To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, April 3, 1999

A unlikely fairy tale

ONCE upon a time there was a beautiful, exotic island with the best weather in the world, friendly people from many lands and an economy built on self-sufficiency, year-round agriculture and a little tourism.

Word of the island's beauty got around, first in print and then through movies, radio and TV. When long-distance, inexpensive jet travel arrived, visitors thronged to the island and its hotel and travel industries took off.

Many visitors decided to stay and construction boomed. New offices, houses and apartment buildings sprouted. Times were good. Money practically washed up on the beaches. Real estate prices and hotel occupancy soared.

There was plenty of revenue for fat labor contracts. Unemployment dropped to 2 percent and jobs paying twice the minimum wage went begging. The island work ethic, never world-class, slipped a notch. Tax-glutted government, staffed and backed by unions, became the biggest employer.

Forget competition and efficiency. Businesses hired whoever would work, whether they could read or not. Teachers had no worries -- there were jobs for everybody. Every year brought more. Every year it was better. There was almost too much -- too much traffic, too many people, too much money and too much fun.

In fact, land became too expensive to farm and agriculture dwindled. Big mainland and multi-national corporations bought out self-sufficient local companies. Branch managers replaced CEOs; jobs were cut; unemployment grew. New competitors offered prices, selection and services island businesses couldn't match and they began to wither.

It couldn't last. Off-island investment dried up. House and land prices dropped, equity evaporated (but not mortgage payments). Fewer planes landed and the hotels weren't full. Stores closed, bankruptcies surged. Smart island kids went away to school and never came back. Government and labor hunkered down in denial.

Then ''Bodywatch,'' a TV show about lifeguards, came to the island and they lived happily ever after.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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