Ask SmallBiz: The good and bad for business in Hawaii

January, 2009

When Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … ” in 1859’s “A Tale of Two Cities,” he could have been talking about Hawaii today. On the one hand, we have significant policy challenges both locally and nationally, while, on the other, we enjoy a standard of living unparalleled in human history.

Whether the glass is half empty or half full, the consensus is that we’re at a crossroads. Let’s embrace change through an open and honest appraisal of what’s best and worst in our state today.

It is the best of times in that Hawaii’s economy is on the leading edge of a national trend away from agriculture and industry and toward services. These are precisely the fields in which small businesses are primed to flourish. So opportunities abound – but only under the right conditions.

Small businesses in the service economy require greater levels and varieties of education, and Hawaii’s one-size-fits-all school system — which provides fewer choices than any other state in the country — is not getting the job done.

It is the best of times because states across the country, faced with the economic downturn, are embracing the idea that taxpayers deserve to see how their money is being spent. It is the worst of times in that Hawaii has been slow to adopt that transparency, favoring instead to continue favoritism and old ways of doing business.

It is the worst of times because government has hindered freedom by infringing upon individual liberties, burdening industry with excessive regulations, and raising taxes on struggling families and businesses. But it is the best of times because the prosperity we experience in this country gives us greater personal choice than any society in history. Capitalism has succeeded despite government’s efforts to obstruct it.

The people of Hawaii need relief from high taxes, an inflexible education system and a government shrouded in secrecy. Moving forward, Hawaii’s lawmakers should support a vibrant small-business service economy by adopting policies that support a free, thriving market that enables greater prosperity and personal freedom.

By Tom McAuliffe – Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

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