About the Author

Naka Nathaniel

Naka Nathaniel is an Editor At Large for Civil Beat. You can reach him at nnathaniel@civilbeat.org.


But there’s one thing the rich can’t buy here — a sense of belonging.

We care about fairness in Hawaii. Inequality clearly bothers most of us. 

Last week, I wrote about how not to be a billionaire in Hawaii. There was a significant response to the topic and I want to continue the conversation. 

We are rightly concerned about inequality here in Hawaii. We live in a small space and if one or some of us occupy a lot of space, it throws off the delicate balance of our island home.

If someone arrives with sharp elbows they can swing them unwittingly (or wittingly) and claim a lot of space at the expense of the people and culture that cultivated this special space.

Readers left many insightful comments and I’d like to highlight a few and address what was raised. 

A number of people expressed the “don’t hate the player, hate the game” sentiment. 

“We have given total power to the market which is eating local families alive,” wrote JM in the comments. “I don’t blame Mark (Zuckerberg and) Jeff (Bezos) personally but I do blame the economic machine that allows savage inequalities to exist without challenge.”

As I’ve written in the past, I like to have my notions questioned and Whatarewedoing was among those offering the other side.

“Your post and other people you cite in your post seem to be loaded with envy and jealousy,” wrote Whatarewedoing. “The envy and jealousy cloud the article. Giving to charity is a nice thing to do, but it is not mandatory or obligated.”

And pizza_mike asked if the fuss was warranted.

“What specifically is Mark Zuckerberg doing to harm Hawaii? Other than taking up space,” wrote pizza_mike. “On the topic of Jeff Bezos; 15 million dollars is a lot of money. That’s money that has helped a lot of people. Could it be possible that he is doling out his money strategically to prevent waste and fraud? Maybe he feels the best way to use his money is to help wildfire victims in the actual rebuilding process. A process that will no doubt face many bureaucratic hurdles.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the Commerce and Judiciary Committees on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 10, 2018, about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Readers debated the charity of billionaires in Hawaii, including the millions of dollars property owners like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his family have donated. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The question of charitable giving was set to the side in this exchange between Tavares and TannedTom.

“How much tax revenue do Zuckerberg, Bezos and Ellison put into Hawaii’s coffers?” asked Tavares.

“Given that Hawaii has the lowest property tax rate in the country, not as much as they should,” responded TannedTom. 

TannedTom is right, Hawaii does have the nation’s lowest property tax rate (New Jersey is at the opposite end of the scale.)

A comment from Hoaloha was among the highest “respected” (or 👍).

“If California can ban non-compete clauses in contracts – one of the major reasons California is such an innovation hub – Hawaii can ban non-disclosure agreements,” wrote Hoaloha.

While I think eliminating NDAs is a good thing, California didn’t quite go that far with legislation passed in 2021. California prevents companies from forcing employees to sign NDAs that involve discrimination, harassment and retaliation. Otherwise, NDAs still very much exist in California. 

I’ve been a part, or overheard, too many conversations here in Hawaii, where people have complained about the difficulty of finding “good help.”

The sad thing is that they’ve priced out the “good help” and that the “good help” is living in Las Vegas or Washington State because of the cost of living driven sharply upwards by housing prices and the cost of living in Hawaii.

“My theory is that Hawaii in the future will be made up of only two social classes, the haves, and the have nots,” wrote kalissak. “There will be poor working people and the ultra rich whom they serve.”

I appreciated when commenters delved into the complexity and nuance.

“This is a hard topic, and I have mixed feelings,” wrote Fiona. “I have become cynical about humans being able to care for their natural environment and, sometimes, themselves. So if billionaires can be good stewards of their land, keep the water clean, native species alive, and leave space open from encroaching humans, then maybe it’s a good thing.”

Keoni808 wrote to a fundamental desire that’s hard for money to buy. The desire to belong.

“The ultra wealthy are outsiders that may want to be kama’aina,” wrote Keoni808. “Since they have the kala to buy what they want, where they want, and when they want. They are here in Hawaii nei. Why? Because they can afford it.”


Read this next:

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About the Author

Naka Nathaniel

Naka Nathaniel is an Editor At Large for Civil Beat. You can reach him at nnathaniel@civilbeat.org.


Latest Comments (0)

While there are lots of things we apparently don't like about the rich, or wish they didn't do, or just reasons to shun them... but I'd like to hear more examples of what they might do, and not what they shouldn't.I had an example, but prefer to hear others' suggestions.

Kamanulai · 2 weeks ago

It’s true that Island life requires a different way of living. Resources are limited and so is space. When a person wants a large space to live it monopolizes land and resources. . On a smaller scale this is true in the proliferation of huge tank sized trucks and vehicles on the road -monopolizing space and resources.Island lifestyle should include a lower carbon footprint ,and a respect for each other in daily living

Swimmerjean · 2 weeks ago

I am Hawaii born and raised but moved with my two kids to Washington state in 1994 when I was in my 30s. I was a single parent who wanted to own a home and create generational wealth for my children and grandchildren. My house is not fancy but I have achieved that goal as the home's value has increased exponentially. I wanted better public schools for my kids. I definitely found that here. Hawaii's public schools are not up to par. Even in 1994 Hawaii was becoming a place with only the haves and the have nots. Ineffective, selfish and often corrupt leaders who do not protect Hawaii's people are another reason why I left. It felt hopeless. It is sad to know that 30 years later these reasons continue to drive kamaaina away and these same problems just seem to have gotten much worse. It is important to listen to new and innovative voices who understand the islands but want change. There are so many great leaders within the Native Hawaiian community who have a different understanding of how to live and some great and thoughtful solutions for us all. Are we listening to their wisdom or are we content with the status quo?

LN77 · 2 weeks ago

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