Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series by participants in a free, public forum on Monday Feb. 28 at the University of Hawaii, bringing together authors from The Price of Paradise books from the 1990s and The Value of Hawaii collection of essays from last year. Learn more.

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The largest differences I see between 1992 and 2010 have to do with demographics, technological change, the structure of government programs and a more mature globalization:

1) Both locally and nationally, as we age there are fewer workers contributing to the economy and a growing percentage of older people, who make large demands on healthcare and pension programs.  We see increasing examples of how difficult it is to maintain effective taxation rates to support public service including education, healthcare etc.

2) Technology change is having staggering effects on education at all levels, especially when these institutions are unable to keep abreast of it. Nationally, proprietary for-profit, employment-focused education institutions are the fast growing segment of education. Many consequences ensue, but the cost of education keeps rising in part driven by technology, and at the higher education level governments support it less–students end up with massive loan obligations, and the payoff in “market-ready” skills is problematic.

3) As the national conversation makes clear, entitlement programs increasingly challenge government funding capacity–at the state level the situation is similar. In Hawai‘i we have fallen far behind on funding the EUTF, and Medicaid costs are rising at perhaps unprecedented rates in response to economic dislocation.

4) All of this takes place within a more “mature” globalization than we had in 1992 with significantly increased global interdependence at almost every level, from food, to climate, to tourism, to global order, etc.  I situate the great recession squarely within this nexus of forces and suggest that we have done virtually nothing to alter the structural conditions in the global economy that brought this economic catastrophe to Hawai‘i, the nation and the world.


About the author: Deane Neubauer is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He also currently serves as Senior Consultant to the International Forum for Education 2020 Program of the East-West Center, and as Senior Research Fellow for the Globalization Research Center, UHM. His research focus is on policy and globalization, with particular interests in health and educational policy.