Kuleana de Hawai’i ad ipsum
Welcome to Stares at the World, where we can screw up grammar in three languages at a time.
As I’m sure you all know I recently did a couple of interviews with Danny de Gracia, a politician/journalist/literary critic & chef from the State of Hawaii; he’s my second data-point that there’s a new wave of politicians coming, a group of Gen-X/Millennial Men with the shrewdness needed to rule, and the integrity to rule well.
But this post isn’t about him; it’s about Hawaii.
Speaking with him got me curious, so during a slow moment at work I decided to do some research; what I found was utterly fascinating. Right there on the sharp edge of Fuller’s Dymaxion lies an exciting little Island Paradise with more potential than she realizes. It really makes me envy some of the people who live there.
So while I’m certainly not an expert, I’m compelled to write something about it – call it the Bird’s Eye View, or Missing the Forest for the Trees; I’m so far away that certain patterns are going to stand out, which could be missed by someone in the midst of it. My data is sparse enough that I can easily parse it. And what I see is a land that could easily become a haven for Civlization.
Geography, Climate, and Culture
Right off the bat Hawaii has the best of both worlds; the trade winds give it a mild climate, with a seasonal range between 31 °C to 28 °C (high- to low-80s in Fahrenheit), yet its location on the far tip of the Polynesian plate keeps it safe from the unwashed, fast-breeding, r-type hordes roaming throughout the continents. Continental cities are inevitably tied to their countries through geopolitics; Hawaii has Pearl Harbor, but aside from that, the island is nothing more than a staging area.
In other words, should things start to turn sour on the mainland, Hawaii will be relatively unaffected.
Next there’s the matter of its low population; at a little under 1.4 million people it’s only slightly bigger than the city I live in. This is an eminently manageable population, especially considering that many of them are spread out; while Calgary relies upon its infrastructure, Hawaii can suffer a lot of deprivation before things start turning to savagery. Furthermore, with the climate, there’s no need for heating or air conditioning.
Culturally they’re incredibly mixed – the two largest groups are Asians and Europeans, ticking in at 39% and 25% respectively – and while ethnic heterogeneity usually points towards instability, there are exceptions where things can ‘muddle along’ and turn out okay. Hawaii seems to be one of those cases. The key is that there’s no dominant ethnicity; a dominant ethnicity paired with a subversive ethnicity is a breeding ground for Marxists. But when you have a place as mixed-up and interesting as Hawaii they’re practically forced to find a culture of their own. Aside from the occasional semi-clownish coup, the racial tensions seem to be rather minimal; or at the very least manageable. And overall Hawaiian citizens tend to be better educated than your typical American.
So on the ground floor of immutables – population, geography, and climate – Hawaii’s looking pretty good.
And yet economically it’s a complete mess.
Living Beyond One’s Means
Your average Hawaiian resident probably looks around and sees an industrialized, 1st world nation, but when you start looking at the numbers thing don’t add up…
Or rather, they do, but only if you’re paying attention.
The average income of Hawaiian residents is $30,000/year, about 75% of the American average; and yet Hawaiian housing is some of the most expensive in the country. Meanwhile they have a punitive regulatory code, and the highest state tax per capita. Government largesse is extensive, with some of the highest spending on schools, and a state sponsored (92%, anyway) healthcare system.
So what’s wrong with this picture? Why am I criticizing the Nobility of the Liberal Way? Surely this proves the methods of the Golden One ( who lived there for a few months and now claims their citizenship)!
Two words: tourism & military.
But first let’s deal with an ugly Canard.
Healthcare: not as healthy as you think it is
Liberals love the Hawaiian healthcare system because of the longevity of the citizenry, and the fact that preventative care causes them to spend less on expensive surgeries.
Or does it?
The RAND health insurance experiment is old news in some circles, and Professor R. Hanson has done a far better job of eviscerating the healthcare industry than I could ever hope to:
The bottom line is that thousands of people randomly given free medicine in the late 1970s consumed 30-40% more medical services, paid one more “restricted activity day” per year to deal with the medical system, but were not noticeably healthier! So unless the marginal value of medicine has changed in the last thirty years, if you would not pay for medicine out of your own pocket, then don’t bother to go when others offer to pay; on average such medicine is as likely to hurt as to help.
He’s written extensively on the subject, so I’ll leave the detail-hacking to him, but what it boils down to is that – for the most part – healthcare really work. You want to stay healthy? Then earn enough money to be comfortable, live a low-stress life, get plenty of sun, and ignore any diet advice coming from people in lab coats.
Huh – almost sounds like your typical Hawaiian local, doesn’t it?
I would suggest, based on Prior A: healthcare doesn’t help very much, Prior B: the modern ‘healthy’ diet has caused an obesity epidemic, and Prior C: Hawaiian residents on average eat more traditional diets, with more Vitamin D from sunlight than your typical American, that Conclusion D: The residents of Hawaii are just healthier overall – the money wasted on Doctors has little to do with it.
Massive Investment, Crippling Regulation
Each year Hawaii enjoys a huge influx of Free Money; $12.2 billion from the military, and over $10 billion from tourism: $25 billion in free money each year! This is the source of the government largesse, not a productive economic base.
Meanwhile they suffer under onerous regulation from the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
The Merchant Marine Act is a bit of protectionist legislation – which I don’t have a problem with in general (an argument for another time, I suppose) but where it affects Hawaii is the fact that all shipped goods must arrive on the mainland of the United States – San Francisco – before they can be shipped to Hawaii. An extra surcharge for living so far away is only to be expected, but this double surcharge, effectively shutting down the Asian markets, is crippling.
It should go without saying that industries have built up around this law; institutional momentum and the profit motive are keeping it in place.
Invest in the Future, not the Present
Hawaiian voters should be focused on three things right now:
1. Open up the Merchant Marine Act: Some protectionist legislation benefiting the United States is good; protectionist legislation that benefits California over Hawaii is bad. The citizenry should be demanding this platform from every politician.
2. Use all that free money while it’s still coming in; economic times being what they are, there’s no guarantee that the tourism industry won’t collapse tomorrow. Open up the tax codes so that an effective private industry can grow; tourism money is nice, but it makes you reliant on the tourists. You’re as much a slave to the tourist, as the office worker is to the corporation when the company covers his medical expenses. Learn to stand on your own two feet; don’t be someone else’s servant!
3. Achieve energy independence: I haven’t found any figures I particularly trust, but it’s obvious that you’re relying heavily on foreign oil. You guys don’t need much power! Many of you could go off-grid at home and still live comfortably.
You live in a paradise; you don’t have to survive the Canadian Winter like us Northerners do, and you don’t have to worry about gangs of roaving marauders coming out of Los Angeles. You should be taking that money and dropping it into solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power right now – not paying for healthcare and government brainwashing programs for your children.
Especially nuclear; a couple of solid generating stations could make Hawaii an utterly independent island.
Beautiful countryside always encourages the Liberal in all of us; it makes us feel secure, makes us want to share the wealth with everyone. Take a tact from a man in a frozen hinterland, where several homeless freeze to death every winter despite our best efforts, and where the ups and downs of the petroleum industry spell have inspired an old Albertan saying:
“Please Lord, just one more boom – I promise not to waste it this time!”
Hau’oli La Ho’omaika’i!
23/11/2012 edit: I am told that “Hawaiian” refers to the ethnic natives to the island; the article has been amended to reflect that.