Monday, September 12, 2011


Is the Aloha Spirit a trade barrier?

By Henry Curtis

 The term globalization is attached to those who believe in the supremacy of free markets, the elimination of all trade barriers, the free movement of labor, capital, goods and services between nations. They resist all efforts to establish local environmental, labor and social regulations, describing them  as undesirable NIMBYism. They believe that international organizations (APEC, ADB, the World Bank) and free trade agreements (NAFTA, TPP) should reign above people.

Anti-globalization does not generally mean those opposed to globalization. Rather the stress is on building greater awareness, tolerance, respect and justice for a multitude of sovereign independent nation-states who have the right to make their own economic and political decisions and control their own resources.

Hawai`i has always reached out to embrace others. The Kingdom of Hawaii established over ninety legations (embassies) and consulates throughout the world. In 1887 the United Kingdom and the British Empire celebrated Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, her fiftieth year of rule. Hawaiian royalty as well as fifty European kings and princes were invited. Queen Kapiolani and Princess Liliuokalani attended.

In 1881 King Kalākaua became the first monarch to travel around the world.

The Kingdom of Hawaii signed treaties with the U.S., Belgium, Bremen, Denmark, France, the German Empire, Great Britain, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New South Wales, Portugal Russia, Samoa, Spain, the Swiss Confederation , Sweden and Norway, and Tahiti.

These competing visions  of the future (one economic set of rules vs. co-existing sovereign nations)
are competing against each other for the heart and soul of America.

Should those individuals who have chosen to live in rural settings be able to stop Industrial Wind Farms from being built on their islands and shipped to O`ahu to power Honolulu’s increasingly dense urban lifestyle?

North and South Dakota can supply a quarter of the nations electricity via wind power. New York State  and New England want to decrease dependence on fossil fuel because of health, environmental and security reasons. Should the federal government pass laws creating a national transmission siting agency?  This would infringe on the ability of Ohio and Indiana to restrict or even regulate the placement of  dozens of parallel high voltage lines bringing Midwest wind energy through their state to power the North East.

Should those living in rural areas be able to have some input over moving Industrial-scale Photovoltaic Facilities in the Southwest Desert to urban Pacific Coast cities?

Should these policies be developed at the local level where people input is the greatest? Or should they be developed in Washington D.C. where there are at least 5 lobbyists for every legislator and the public can’t just show up and testify?

In the interest of the state or multinational corporations, should land be put to its best and highest use (resort) or is there some benefit to setting up artificial barriers to trade and adopting policies to promote local agricultural production? If we do support local agriculture, should we require farmer markets to labels imported goods being sold?

The push-pull exists for offshore fossil fuel drilling. Former Congressman Abercrombie co-authored a bill to promote establishing federal policy over state policy in ocean drilling so that Midwest corn could be processed with offshore natural gas to make green ethanol. Rep. Abercrombie opposed drilling for offshore oil in ANWR.

The push-pull exists in other areas. One benefit of having 50 states with different laws is that ideas can be tested in one, and then adopted and modified by others, and some can then become federalized.

Because Governor Linda Lingle’s Attorney General had a greater understanding of federal law than state law, he sought to re-write state law to resemble federal law, including undermining the state’s greater protections in the area of privacy and governmental intrusion.

Should the U.S. have one set of economic laws which allows for greater efficiency for businesses, or should businesses face 50 or more different set of laws? Should no state be allowed to pass a bottle bill until it passes at the national level, or should the idea be allowed to germinate in one state and gradually spread across the nation?

The push-pull exists in state energy policy. Should each building be a Smart Building where ratepayers are able to see how much each room and each appliance is costing? Fifteen years ago the University of Hawai`i at Manoa had just one meter for the entire campus. The UH Manoa cost of electricity  exceeded $20M in one year. The campus in general, and Sustainable Saunders in particular, began measuring the flows in different buildings and within buildings. They were able to determine where the major leakages were occurring and how to reduce the energy bill.

An alternative approach is Dumb Buildings / Smart Meters where the utility installs meters/computers at every ratepayer’s establishment, and sends information back to the utility via cable, microwave, radio wave or broadband to a Mainframe Computer at HECO’s Ward Avenue center. Initially the utility will monitor data every 5 minutes, but in a few years will be able to get instantaneous data from everyone, in effect, knowing when you turn on or off any appliance or switch, and be able to tell from the shift in power load, which switch or appliance was used. Big Brother the Vertically Integrated Utility.

World trade and the Industrial Revolution has created economic prosperity. Trade increases the size of the economic pie, but does not determine the distribution of the pie.  It does not lead to  the end of poverty, rather it has lead to an increase in the number of people at the economic insufficiency end of the spectrum. The Industrial Revolution began in 1750. The number of people in the world today who subsist on less than $1/day is greater then the entire world’s population in 1750.

Governmental expenditures are used to create sets of winners and groups of losers via opportunity cost.

Opportunity cost means using a given piece of the tax pie to support a specific project either because one supports that project or one wants to dry up the pie so that funds can not be used for other projects.

By simultaneously offering tax breaks for the rich and spending trillions of dollars for war, there is a lack of money for quality of life issues and the social safety net. Money for jobs, housing, education and drug treatment disappears.  

In November the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) comes to town. Their message is that what is good for multi-national corporations is good for their people.

They will be greeted by people who believe that corporations are not people. There will be peaceful demonstrations and educational forums  stressing that different forms of globalization, based on community values, are not only possible, but desirable and achievable.

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the aloha spirit is not a trade barrier. but its shadowy cousin, the plantation mentality is. hawai'i was an international model in the 1930s for the benefits of a planned economy. scholars from around the world came to hawai'i to study how the people 'prospered' under a planned economy. but you see, for most of those who lived in it, it really depended on who was doing the planning. and the shift of a few republican japanese legislators in the 1950s to becoming democrats and statehood, didn't remove the plantation mentality, it just changed who the planners were. that is the problem that holds hawai'i back the most to economic progress and the eradication of poverty. there is an aloha spirit which is real and material, and for others, it is a way to disguise this insidious form of control, which has failed to provide a sustainable way of life to the people of hawai'i and has failed to alleviate poverty.

Solution: Allow state owned land to be built upon, lived in, but not owned, and for free. Tenants could produce food for their own consumption and for trade but will be barred from selling the food off island until the domestic produce is abundant enough to sustain the entire island in the event of a prolonged major disaster. The rent would be free monetarily but would come at the specific performance requirement to produce organic food for domestic farmers markets. After the domestic food supply was 100%+ additional land could be utilized for other purposes of an industrial nature for export, but keeping in mind that the island has finite resources so when ever possible resources from outside will be used for exports, many such raw materials are in abundance in landfills across the state and should be mined separated and refined for domestic and export use. If Hawaii became more energy self sufficient we would save 7 billion dollars annually from leaving the economy, that money could and should be spent domestically on island and be allowed to circulate with competitive tax incentives for the middle class worker to buy from local producers. Not all Free trade is good, because it comes at the expense of reduced capability and dependence. At one time Hawaii made all its own energy fuel and food today we are more dependent than ever, that is a mistake which we may never recover from unless we act on it quickly and efficiently.

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