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It’s a realization more and more Americans are making. Not just enlightened readers of Revolver, but also their less-informed, less worldly friends and family members. For some, the realization comes when they have kids and finally have to worry about the “local schools” For others, it comes when they retire. And for others, it’s a simple matter of taking their first international vacation since the end of the Covid era and flying through a foreign airport before returning to one of America’s abominable aerodromes. The realization goes, more or less, like this:
“Holy s***, I don’t live in a First World country.”
Sad, but accurate!
America might still be a military and economic superpower. The dollar might be the world’s most powerful currency (and we think it’s likely to remain so). America is still a country with high salaries, and coming to America is still a decent way to make a fortune, if one has the right skills and the right connections.
And yet, for the average person on the ground, America is no longer really a First World country in the sense of being a country where a high-quality way of life can be had for an affordable price. For young people, the “American dream” feels more and more like the “American scam” — an overpriced, subpar version of the old product. The median U.S. home price is more than $360,000, but in America’s “top” cities it can be two or even three times that. And what do Americans enjoy in return? Tent cities in parks and, increasingly, on subway trains.
Even in the more “affordable” boomtowns, the situation can be dire. Consider this home Revolver found in about a minute of looking.
Seven hundred thousand dollars for barely 2,500 square feet is a lot, but hey, it’s understandable in one of the nation’s most expensive and exclusive metro areas.
Except, of course, it’s not. This house is in Nashville — a lovely city in many ways, but nobody’s idea of an elite enclave. But like almost every large city in America, it seems to be priced like one. In July 2013, this house cost just $275,000. In less than a decade, it has nearly tripled in price. The listing’s opening line hints at another dark aspect of the modern American experience: It gloats about the public elementary school it is zoned in, because in America, everybody knows that thousands of public schools are entirely unusable disaster zones where white students are hunted for sport that no sane parent with means would ever allow their child to attend.
This sad reality can be shown through a brief tour around the world.
Why not make our first stop in 2023’s most interesting country, El Salvador. Thanks to President Nayib Bukele’s gang crackdown, El Salvador has gone from being as dangerous as St. Louis to being safer than Florida. But even in pro-market, pro-building Florida, a high-rise condo near the beach will run you $850,000. Meanwhile, in Bukele’s bailiwick, that same amount will let you buy an entire two-house compound, just a short walk from a private beach and ten minutes away from some of the most famous surfing in the world.
But maybe you aren’t ready to commit yourself to El Salvador just yet. We can’t blame you: there is always the risk that America might use sanctions and diplomatic pressure to restore “democratic norms” and send El Salvador back to into the crime-ridden, impoverished abyss from which it came.
But you don’t need to go to Latin America’s rising star to find a cheaper, more pleasant life than in modern America. You can literally go to the most expensive part and still come out ahead. Slotted between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is known as one of the costliest places to be in all of Latin America. So, what sort of horrors await you?
Oh no! This 4,200-square foot house with five bedrooms and four bathrooms, on a quarter-acre lot, will set you back $410,000. That’s $140,000 less than the median home price in California — yes, the entire state. Oh, and if you were wondering, no, the median home in California isn’t part of a private neighborhood with 24/7 security.
Of course, if urban living isn’t your jam and you’d rather hang out at the beach away from the city, just get this beach house with guest cabin for $290,000.
One of the most popular destinations for Americans fleeing America is Portugal. In just the past five years, the number of Americans living there as expats has grown 239%. The appeals is obvious. Want to relax? Why not pick up this 4,000-square foot house a couple miles from the beach for just $380,000?
Portugal, with its ten million people, has fewer than half as many murders as the city of St. Louis.
In fact, the biggest downside of the region is that it’s so popular that entire swaths of Lisbon are emptied-out Airbnb neighborhoods.
Turkey? Really? The country Europe is desperate to keep out of the European Union?
Believe it, buddy.
Istanbul is the most expensive city in Turkey, yet by the standards of any American, it is ridiculously cheap. Get a large apartment in the nice part of town for $1,300 a month, or settle for a studio for half that, or splurge on a suburban villa for $300k.
Granted, you’ll have to hear muezzins blast the call to prayer five times a day, but besides that there is very little to dislike. With 2.6 murders per 100,000 people, the former Constantinople isn’t just safer than Chicago or Memphis or Detroit — it’s safer than safe American cities like New York or San Jose. The health care system is good enough that Turkish life expectancy isn’t much different than America’s. Istanbul’s airport is one of the world’s best. You can send kids to an international school for a few thousand bucks a year. Look up a normie expat’s thoughts on the country, and the biggest complaints are a laid-back culture, lack of vegetarian options, and lack of LGBT acceptance — oh no!
And then we come to Japan. When it comes to large nations that make a mockery of America’s “first world” status, no one does it like the Land of the Rising Sun. The streets are impeccably clean. The trains and buses arrive on time, every time. The whole country has fewer murders than Cook County.
But this all comes at a cost: Japan is an extremely expensive country, as everyone knows.
Except, actually, no. Flying to Japan may expensive, because it’s on the other side of the planet, but actually living there?
Consider this three-bedroom apartment in Osaka:
A hundred and twenty-two square meters is equal to more than 1300 square feet. That’s large for an apartment, but a gaijin like you can have it for just over $1900 per month in USD. That’s less than half what an apartment of the same size will run you in scenic, er, Oakland.
But hey, on the other hand, getting something like this does require going pretty far into the countryside — oh, wait, this is in downtown Osaka, the country’s second-largest city.
Besides the lower cost, also consider how much less psychological stress is involved with living in any of these places. Not only is living there cheaper, but almost zero (in Japan’s case, literally zero) mental effort has to be expended on worrying about the neighborhood crime rate. Whatever the merits of public schools in Montevideo or Istanbul, you don’t have to fret that they’re actually public holding pens for future felons and their unfortunate victims. In each of these countries, whatever their flaws, there is no sense that the government is waging war on normal citizens for the sake of the country’s most toxic and antisocial residents. They might be poorer, with attendant problems for native residents — but at least they aren’t scams.