Love it without leaving it
On global hegemony, Americans living abroad, and the miniscule number of people who actually burn their US passports
It isn't hard to find examples of people who get so angry about political changes that they threaten to leave the country or declare they've lost faith in it entirely. Yet emigration is rare: The State Department estimates that 9 million American citizens live overseas, but virtually all of them retain their citizenship. The most recent quarterly list of Americans who have renounced their citizenship contains fewer than 600 names and is just 9 pages long. That's about the same as one Airbus A380 every three months.
■ Nobody really leaves, and even with the lowest migration rates in decades, vastly more people are willing to declare their allegiance to the Constitution than are willing to renounce it. When there are no stakes on table, people might casually ask "[W]hat keeps the average American (that can afford it) from moving to Europe?"
■ But the answers aren't really that hard to uncover. As M. Nolan Gray put it, "When you're lucky enough to be born in the uncontested economic/cultural/political/technological hegemon, why settle for less?" Some people might find themselves uncomfortable, though, with that assessment: It sounds jingoistic, even though it is objectively true -- on every one of those dimensions, the United States is the global standard-setter.
■ It may be hard for Americans to realize, but even our poorest states are relatively wealthy: Per-capita GDP is higher in every state than it is in New Zealand, Israel, or Japan. Louisiana has it better than Sweden, and Belgium trails Arizona. Wealth may be relative, but choosing the right market has a whole lot to do with how any family's balance sheet turns out.
■ Most American states have populations comparable to well-known countries. Minnesota has more people than Norway, Colorado has more than Ireland, and North Carolina is bigger than Switzerland. That kind of scale breeds options -- community options, political options, and economic options, among many others.
■ Americans can choose from a wide variety of cultural and civic arrangements without applying for a visa or showing a passport. An American can just...move. No questions asked. Ultimately, that's why few people emigrate out of the US.
■ It's estimated that 10 million Americans move from one county to another annually -- meaning a million more of us migrate internally every year than the entire population of our fellow citizens living abroad. No excuse required: A person can move for work, for pleasure, to be close to family, to get away from family, to chase lower taxes, to move away from crime, or just because the weather is nicer. There's no need to renounce citizenship or give anyone a reason.
■ In our state-by-state diversity lies a vast freedom. Nobody should expect the country as a whole -- nor any individual part of it -- to be perfect. And it will often feel vastly imperfect, depending on what particular matter is important to any one of us at any particular time.
■ But it has always been that way -- the Constitution was written to be amended, and the words of "America the Beautiful" even plead, "God mend thine every flaw". The imperfect pursuit of betterment is the best we can offer, which is why Americans can get mad, press for change, and still love it without leaving it.