A Practical Guide to Hawaiian Secession

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

The BBC reports this week that a secession movement in Hawaii continues to simmer under the surface:

An upcoming election has highlighted the deep disagreement between native Hawaiians over what the future should look like. For some, it's formal recognition of their community and a changed relationship within the US. Others want to leave the US entirely - or more accurately, want the US to leave Hawai'i.

Much of the antipathy to DC stems from the grievances of the indigenous population which is quite familiar of how wealthy white ranchers in the late 19th century overthrew the legitimate government of Hawaii and formed  a pro-US puppet government in its stead. Eventually, annexation followed.

Nevertheless, the fact that some Hawaiians want independence does not mean that most do. While it's true that whites are only 25 percent of the Hawaiian population, it's also true that indigenous Hawaiians and other pacific islander groups only comprise ten percent of Hawaii's population. The largest demographic group in Hawaii is Asian-Americans, who make up 38 percent of the population (not including people of mixed parentage.)

If the secessionists are ever to sell secession to the overall population, they would have to offer something more practical than solidarity with the indigenous population or appeals to local patriotism.

Potentially, the costs of secession could be high if the US decided to regard the Hawaiian government as a hostile regime (thus bringing economic sanctions), and of course, spending by the US government in Hawaii — funded by mainland taxpayers — is extensive.

Practically speaking, however, there is a lot of real estate between the current status quo for Hawaii and full-blown independence. It is unlikely that Hawaii would fully remove the US from the islands any time soon, no matter how unpopular the regime in DC became. It is likely that Washington would resort to military action before it would be willing to give up its military installations in and around Pearl Harbor. Look, for example, at how the US has held onto Guantanamo Bay, even when Cuba became aligned militarily with the Soviet Union.

However, there is no reason that that Hawaii could not reach a compromise with the US in which Hawaii obtains domestic autonomy while remaining a military ally and resource for the US. The world is full of such arrangement, and many countries have relationships with regions (many of which are islands and overseas territories) that use their own currency and have their own systems of government while remaining part of a larger political body.

It does not follow logically, of course, that Hawaii, even if it were to allow a US military presence, would have to use US currency or submit to US regulations of trade.

In fact, freedom from federally imposed restrictions on trade would be among the greatest benefits for Hawaiians in the case of independence. As Gary Galles noted here in Mises Daily, Hawaii, as part of the US's domestic market, is heavily restricted by the Jones Act. The Jones Act restricts the nature and extent of shipping that can take place in and out of American ports. Galles writes: 

Jones Act costs are made clearest in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska, where it most severely limits supply lines.


In 2014, shipping a forty-foot container from Los Angeles to Honolulu reportedly cost more than ten times shipping it to Singapore. Dependent on Jones Act shipped petroleum for three-quarters of its electricity generation, Hawaii’s electricity prices are almost double the next most expensive state.


A 2012 report found that sending a container of household goods from the east coast to Puerto Rico cost more than double that to nearby Santo Domingo. A GAO study found that some Puerto Rico companies had shifted sourcing from America to Canada, due to cost savings from escaping Jones Act restrictions.


Alaska is restricted from shipping oil by tanker to the lower forty-eight states or to Hawaii, due to Jones Act restrictions. The costs are so extensive that the state’s governor is mandated to use “all appropriate means to persuade the United States Congress to repeal those provisions of the Jones Act.”

(International trade is restricted by the Jones Act as well, although not in the same way as domestic shipping.)

Thanks in part to trade restrictions such as these, the cost of living in Hawaii is notoriously high. For example, in nominal terms, Hawaii has a rather high median income at $59,000.  (The US median is $58,000.) But when adjusted for cost of living, the median income in Hawaii plummets to $50,900.  This disparity is the nation's largest, although, New Jersey comes in just slightly behind Hawaii in this measure:


We can't blame all of this on federal law, of course, as Hawaii is a long way from other major shipping ports, but the fact remains that the Jones Act severely limits what can be shipped from the US mainland, and by whom, while international trade further is controlled by a Congress where only four people out of 535 are from Hawaii.

Thus, economic freedom for Hawaii would allow Hawaiians greater power to control tariffs and trade in a manner that benefited Hawaii rather than special interests far away on the mainland. (Naturally, I prefer unilateral free trade in this regard.) This isn't to say that some Hawaiians never benefit from US trade restrictions. International trade restrictions on sugar are a famous example. But for every pro-Hawaii government regulation, there are countless others that benefit far away interests much more.

The US cannot be faulted for all of Hawaii's inability to take advantage of its geographical advantages. As just one example, we might note that a majority of Hawaiians have long refused to allow gambling on the islands, even though such a move could turn the islands, or a subregion of them, into a Monaco of the Pacific where wealthy Asians and Americans would leave behind thousands of dollars in gambling losses with every trip. 

The biggest obstacle to successful secession for the time being, however, is not ideological. As long as the federal money keeps coming in the form of social security checks, welfare checks, and military spending, its unlikely many will want to kill that golden goose. If those checks ever start bouncing, however, and if the feds start to scale back the fiat-money and taxpayer funded largesse, things will start to look very different.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
E.F. Mutton's picture

Racists.  Haters.  Cracker-o-phobes.

Perimetr's picture

Any serious attempts at secession and you can expect chemical plants to start blowing up near where the opposition leaders live (if they are still alive).

pemdas's picture

Hawaii, wake up. Don't do it. South Carolina already tried.

MalteseFalcon's picture

A pleasant daydream.  Any actual attempt at secession would last less than a day.  The native population would face punishment up to and including genocide.

If Europe can be snuffed out, what do you think would happen to Hawaii?

Stuck on Zero's picture

Would Hawaii return to interisland bloodshed and wars?  Would it returned to a caste system like before?  Would it be ruled by kings?  Would the mafia move in and turn it into another Atlantic City?   ...  Stay tuned for another exiciting episode of "The Empire Strikes Out."


daveO's picture

The mafia, no doubt. Steve and Dano woun't stand a chance.


lincolnsteffens's picture

Many Tahitians feel the same way about the French government. Some feel tribalism lays just under the surface and powerful families would vie for supremacy.

So what else is new. Tribalism vs. Nationalism is just a question of size.

Theosebes Goodfellow's picture

~"Tribalism vs. Nationalism is just a question of size."~

"The difference between anesthesia and euthanasia is simply a matter of degree." ~ Theosebes Goodfellow

Slomotrainwreck's picture

Wont be long before we are putting velcro stars on the flag.

BlindMonkey's picture


California succession"


Fake website.  The tell?  It is in English.

Macon Richardson's picture

Yeah, but the word "secession" is misspelled. Must be redneck okies.

August's picture

I predict... people will be living on the moon by the year 2000.

Richard Chesler's picture

Obongo the King POTUS negro was supposudely born in Hawaii.

I have a nice bridge in Manhattan i'd like to sell. Please contact me if you're interested.



darteaus's picture

Coconut - Brown on the outside...

ebworthen's picture

I would suggest native Hawaiians and others there start learning Chinese.

divingengineer's picture

We give those ingrates Ice, and this is how the repay us?

Nolde Huruska's picture

Please take Puerto Rico with you when you go.

cougar_w's picture

And Texas. Please. Grant them their wish and shut them up.

Okienomics's picture

Y'all ain't got nothin we'd want anyway.  God Bless Texas.

Slave's picture



Thanks for outing yourself, some of us knew for years.

A) You want to stay with the US.

B) You didn't think of California first.

KJWqonfo7's picture

First I thought I would respond with something pithy like "fuck you". Then I thought that's a good idea. We would love to be on our own again and free of the left coast.

Now I'm just sad. Cause I realized the fence we would have to build to keep the Mexicans and the Kalifornians out would be too hard to maintain without help from our hard working latin brothers.

So. I'm back to fuck you.

techpriest's picture

If Texas is so bad why are so many people (like myself) moving there? My folks left the Northeast for the South for a reason: cultural advancement and backwardness don't go in the direction you think they go.

Hugh G. Rection's picture

Hawaii's not leaving the union. Scaremongering article. Jones act should be repealed, a jug of milk is $5.99 at Safeway. Avocadoes, $2.49 each (WTF they grow them here!) I live on a diet of brown rice and ketchup packets, it's all I can afford.

Philo Beddoe's picture

How much for a Don Ho greatest hits cd? 

ShakaZulu's picture

ketchup packets are free in How high we?

daveO's picture

I once saw a bum get a cup of hot water and ketchup packets for free at McDonald's. 

Abbie Normal's picture

Everybody local knows that only tourists and (former & future) mainlanders shop at Safeway.  And anybody that drinks Tropicana OJ at $9 a jug instead of POG at $3 deserves to be ripped off.  The Southpark episode about Butters finding his fake Hawaiian roots says it all.

Serenity Now's picture

Everybody that lives here knows that you have to shop EVERYWHERE.  Big Save won't have the turkey you like for sandwiches, so you have to go to Safeway.  Foodland has the good toilet paper.  Costco has whatever they have, which often changes.  Walmart will be out of whatever you are looking for, so at least you can count on that.  And certain items will disappear from every store for weeks/months at a time.  Supply and demand means nothing in Hawaii.

I'm talking about Kauai.  Oahu is better, but not by much.  

detached.amusement's picture

 I was there a few years ago and it gave me flackbacks of being in juneau as a kid and being astonished at seeing a box of ceral be 5 bucks....in 1988

Serenity Now's picture

You found a jug of milk for $5.99???  Must have been a quart, not a gallon jug.  I don't eat avocados, but they grow in my neighborhood.  I do grow my own bananas in my backyard.  I hope you are joking about your rice and ketchup diet.  

Stormtrooper's picture

Perhaps the upcoming Convention of States can help Hawaii in their quest.  One of my proposals for Constitutional amendments is to boot bankrupt welfare states such as California, New York and Illinois from the union and to dump other states (and territories) that are not part of the continental US.  We just need to convince 38 states to ratify and Hawaii is on its own.

cougar_w's picture

Yeah please kick out the richest states in the Union. But before you do that you might want to look up "transfer union" and see if that changes your mind at all.

tyberious's picture

Its call the Kingdom of Hawaii! Annexation was illegal, Statehood was a farce, 70% voted against it and Billy boy apologized for it!

Far flung nations will succeed from the "Empire"!! There is no Union in Occupation! Real your sad history.

TrustbutVerify's picture

They need to watch for the Chinese ships on the horizon.  What an astounding mistake Hawaiian sucession would be.  

WassamattaU's picture

Yep.  In such a case, we should call Hawaii the East Spratly Islands.

The Dogs of Moar's picture

I'll bet this has something to do with Obozo moving there after he's finally out of office.

tyberious's picture

There are thousands of islands that make up several countries in Oceania: Micronesia, Polynesian and Melanesia. China has not invaded as single one, and they are all doing fine without US bases!

Mine Is Bigger's picture

It's only a matter of time. Besides, the Chinese already control the economies of many of those islands.

BarkingCat's picture

Check up on them and you will discover that majority or maybe even all are protectorates of US or one of the former colonial powers.

Kirk2NCC1701's picture

As long as the USG has a Fortress in its Territories, you can forget about 'Freedom'.

It was the same with Rome.  Their frontiers and finances had to be too stretched, before the End came.  And that took much longer than Arena Christians hoped & prayed for.  Clearly their new 'Guy In The Sky' wasn't listening either.

We are not there yet, in spite of libertarian/Libertarian or Doomer prognostications and wet dreams.  There may be far more miles left on the tires than many here suspect or claim.  

Just being a realist, not a dreamer.  While it's great and healthy to have Dreams & Hopes, it is decidedly unhealthy to become their Addict.

logicalman's picture

Rome took a long time to fall, or at least for people to realise it had fallen, given the low speed travel of information.

Things have changed quite a bit in the speed at which information travels since Roman times.

I think that once a critical point is past, the fall will be faster than most are ready for.


daveO's picture

Electronics guarantee it.

BarkingCat's picture

Being stretched far and wide is not what brings down an empire.
It's when you reached the point where there is nothing left you can pillage or the cost of it exceeds the bounty.
Even then everything will be fine unless the rot of corruption starts eating it from the inside.
Once the rule of just law is gone and there is nothing but corruption that is when the collapse begins.
We are there. Corzine, TARP and all the QE proves it.
Hell, Turbo Tax Timmy becoming the Treasury Secretaryalso is a good indicator as is the Louis Learner fiasco.