Requesting advice- where to live

post by Carinthium · 2011-09-17T04:58:14.785Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 50 comments
Most people on this website are probably aware that most people have an irrational bias in favor of living where they're used to- therefore, it is at least worth considering moving somewhere else as the intuitive cost-benefit ratio (if it can even be called that) is likely scewed.

My general knowledge and geography is, however, rather poor. There are a few things I want to know about- some general questions, and some things that require at least some rationality to assess.

What I want to avoid:

-Internet censorship

-Laws restricting my ability to 'go about my buisness' (e.g laws in Europe involving intervening in a crisis)

-Weak economies

-Weak property rights (I'd count everywhere where it's illegal to kill a burgular robbing my home- weak meaning weak relative to what I want, admittedly)

-Places of poor employment for whatever profession I go (most likely lawyers).

It's easy to work out where those are the case now- but gaining a decent model of where a country that's nice to live in may exist in the future (i.e no censorship, strong economy, good employment and wages, little interference in my life) is very, very difficult even in the best case scenario. Furthurmore, it's almost certain I can't secure them all.

Does anybody know of any countries where it is likely that over the next two decades or so these standards are at least likely to be well met? I know it's unlikely, but the expected value of posting this is positive and I place a high enough value on finding out that I'm giving it a try.


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by TwistingFingers · 2011-09-17T05:09:00.235Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There are probably much more important concerns when choosing a country than the ones you have listed. You haven't even discussed immigration policies. Some of the concerns you have listed (such as intervening in a crisis, burglars) are unlikely to even effect you and seem entirely ideological.

I suggest you rethink this and come up with a list of requirements based on practical concerns rather than ideology.

Replies from: orthonormal, Carinthium
comment by orthonormal · 2011-09-17T18:26:20.351Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To put this another way, I think Carinthium is thinking too much in Far Mode for a decision like this.

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-18T03:42:06.677Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm trying to actually live by my ideology here- in order to do that, I have to think in far mode. As has been established on LessWrong already, there's no reason to believe that happiness should be the only thing considered as a priority.

Replies from: Jack
comment by Jack · 2011-09-18T20:17:38.413Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What values are you fulfilling with these moving criteria?

Ideology, as a rule, is a mess of signaling and identity. It seems to consist of beliefs that are held almost entirely because of coincidence and cognitive quirks. So they seem like a very bad set of beliefs to base life altering decisions on.

Now, your terminal values are your terminal values, but either you have a very unique set of terminal values or the way in which these moving criteria fulfills those values is pretty convoluted. Maybe if you explained what exactly your terminal values are your stated criteria would seem less crazy to us?

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T02:44:06.929Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

My terminal values include:

1- Happiness


2- Pride (I want to actually be immune to 'The Man' as abstraction to the greatest possible extent- to be able to avoid opression and control by the elites of society as much as possible. Come to think of it, both Freedom and Property come down to this)

3- Social status (Practical- I want a high one relative to those I regularly interact with)

4- Social status (Theoretical- I want as high a social status in society as I can realistically get)

5- Evolution (I want to be evolutionary sucessful, although this is by comparison minor)

I figure that by picking and choosing low-status areas and people I can maximise my practical social status, my theoretical social status by working effectively, my happiness by the usual means, and my desire for property and freedom by choosing effectively where to live. By sperm donation once I've achieved high status, I can achieve evolutionary sucess beyond the wildest dreams of what my distant ancestors could hope for.

Replies from: Jack, juliawise, wedrifid
comment by Jack · 2011-09-19T03:17:37.180Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good edit. My advice regarding #2 is to make lots of money. This is far more important than living somewhere with a strong property rights regime (as long as they have the usual property rights of Western countries). This may not be true in all countries (my experience is mostly with the US) but being wealthy lets you buy the best lawyers and the most influence. It gives you the means to leave the country and insulates you against threats to your property. And if you're wealthy you don't have to risk your life to kill burglars... you can just buy homeowners insurance or replace what you lose. Make a call to the mayor whose campaign you donated to and watch the police go to work hunting down you home invader. My guess is America lets you buy this protection more than most other places (at least, the other places worth living, you might get more bang for your buck living someplace dreadful)- I think your fears about freedom in the US are probably more serious than the evidence justifies. In any case, I'm pretty sure Texas is still pretty cool with shooting home invaders and Austin is a great city.

I think you should spend more time thinking about how your happiness will be influenced by where you live.

I figure that by picking and choosing low-status areas and people I can maximise my practical social status,

I'm not sure this isn't the exact opposite of what you should do.

By sperm donation once I've achieved high status, I can achieve evolutionary sucess beyond the wildest dreams of what my distant ancestors could hope for.

Is this true? How often is a given sample used?

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T03:51:04.626Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A- That could be a barely acceptable way around it- what countries allow for 'buying' such protection for the rich? B- It's more that I can as a matter of principle- that I can defend my own property, rather than having to depend on the government. C- By 'practical social status' I mean 'social status relative to the people I normally have to deal with'. 'Big fish in a small pond' and all that. D- That's why I need high social status, or else sperm donation is useful. If the sperm are advertised as being from a high-status source, the chances of use increase. Sufficently high status, and I hit metaphorical jackpot.

Replies from: dbaupp
comment by dbaupp · 2011-09-19T07:01:59.230Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

what countries allow for 'buying' such protection for the rich?

That was answered:

My guess is America lets you buy this protection more than most other places

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T11:26:46.211Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I meant other than the United States- Texas looks like a good option at this point, but I wanted to see if there were any others.

Replies from: dbaupp
comment by dbaupp · 2011-09-19T22:21:41.261Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think money can buy protection almost anywhere, e.g. donations to the right people.

comment by juliawise · 2011-09-24T01:58:54.243Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

People on this site love the idea of spreading our awesome genes through sperm/egg donation, but I wonder how many have tried. I'm sure LWers are above average in brains, but what gene banks wants are largely beauty, height, and flawless family history. As a population I expect we're average or below average in those things.

So if you're tall, handsome, and have no family history of any diseases, congratulations.

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-24T03:41:31.770Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's why I'd have to achieve something high status first- say, becoming a partner in a law firm. That way, I'll at least maximise my chances of evolutionary sucess (relative to any other avaliable options, given that it's in the scheme of things minor).

Replies from: wedrifid
comment by wedrifid · 2011-09-24T09:37:51.144Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's why I'd have to achieve something high status first- say, becoming a partner in a law firm.

I recommend becoming the Chief Medical Officer at the sperm/egg storage facility. Or, you know, the janitor. Darwin doesn't award points for playing fair!

Replies from: gwern, Carinthium
comment by gwern · 2011-09-24T23:08:24.234Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

As things stand (much to Inspector Darwin's horror), you don't need even to be the janitor - the donors make out like cuckolds. One known donor has 150 offspring:

comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-24T11:42:25.908Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Evolutionary sucess is by comparison a minor priority for me- if it were my first priority, that would indeed be my best course of action.

comment by wedrifid · 2011-09-19T08:54:42.072Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

to be able to avoid opression and control by the elites of society as much as possible.

Simplest method: be one.

comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-17T07:40:26.635Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, they are partially ideological- but also partially based on actual preferences. I like to snoop around the 'dirty laundry' of various governments (especially my own) when I can, I like to appear right wing (hence I can say to my friends I moved on principle), and I place a very high utility on not having the trauma of going to jail (judging from past experience there's a risk I'd kill a burgular), plus a degree of pride in actually having something resembling actual property rights.

EDIT: In addition, in old age I want to live in something as close as possible to a proper democracy that actually follows the ideals democracy is supposed to. Lack of internet censorship makes for de facto freedom of speech, property rights are self-explanatory (western society says people own their properties, but have a lot of implicit 'but' clauses), and laws forcing me to intervene in a crisis get rid of my liberty. These are trends that are likely to get worse, not better, over time- the trend in the U.S is towards Guantanamo Bay and increased presidential power, Australia has internet censorship and could go further, and Europe has 'intervene in a crisis' laws (the UK as far as I know takes the lead with public security cameras). EDIT TWO: I agree that I should rule out countries I can't get into even with dogged persistence, being Western middle class, and advice from hiring a lawyer. Other than that, I don't see how immigration comes into it.

Replies from: Xachariah, NihilCredo, dbaupp
comment by Xachariah · 2011-09-17T21:27:06.904Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

These are not, in fact, important factors in deciding in which country to live.

I like to appear right wing (hence I can say to my friends I moved on principle)

Once moved out of the country, your current friends will have a very small impact on your life. Whatever utility you gain from feeling great while preparing for your move will be dwarfed by the disutility of having optimized incorrectly after you have moved.

I place a very high utility on not having the trauma of going to jail (judging from past experience there's a risk I'd kill a burgular)

You are better served by living in a country with a low crime rate, or living in a country with a cheap cost of living so you can live in the best neighborhoods. What are the odds you'll actually be broken into, while you're home, while you're able to get to your gun, and that you'll feel better having killed another person? That's a lot of conditional probabilities, for something that would give you negative utility anyways. Try to imagine how you'll feel one month or one year afterwards knowing you've ended a life instead of just having bought renter's insurance and getting new stuff anyways (assuming you bought a replacement versus ACV policy).

Plus a degree of pride in actually having something resembling actual property rights.

There's points of pride you don't know about until you live elsewhere. One is having 10x the internet speed than another country. Another is not having to worry about medical care, having better medical care, and spending 1/2 as much per capita on that care. Yet another is having protections against corporations some other countries don't have.

It's best to narrow your search to things that will effect your life on a real day-to-day basis, then sort competitors from there. Climate, culture, population density, and job market are the most important factors.

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T02:47:24.917Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

1- You don't know my friends. Many of them would be likely to call me a significant amount of the time anyway, and I don't want to have to 'cut the cord' with them. 2- I admit I'm not actually normal in this, but I tend to imagine how I'd feel knowing that I was beaten by a burgular who I couldn't stop form taking all my stuff as worse. At least I'd have my pride if I killed them. 3- After a certain point, internet speed as a matter of dimishing marginal returns. I also care about pride in what I have, not pride in what I am given by the government. If I have the right to defend my property, that's at least closer to something that's inherent to me rather than the government than protection aganist corporations.

comment by NihilCredo · 2011-09-17T23:03:34.030Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

EDIT: In addition, in old age...

If/when you get to old age, you can move again. Your priorities WILL shift A LOT over the course of a few decades. E.g. freezing weather is an annoyance when you're young, but a mortal handicap when you're old.

comment by dbaupp · 2011-09-17T11:05:43.757Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Australia has internet censorship

You say that as if Australia has far more censorship than the US, which I don't believe is true.

Replies from: fubarobfusco
comment by jimrandomh · 2011-09-17T05:04:59.665Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're looking at the wrong things. The first thing you need to choose is density - city, town/suburb, or rural. I recommend city. Then decide on a particular city (not caring what country it's in), based on things that actually affect your lifestyle - mainly the culture, the community of specific people who live in it, and the probability-distribution of things you'll encounter walking around its streets. Laws and economics are relatively unimportant, except insofar as you have to get a job in a city that pays enough for the local living expenses before you can move there.

comment by lukeprog · 2011-09-17T05:53:16.032Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Move to the San Francisco Bay Area, spend a year boosting your rationality through daily interaction with dozens of long-time rationalists, and then figure out where it'll be best for you to live.

Replies from: Carinthium, curiousepic
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-17T07:44:13.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sounds like a good idea as far as I can tell.

comment by curiousepic · 2011-09-20T15:46:09.815Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

A post/guide (or link to one) on how to do this easily and cheaply would be awesome. For New York as well.

comment by Jack · 2011-09-18T03:24:04.040Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"My city has nice weather all year, a growing economy, public transportation, low taxes, tons of culture and attractive people, you should move here."

"Okay... but can I kill burglars?"

Replies from: pedanterrific
comment by pedanterrific · 2011-09-18T03:29:49.618Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't understand what the fuss is about.

Surely it's just a matter of properly disposing of the body?

comment by jhuffman · 2011-09-17T15:48:09.488Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You don't even mention climate or taxes. These affect your life every day.

Replies from: KKL81, Carinthium
comment by KKL81 · 2011-09-18T00:16:45.240Z · LW(p) · GW(p)


Actual after-tax purchasing power relative to the amount of work that you do, is perhaps a better optimization target?

Replies from: jhuffman
comment by jhuffman · 2011-09-19T13:42:20.788Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You'd really have to look at entitlements you'd use as well. For example in a country with state health care plans you will pay more in taxes but not have to spend as much on a health care plan. I wasn't suggesting a specific metric, obviously.

Replies from: Mercy
comment by Mercy · 2011-09-22T12:45:18.089Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't think this is true? Britain at least spends a smaller proportion of government revenue on healthcare than the US does, and I imagine France and Australia do as well. Or if you are comparing british style to french style, the trade off is price vs quality, not where you pay.

It's probably worth considering taxes relative to whatever job you are applying for, and the gov't services in line with all the other benefits.

Replies from: jhuffman
comment by jhuffman · 2011-09-22T15:28:58.926Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You also have to look at effective tax rate. One measure of this is total revenue / GDP, which you can see some different measures of in Wikipedia.

UK taxes 34-39% of GDP, US taxes 24-29% of GDP. So the fact that UK spends a smaller part of their total revenue doesn't mean they are more efficient in public health spending, since their tax revenues are quite a bit higher.

comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T02:39:11.402Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Come to think of it, you're probably right- although it's better to be in a high tax booming economy then an economy in recession with low taxes.

comment by shminux · 2011-09-17T07:31:16.109Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Regardless of your other preferences, if you are a city slicker, picking one of the top 10 most livable cities is probably not a bad idea. As for the countries, the same list suggests Germany/Canada/Switzerland/Australia. Not coincidentally, all these have strong economies and relatively stable governments and have been this way for quite some time. I can see no indication that the situation is going to change for the worse in the next two decades in any of those places, but this is always a gamble.

comment by Hyena · 2011-09-17T08:45:07.252Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unfortunately, being an attorney will alrgely restrict you to whatever country you were born a citizen of. My impression is that unless you want to work for a multinational (which is, by private contract a means of lmiting "going about your business") you will have to make do with your home country.

My suggestion for maximizing your freedom, that is what you're driving for it seems, is to pick a profession that allows as much remote work as possible and without the need for visas. This maximizes your ability to choose locations at each time, moving if they fail to satisfy your criteria or if the trade-off is no longer worth it.

Replies from: Carinthium, ciphergoth
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T02:49:57.129Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

O.K- this was dumb of me. I'm going to have to start rethinking things quite a bit...

Replies from: Hyena, pedanterrific
comment by Hyena · 2011-09-19T20:55:10.227Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If it helps any, I had the same sort of idea, though largely by working contracts remotely. An uncle who is a chief counsel for a major corporation successfully dispelled this notion.

comment by pedanterrific · 2011-09-19T03:27:26.921Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

...Are you serious?

Edit: It's an honest question. You never considered that moving somewhere with different laws might affect your career as a lawyer? That seems unlikely.

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T03:47:49.996Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have Aspergers Syndrome and an overall IQ of 92, but most of that is "Verbal Comprehension" (at which, in theory, I am nearly a genius). In some areas, I am near-retarded (although is very stupid even by my standards).

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2011-09-17T09:19:39.027Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

being an attorney will alrgely restrict you to whatever country you were born a citizen of.

Or rather, the country whose laws you have studied - don't think citizenship is often a requrement, is it?

comment by cousin_it · 2011-09-17T14:42:33.809Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Israel has no internet censorship (though such legislation is often proposed), allows you to kill burglars (the "Shai Dromi bill"), and has a relatively okay economy. I don't know about your other requirements.

comment by [deleted] · 2011-09-22T13:46:13.625Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Have you considered renting as opposed to buying somewhere for two decades?

As an example, say you pick Texas, and you buy a home in Dallas Texas, planning to stay there for 20 years. Then, you receive an opportunity to go take a job in Houston Texas at substantially more pay 3 years into your mortgage, but you'd have to move.

This can happen to any place we pick, to any of your five criteria, over 20 years. Recessions can occur, Laws can change, etcetera.

Renting as opposed to owning allows you flexibility to switch much easier. If Texas encounters a recession, you may be able to move to Maryland to take advantage of a biotech boom. If Maryland passes too many restrictive laws, you can move to Florida. If Florida then weakens property rights, you can move to Britain. The specific locations don't matter as much for these examples. The important thing is that you are not as tied down, and so can fine tune your location to your five criteria.

This is not to say that renting is certainly the best for all circumstances. If it turns out Texas worked for 20 years, and you rented for those 20 years, it probably would have been better to buy.

Bear in mind that there are both Pro and Anti Rent oriented sites on the web, which will tell you things like "Never rent ever, you are throwing money away." and "Never buy ever, it is a financial death sentence if anything goes wrong." A full discussion of this would probably be outside of the scope of your question. But there are a lot of rent vs mortgage calculators available to run the numbers for you, such as here:

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-23T02:42:43.598Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The main reason I was against renting is that it tends to be low status to rent (since poor people who can't afford to buy often rent). You have a good point- it's just an additional tradeoff.

comment by Oscar_Cunningham · 2011-09-18T12:32:07.550Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nothing to do with rationality. Downvoted.

Replies from: Carinthium
comment by Carinthium · 2011-09-19T02:37:50.387Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm trying to make a rational decision, and I'm trying to determine not only where best to live, but where will be best to live. That requires a high level of rational decision making.

comment by tetsuo55 · 2011-09-18T07:53:54.008Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suggest rethinking your requirements. Many seem to be missing and the current one's look like solutions rather than what you actually want.

Here is some help:

comment by KKL81 · 2011-09-17T19:18:05.216Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Unlike you, IANAL, but killing burgulars would be legal in most places if you can convince the courts that someone's life/health was in serious danger at the time, and that violence was the only reasonable option, wouldn't it? I mean, as long as you can argue that the violence was not excessive relative to what it would take to passivate the dangerous burgular, and that death was an accidental side effect and not intended?

That is, for some local interpretations of "serious", "reasonable" and "excessive", surely. Is it your impression that these things are interpreted too much in favor of the burgular in some places, or do you object to the principle that danger-to-life should determine whether killing trespassers should be legal or not?

I am new here on Less Wrong, and I hope I don't invite too much mind-killing here… But still, I'm a bit curious about this.

Replies from: Mercy
comment by Mercy · 2011-09-22T12:52:39.562Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

He might be offended by the fact that he'd have to go to trial and plead guilty. There was a case over here of a guy who got tied up with his family for hours by burglars, who broke free and beat one of them into a coma with a cricket bat. He initially refused to plead guilty and received a fairly lengthy sentence- commuted on appeal once he actually had the sense to admit it and plead circumstances.