In recent years, especially with the debate over the Akaka Bill and native Hawaiian programs, there has been much discussion of “justice for Hawaiians” and suffering of the Hawaiian people at the hands of the government in 1893.
Have the Hawaiian people suffered injury or loss at the hands of the
U.S. government? I answer, “Yes.”
How does the principle of justice apply to the Hawaiian experience?
Governments have always conducted various forms of war against
the populace within their domains.
The present government divests us
of our property through taxation and inflation, tyrannizes us with
myriad regulations, penalizes us by declaring crimes where there are
no victims, and even claims a right to the lives of young men by a
military draft. Our injuries are truly great and our just claims
In what way is the case of the Hawaiian people unique? Simply this:
in 1893 and again in 1898, their ancestors exchanged the tyranny of
one government for the tyranny of another.
Let us not fool ourselves that the Hawaiian people, maka’ainana and
kauwa, were any less victimized by the ali’i than they are by the
American government of today. Under the ”’kapu”’ system all crimes were
crimes without victims and all punishment was death.
The ”’kapu”’ system was overthrown in the Hawaiian libertarian revolution
of 1819, but the domination of the commoners by the chiefs continued.
All land was claimed by the king, and the labor of the commoners was
claimed by the chiefs.
While their gardens lay neglected, the people
slaved in sandalwood forests to provide modern comforts to the
chiefs. And then whatever they did succeed in producing was taxed at
all levels of the chiefly hierarchy.
A general social enlightenment gradually improved the lot of the
people, but the ali’i never relinquished their stranglehold on the
land. This concentration of land in the hands of the king enabled the
present government to continue that stranglehold.
Who lost out in 1893 and 1898? Certainly it was the ali’i who lost
the land and power which they had usurped or inherited from earlier
usurpers. For the common people the change was a mixed blessing. Who
can say whether American or Hawaiian citizenship conferred the lesser
But there is one respect in which ethnic Hawaiians have certainly
lost out, and that is through enactment of racially discriminatory
Under the old regime, the chiefs owned all the land and allowed the
people their kuleanas. But anyone could be thrown out at any time if
the chief took a dislike to him or if he wasn’t producing enough tax.
Under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, the government still owns
the land, the people still pay the tax, and the children are thrown
off the land if they don’t have enough Hawaiian blood.
Now, it is bad enough that Hawaiian homesteaders are denied true
ownership of their land. What is worse is the psychological effect of
telling a race of people that they are not competent to own land,
that they cannot be trusted to value it properly, and that they must
be taken care of by the government.
This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you treat people as
inferior, then you will succeed in convincing them that they are
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is another piece of racially
discriminatory legislation which will have the effect of reinstating
an ali’i class who will supposedly help the government to take care
of the Hawaiian people. I maintain that you cannot help people by
urging them to seek substitutes for developing their own potential as
Reparations, which some Hawaiians ask for,means payment by a defeated nation to a victor as compensation for damage during a war. Others demand restitution, which is the proper word.
As a Libertarian, the position on restitution is we support
restitution to the victim to the fullest degree possible at the
expense of the criminal or wrongdoer.
We are all the victims of government oppression, but by which
criminal or wrongdoer will we be repaid?
Not by our members of Congress who presume to govern us. If you
demand money from these gentlemen they will not reach for their
wallets. Instead they will reach for their guns, otherwise known as
the IRS, and proceed to rob all the people in order to make the
demanded payment. The government has no money that it does not take,
under threat of violence, from someone else.
In fact the government spends money faster than it steals it. But the
one thing that the government has not spent faster than it has stolen
it is land.
Federal and state governments claim 48 percent of the land in these
Islands. We should demand that this land not simply be transferred
from one level of government to another but that it be released for
settlement and full ownership by people of all races. Homesteading
would be one way to do this. We should demand this, not just of
government land, but of all lands claimed by ali’i estates solely
through right of conquest.
”'”Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘aina I ka pono””’ was the motto of the Hawaiian
Kingdom. Today most politicians would have us believe that the life
of the people is preserved in government handouts.
Let me propose another motto, as true today as it would have been
2,000 years ago: “Seek ye first a society of free men and its economic
opportunity and all things shall be added unto you.”
”’Rockne H. Johnson is a former Libertarian Congressional Candidate, a founder of the Libertarian Party in Hawaii, and the husband of Rubelitte Johnson, a Hawaiian Living Treasure and co-founder of the Hawaiian Studies program at the University of Hawaii. Reach him via email at”’ mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org