the right path is the noble thing to do. One day, they claim, they’ll stand up and take to the streets to fight their tyrannical government.

Yet government in places like the US is already largely tyrannical. It’s not “around the corner”, as Barack Obama says glibly; it’s here. Yes, things could get worse. But what happens then? What happens if and when the country you are so loyal to becomes the Roman Empire, or Rhodesia, or Nazi Germany, or Burma?

First, don’t think your country is too good to follow that path. There’s nothing magical about a patch of dirt that prevents it from such ends. The Roman Republic was just as prominent and successful as the United States. Look what happened.

Second, if things get bad, you will have wished you got out. Even if they don’t get that bad, why would you want to participate in a society where you have been marginalized? Where your vision of liberty and low taxes and self-reliance is frowned upon?

There are places elsewhere that already share that vision. No fighting required. You could land there tomorrow and start a life in a country whose values you share – without taking to the streets.

I believe seeking freedom can be a lot like dating. It’s never a good idea to go out and find someone completely lacking in the things you want out of a relationship, thinking you will change them. Change is hard. It takes a long time. And if the people calling the shots don’t want it, you may never get it. In your lifetime.

To the contrary, when dating, you want to find the person who best matches your desired values. In that vein, I say that when you want freedom, you should seek it out, not the other way around. Find a place that suits your values and settle there. Don’t try and re-create your vision of a country that once was when you find yourself in the minority. Don’t waste your talents fighting an entrenched bureaucracy that has set your fellow citizens against you to support their existence. Go where you are treated best and feel best and make your life there, free from adversity or anger.

Because all you’re really fighting for is a manmade set of borders. The borders aren’t the problem; it’s the culture. Borders are fungible. Freedom, even the concept of “America”, can exist wherever it is welcomed.

To me, a country is a mass of land defined by its borders but also by its culture. The borders part is simple; they really haven’t changed very much in our lifetimes or over the last hundred or so years. The culture part is where things get tricky.

Living in a place where your fellow citizens are asleep – like the United States – is like living in a funhouse. There’s always a case to be made for why things aren’t really so bad. Police armed to the teeth with weapons and ever more frightening surveillance technology? That’s there to keep you safe. Higher and higher taxes and fees with less and less accountable government? We need those to have a “civilized society”. Endless wars to “liberate” sovereign nations? Hey, they want to be just like us anyway.

At the end of the day, your country is just a collection of ideals that change over time. What you call “America” has gone from being a haven of self-reliance, individualism, and freedom, to a collectivist nanny state where dissent makes you an outsider.

Just what are you going to fight in this system? You could be like the guy who flew his plane into an IRS building to protest taxes. Does that sound like a reasonable plan? Of course not. Yet I keep hearing people talking about “taking our country back” – no matter what.

I’m all for firearms rights but waiting atop your roof to pick off paramilitary forces coming to haul you away and take your stuff doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Not only do I not advocate violence, I don’t know why you’d want to tolerate that when you could be sitting in Panama running a profitable business and drinking mojitos after work.

I’d rather not give up my mojito time because a bunch of other people told me I was “uncivilized” for not wanting the tax-and-spend and surveillance state voodoo they claimed would magically make the country better – and then made it worse. You shouldn’t either.

I don’t begrudge those who have a sense of loyalty to their country. Many have died defending true freedom and their sacrifices are noble. But when your country stands for freedom in name only, you have to make a choice.

Do I stay and fight or do I leave and prosper?

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Jan 20, 2020 at 1:35PM

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17 Comments

  1. john

    its about not having to run to the next best place, eventually there will be no place to run to.

    • 20+ years overseas

      Bullshit. There are always other options. Different countries/regions ebb and flow in cycles that are more often than not uncorrelated. If where you are at is entering or in a down cycle, find somewhere else that is entering or in an up cycle. It’s not hard if you try.

      • Hiram J Goldstein II

        Exactly. Right now, Mexico is on the upswing. It’s not just about where a country is, but where it’s going. Mexico isn’t as free as the USA, but it’s becoming more free all the time. At some point, it will hit a zenith, and the forces of democracy will destroy it just like they’re doing to the USA.

        • walter homple

          If Mexico is swinging upwards, why are millions of its citizens hell-bent on getting into and staying in America?

          • nomadcapitalist

            Net migration from Mexico is at least zero – maybe negative net migration to the US.

            • Pete Sisco

              And don’t forget to factor in all the Americans who move to Mexico in droves. Mexico is a great place to live. And, Hiram, I could argue that Mexico is more free than the US because the gov’t lacks the resources to track and hound you the way the US can and does.

            • walter homple

              We don’t even know how many illegals from Mexico are here now, so I remain to be convinced that they have stopped coming.

              • Pete Sisco

                Worrying about the legal status of the people around you is a mental trap. Building your own personal freedom is the best safeguard against the real economic and social threats to your happy life.

      • nomadcapitalist

        Momentum is the key, I believe. Never good to catch a falling knife.

    • Fadeway

      How do they chase you, if you’re the one paying their travel fees?

  2. kurt9

    The problem is that there are very few places to run to. Places that are pro-free-market, have decent worth ethic populations, and minimal government regulations and taxation, and little corruption; I can think of only two such places: Singapore and Taiwan.

    • Pete Sisco

      Think about running something online. You have access to a massive, wealthy market and the local economy is moot. Living in a low-interference country while making good money is a new kind of paradise not seen in previous generations.

  3. Morpheus

    Found this page from a totally unrelated web search, but thought it was an interesting read. I commend you for voicing an unpopular opinion against patriotism. I agree that people place too much importance on random events that they don’t control (place of birth). The same argument can be made against sticking with one (and therefore any) religion. But I don’t share your ideals of “self-reliance, individualism, and freedom.” What is so great about individualism? I live in a society of people interdependent on each other, not in my own bubble. Still, assuming each person decides to move to the country that fits their ideals, there will be an entire class of people (poor/working class) who won’t have the means to do this. Freedom for those who can afford it is not really freedom in my book. Just food for thought.

    • Pete Sisco

      Morpheus, you might be right about individualism not being an indispensable condition of Freedom. But those who want it should be able to exercise it without interference.

      The definition of Freedom I use is; the condition that exists when every individual has 100% control of his own property. By that definition there is no need to be rich and Freedom is not something where “affordability” even applies. The least wealthy person can still control his life and whatever he creates with his life. The only problem is other people (and the State) don’t allow it.

      • Andrew Henderson

        That’s why freedom is what you make it – you can be a subsistence farmer and be more free than most other people on earth if you have the elements you mention.

  4. D Alway

    I agree. The US isn’t what it once was and there is reason to leave. Although – it isn’t either/or. You can fight for a better US (or other country) even from afar. You needn’t sacrifice your life in order to fight for something better. I always wonder if there are other alternatives (under the sea, space, seasteading) – options for creating a new sort of nation. These are certainly purely speculative dreams at this point – but it IS possible that one day ALL countries will be so bad that there really won’t be anywhere to go and you will want to stay and fight for something (or go and fight for something) – as opposed to forcing yourself to live on the fringes – looking for the best that happens to exist.

  5. theotherRJH

    Thank you for writing this. For years I have tried to articulate this very concept to people and never was successful. Sooner or later, the family and I will be out of the US because when I ask the question “will you pick up a gun and defend this country?” and the answer I come back with is always no, it is clear I am standing in the wrong place and do not belong here. America cannot be salvaged and I want to be gone long before the no-fly list turns into a no-leave list. The US is a house that is on fire and there is a crew inside putting up drywall…it’s not going to work.

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