Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Bronson Kaahui, a Libertarian candidate for state senator for District 6. Democrats Terez Amato and Rosalyn Baker and Republican Jared Dubois are also running.

District 6 covers south and west Maui.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Name:  Bronson Kaahui
Office: State Senate District 6
Party:  Libertarian
Profession:  Entrepreneur
Education:  B.A., History, Minor: Political Science, Coastal Carolina University.  Currently working on M.Div Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary
Age: 28
Community Organizations:  Olowalu Lanakila Hawaiian Church, Young Americans for Liberty, Iraq Veterans Against the War
Bronson Kaahui

Bronson Kaahui

1. Why are you running for the Hawaii Legislature?

I want to educate the public on the philosophy of liberty. Liberty is based upon the concept of self-ownership, the idea that you own yourself and therefore have a right to use your body and the fruits of your labor in any way that you see fit so long as you are not demonstrably harming others. It is the principle upon which the nation was founded, and the ideological source of all of our civil liberties contained in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Today, it seems like our society has given up on the idea of liberty, and we have surrendered our rights to the government in the name of security or safety. We’ve adopted the idea that the government has a right to legislate morality and tell other people how to live their lives.

I do not want to run your life, I do not want to “lead” you, and I do not want to make decisions on your behalf.  I want you to be your own leader, I want you to lead your family and your communities, and I want the government to simply get out of your way. I’m not qualified to make economic decisions on your behalf, and neither is any politician or government bureaucrat. I want you to abandon this silly notion that has been spoon-fed to you by the public education system that we need to be lead around on a leash by wise and benevolent politicians and bureaucrats. You don’t need them to lead you. You are quite capable of leading yourself and making your own decisions in life. You were endowed with a rational mind and the ability to reason, use it!

2. Are you satisfied with the current plans to pay for the state’s unfunded liabilities? If not, how would you propose to meet pension and health obligations for public workers?

The current pension scheme for state workers is completely unsustainable. We have a system where bureaucrats can “retire” and collect up to $100,000 per year for the rest of their lives, and if they die their spouses continue to collect until they die, and in the meantime they can simply go right back to work a year later after “retiring.” All of this is of course paid for by current and future generations, saddling them with debt and unfunded liabilities.

A simple solution would be to privatize the government. The town of Sandy Springs Georgia privatized almost every government service besides fire and police. The result is that they have zero unfunded liabilities and a substantial surplus every year, which they use to improve the city for future generations. For example, they have built 32 miles of new sidewalks and 874 storm water projects. When certain government services perform poorly, that company can be fired and the contract awarded to another bidder, creating competition for superior service at lower prices. With government monopolies, you have no competition and no economic incentive to improve services or reduce costs. Politicians like to lie to us and say “if you don’t like it you can vote and change it.” That is a lie, I vote and the service still sucks. I want to fire them for overcharging and under-performing. I want the best and brightest minds running the show, not the people who have simply been around for the longest and obtained seniority.

In the short term, we have to pay off the obligations we’ve already accumulated because these are promises we’ve made to retirees and they must be kept. In the long term, the system is unsustainable and needs to be overhauled so that we don’t continue the endless debt cycle for our keiki. The public pension system should be scrapped for all new hires because that is the only way to save the system. Or we could just continue on as planned, declare bankruptcy, and be forced to privatize. That solution is also fine with me since privatization provides superior service at lower costs, so I’ll let the people decide if they want to save the government system or if they want to be forced to privatize like Detroit.

3. Local officials and advocates have worked to address homelessness for years, yet the crisis is growing. What proposals do you have for this complicated issue?

My solution is simple: Get the government out of the way. The government is part of the problem, not the solution, to affordable housing. With 5 percent of land being zoned for commercial and residential use, 47 percent towards agriculture, and 48 percent towards conservation, it becomes clear that there is not a shortage of land, but of zoned land. On top of that, there are six layers of bureaucracy one must get through to develop land on Maui, a process that can take over a decade. This necessarily creates a shortage of housing which leads to homelessness and families leaving the island. We’ve even had situations where large private landowners wished to construct camps for people to live on, but the government stepped in because of complaining neighbors who scream “not in my backyard!” These people vote and donate money to political campaigns, but homeless people do not, so their voice is irrelevant to politicians.

Furthermore, the free market has a solution to affordable housing; they are called mobile homes. But the government has banned that solution, reasoning that they don’t want to see mobile homes. Apparently, they would rather look at shopping carts and homeless people. Similar busybodies dominate California’s government, where they decided they don’t want their state to look like New York with high rise buildings. Instead, they got urban sprawl, massive traffic congestion, and pollution with every square inch covered by roads and concrete. When busybodies make decisions, there are always economic consequences. Governments cannot overcome economic laws any more than they can overcome the laws of physics. You don’t have to agree with facts in order for them to affect you. We can have mobile homes or we can have homelessness, and the government chooses homelessness.

The free market has now come up with a revolutionary technology that allows us to rapidly construct cheap homes from hempcrete using 3D printers, but the government has banned hemp for idiotic reasons. In each every case we see that government creates a problem, then people run to the government to fix the problem that they created in the first place. Government is not the solution, entrepreneurs and technology are.

4. Where do you stand on labeling genetically engineered food and pesticide regulation? Are these public safety issues, or are the dangers exaggerated?

There are so many lies and deceptions coming from both sides of the argument that it is difficult to ascertain fact from fiction when it comes to GMOs. On one side you have people repeating discredited studies like the Seralini Affair and exaggerated claims that are not substantiated by the evidence and scientific scrutiny. On the other hand, you have companies like Monsanto that refuse to allow scientists to test freely or publish results which contradict the majority view, restricting access to their seeds and making researchers sign restrictive agreements.

Originally, I signed the GMO ballot initiative and participated in the March Against Monsanto. I’ve been buying organic for about three years now so I wanted to justify my actions as being based on science. I read a lot of the literature being passed out at the time and being naturally skeptical, I decided to verify some of the claims. What I found was disheartening, a great number of claims were either outright fabricated, based on half-truths, or thoroughly discredited studies. The movement it seems is based almost purely on emotion, and I saw that firsthand when I attempted to film the crowds that had gathered. When I started asking questions, people got defensive and asked if I worked for Monsanto, as if that were relevant (I do not, of course). I could be the CEO of Syngenta and it wouldn’t make a difference to the questions that I was asking. I simply asked “what are the dangers of GMOs?” You would think that people who feel so strongly and so passionate about an issue would be glad to share with me their reasons for opposing GMOs, but that is not what happened. If anybody asked me a question about liberty I would be happy to answer any and all questions. I’m knowledgeable on the issue, I’ve done the research, and I think that should be expected of anyone who feels strongly about any subject. I am capable of having a rational discussion on liberty because I didn’t arrive to this philosophy from emotion, but through reason. With GMOs, it seems like a rational discussion is simply not possible. There is too much emotion and shouting, and not enough listening. Emotional people are not open-minded and therefore are not using their reason.

What I have also found is that many of the claims made by GMO proponents are also not substantiated by the evidence.  They claim that GMOs use less pesticides and herbicides, but what we are finding is that this is also leading to “superweeds” and “superbugs” which require even more herbicides and pesticides to kill. This is great news if you are in the business of selling herbicides, but not so great for everyone else. If Monsanto can reap profits from government patents, then they should also be held liable for any damages that result from their products, even if it is unknown or unintentional. Biotech funds 3/4ths of all scientific studies on GMOs, and has a policy where unfavorably results are highly discouraged from being published. A simple solution to this problem is for the USDA/FDA not to grant approval for GM crops until they fully release their seeds and crops to the scientific community with unfettered access for legitimate scientific studies and research. The problem is that corporations control the government, including both the USDA and FDA. Politicians like President Obama routinely appoint Monsanto executives and lobbyists to top positions in these agencies, making any real or meaningful change practically impossible.

First, I would like to destroy the package-deal fallacy that dominates this discussion. People imply that if Monsanto has bad business practices, that must mean GMOs are not safe, but that is not necessarily true. It could be that Monsanto is an evil corporation but GMOs are still safe. Or it could be that Monsanto is a great company and GMOs are not safe. Or both, or neither. One claim does not depend on the other, they should all be analyzed independently and the discussion kept separate. Maybe GMOs are safe but the herbicides and pesticides are not. Maybe Roundup is safe but GMOs are not. Maybe Roundup is more dangerous than “organic” pesticides and herbicides, or maybe the “organic” ones are more dangerous. What I’m saying is that the issue is complex and anybody trying to say it is all or nothing is being disingenuous.

Another thing I would like to address is that the science of genetic modification has unlimited potential. Imagine instead of creating crops that are resistant to herbicides, we created weeds that you could eat instead. Or mosquitoes that don’t like humans. Or centipedes that can eat other centipedes but can’t pierce human skin. Imagine creating a bacteria that is able to heal wounds rapidly or fight off bad bacteria, or fight plaque and bad breath. The possibilities are endless, and I am disappointed that the science of genetic modification has been so focused on creating plants that can survive harmful chemicals. We could do so much more with this technology than the way it is currently being used. Genetic modification is the future, but we must be careful to find the proper balance so that we don’t accidentally cause a bigger problem than the one we are trying to fix. This technology is still in its infancy, but with time I think we can use the tools of science to improve human life as we have throughout our history.

5. Hawaii’s cost of living is the highest in the country by many indicators. What can really be done to make things like housing, food and transportation less expensive?

Repeal the Jones Act immediately. Some have estimated that the Jones Act is directly responsible for at least one-third of all costs in Hawaii. This ridiculous piece of legislation was written in 1920 and was based on mercantilism, an economic theory that was refuted centuries ago. The result is that we have much less ships and shipyards to work with, and it is a significant barrier to trade.

Just looking at any world map shows us that Hawaii is uniquely situated between the world’s two largest economies, America and China. Geographically speaking, we should be the center of world trade, but government regulations prevent us from claiming our natural rights to economic freedom. Hawaii could import goods cheaper and more efficiently, and we could then load those ships with exports of our own, if we simply had more ships coming to Hawaii in the first place. One can simply compare Singapore to Hawaii to get an idea of how insignificant our shipping industry has become thanks to the government. The problem is that due to the Jones Act, we can only use American-owned ships, built in America, with an American captain, crewed primarily by Americans. This is great news if you happen to work for a company like Matson which controls all the trade and keeps their competitors out, but bad news for everybody else because America doesn’t really build ships anymore and they build them at five times the price of other countries. The end result is an aging fleet with hardly any new ships being built. A classic case of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. The benefits are union jobs and union votes and corporate profits.  The costs are a 33 percent increase in the cost of living for everyone else.

The main difficulty is convincing somebody whose livelihood, career, and families depend on everyone else suffering. I ran into this same problem trying to convince friends and colleagues in the military that what we are doing is wrong and must be stopped. These are jobs we are talking about, and people are under the impression that they are entitled to work at a certain job for their entire lives even if it means banning other people from getting jobs that would exist if the government weren’t protecting their industry. How do you convince somebody whose job depends on other people not having jobs to vote against the regulation which protects their job? It is a conundrum. The only real solution is to get everyone to realize that the Jones Act harms everybody, including the statistically small number of people who benefit. In the end, we may have to choose between the people and the shipping companies who don’t want competition. It’s like if I were to say, “this company is dumping toxic waste into the ocean every day, and government regulations prevent us from suing them, but think about all the jobs that depend on this company! Thousands of employees would lose their job if we lifted the protectionist regulation and stopped them from polluting,” most people would not buy that argument. The same logic applies. It is hurting everyone and it needs to stop.

6. Would you support using liquified natural gas as part of the state’s energy sources? And how can we improve the electrical distribution system so more renewable energy can be utilized to bring costs down?

I support all forms of alternative energy and I would immediately remove harmful regulations which discourage them. All government created monopolies like HECO and MECO would be immediately broken up or privatized. Economic protectionism protects monopolies at the expense of everyone else, and this is yet another example of concentrated benefits and dispersed costs. Decentralization is the name of the game. Power needs to go back into the hands of the people and not the government and their cronies.

7. Hawaii’s public records law mandates that public records be made available whenever possible. Yet many citizens are unable to afford the costs that state and local government agencies impose. Would you support eliminating search and redaction charges and making records free to the  public except for basic copying costs?

Even better, all information should be publicly available on the internet. We have this powerful technology that brings information to our fingertips, and we need to use it. Furthermore, any and all legislative hearings need to be broadcast live on the internet, and I would take it even one step further and say that politicians should have to surrender their 5th amendment rights upon taking office on any matter related to the public (their personal lives are not subject to this requirement, only their public dealings). They should be compelled to tell the truth no matter what, when you are a politician you give up your right to lie or remain silent on things that affect other people. This is no different than how people surrender certain rights when joining the military, think of it as a contract. Politicians should be forced to sign a contract waiving their 5th amendment rights in all of their public dealings. I’m tired of watching congressional testimonies where government officials invoke their 5th amendment rights and refuse to answer questions. Working for the government is a choice, and it comes with stipulations. One of the main ones is that you must answer to the public, unlike private individuals who are free to speak and associate with whomever they wish.

8. Are you satisfied with the way Hawaii’s public school system is run? How can it be run better?

I am completely disappointed in our pathetic excuse for “education” in this country and in our state. We have to recognize the difference between schooling and education. Education is a life-long endeavor, it is about learning and usually requires a desire or interest in learning. Schooling on the other hand is about teaching obedience and conformity. Students are taught what to think, not how to think. It is no wonder that students often graduate without being able to recognize a valid argument or the ability to reason and think critically. Instead, they are taught to rely on their emotions or the popular opinion of their peers and teachers. The two most useful things one could possibly learn in school are the ability to read and the ability to reason. Schools generally do a good job at the first one, but categorically fail at the second. The evidence is quite clear when you look at how prevalent logical and argumentative fallacies are in our society. Students aren’t able to recognize a valid argument from an invalid one because they were never taught to. Instead, schools promote this idea that all points of view are equally valid, unless of course they contradict political orthodoxy and the acceptable range of opinion. But even an 8-year-old could refute this position if he or she were taught how to think logically. He might ask “if all opinions are equal, then we should equally accept racism, sexism, and robbery.” That is a logical conclusion that follows from the premise that all opinions are equal. And it is absurd. So rather than teaching students what to think, we should teach them how to think, critically, logically, and rationally. Use your reason!

On a policy level, we need to decentralize education, get government out of the classrooms, and let teachers teach. There should be much greater autonomy and local control over schools than the current scheme. Honolulu does not know what is best for Kihei or Lahaina and Wailuku does not know what is best for Molokai.

9. There is a desire to grow the economy through new development, yet also a need to protect our limited environmental resources. How would you balance these competing interests?

Privatization. Kamehameha schools has done a much better job at preserving our natural beauty than the government ever could. Government control over resources leads to the tragedy of the commons. When property is communally owned then people take less of a personal interest in maintaining the property. You are more likely to trash or pollute or destroy someone else’s property than your own, especially if there are little to no consequences. And because nobody can claim ownership, there is little incentive for private individuals to enforce rules if they even exist. One thing about privatization people don’t understand is that if you had to pay to use a park, how is that any different than if it were forcibly extracted from your paycheck against your will, even if you don’t use it? You will end up paying more in taxes anyways because most government programs are greater than 50% waste, making it very costly. If you want to pay less with better service, privatization is the way to go. If you want crappy service that costs more, go with government.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

Marijuana needs to be legalized immediately. Absolutely everyone who supports the marijuana prohibition falls into at least one of three categories, and there are zero exceptions to this rule.  Some people may even fall into more than one category.

• The first category of people are the uninformed, and they make up the vast majority of prohibitionists. These people are unaware of the fact that marijuana prohibition has produced zero accomplishments to date, and has in fact only increased marijuana use among both adults and teenagers, along with crime in general. They are unaware of the fact that alcohol is significantly more dangerous than marijuana and that legalizing marijuana actually reduces traffic fatalities because people tend to drink less. These people are victims of 70 years of propaganda and lies, and tend to be older and less able to effectively use the internet to conduct research and gather information.

• The second category is the unreasonable/unintelligent. These are the people who, even after being confronted with the facts, still support the prohibition. They tend to repeat thoroughly debunked, invalid arguments that either don’t make sense or have been refuted by science. They are largely irrational, and generally have some kind of emotional reason for clinging to their views. Most simply are not willing to cope with the fact that something they have believed in all of their lives was a lie. Others are just plain unreasonable, saying that even though the marijuana prohibition is useless and counterproductive, they still support it because they “don’t like potheads.”  Even if they concede the fact that marijuana prohibition does not reduce the number of potheads, or that legalizing does not increase the number of potheads, they still support prohibition, because they are not thinking logically in the first place. In fact, it is questionable whether these people are thinking at all. They completely lack the ability to separate “I don’t want my kids to smoke weed” from “does this policy increase the chances of my kid smoking weed?” Simple logic for simple minds. If you ban it, they reason, there will be less of it, even though the evidence demonstrates otherwise. But once again, they don’t care about the evidence, because they are unreasonable people. Many church groups fall into this category.

• The final category is definitely the smallest, and there seems to be some overlap between the 2nd and 3rd category. These are the people who personally benefit from the prohibition, usually through employment or some other financial gain. We’re talking about police officers, politicians, bureaucrats, prisons, pharmaceutical companies, big tobacco and big alcohol (the main sponsors behind the prohibition), and related industries. Many of these people, though not all of them, are probably aware of the facts concerning prohibition but are unable to speak publicly due to the nature of their profession. This is how we have former drug czars fighting the marijuana crusade but as soon as they leave office come out and admit that the program is totally useless and that cannabis should be legalized. Sometimes the personal benefits can even affect a person’s ability to reason, to the point where some people start believing in the lies to avoid cognitive dissonance. Other times, it is these people’s irrationality which leads them to these professions in the first place. Somebody who hates potheads and then becomes a cop is extremely unlikely to change their view, even when confronted with the facts.

In over a decade of searching, I have not found even one single exception to this rule.  I am still searching by the way.  If you support cannabis prohibition and you don’t think you fall into one of these categories, please email me at bronsonkaahui@gmail.com.

Beyond that, the unconstitutional and illegal NSA domestic spying program needs to be stopped immediately. Because we can’t count on Congress to do the right thing and protect our civil liberties, the state must take action. Make it a crime for anyone in Hawaii to illegally spy on Americans without a warrant regardless of their employment or status as a resident. The water and power supply to their facilities needs to be cut off. Police should detain, question, and monitor NSA employees suspected of engaging in illegal spying activities. Furthermore, any local/state law enforcement agencies who are cooperating with this illegal program need to be prosecuted for illegally violating the civil liberties of American citizens. Also, outside private contracting agencies should be treated as criminal organizations or associates and prosecuted accordingly. Visit offnow.org for more information.

Also, the government should not be in the marriage business. Anybody can get married to anybody else for any reason they see fit and the government should have no say in the matter. This includes lesbians, bisexuals, transexuals, asexuals, polygamy, polyandry, and any other form of voluntary association between free individuals. When I say the government has no involvement, that means they can’t force churches to marry couples they don’t wish to marry, or force bakers to bake wedding cakes for couples that they don’t want to bake wedding cakes for. The government has no business in this affair whatsoever.

I would also like to issue an open challenge to any religious leaders anywhere in the state to a public debate on gay marriage. If they make the argument that being gay is a “worse” sin than for example adultery, disobeying your parents, blasphemy, or collecting firewood on the Sabbath, I would like to see biblical support for that position. I’m not aware of any ranking system of sin laid out in the Bible that shows gay sex as being one of the worst sins possible, but if there is I would like to know about it. I’ve read the Bible front to back three times in my life and I simply cannot find any biblical support for that position. Also, I would like to entertain any arguments about the “fabric of society” and the “sanctity of marriage” that will be harmed by gay marriage. These always tend to amuse me. You might be able to convince your simpleton congregations who believe everything you say, but I require a rational argument that is based on facts, not fabricated meaningless terms.