February 3, 2007

Barack Obama: World's Most Ambitious Hawaiian?

In the Industrial Age, it was useful for the economically ambitious to live somewhere like Duluth, a harbor close to huge iron mines. In the Information Age, nobody wants to live in Duluth anymore, so there is far more money to be made in a place like Palo Alto, which has nice weather and scenery.

Nowhere is there better climate and views than Hawaii, yet you never seem to hear about a hot software startup or hedge fund located there. Why hasn't the Information Age done much for Hawaii?

Time zones are no doubt a problem. They are a big problem for a night owl like me in the Pacific Time zone, but for Hawaiians, they must be a nightmare. Trading opens on the Wall Street stock exchange at 3:30 AM. in Hawaii.

Perhaps, though, there's something about living in paradise that quells ambition, especially when the price of making it big is leaving Hawaii. Barack Obama, who spent all but four of his first 18 years in Hawaii, is one of the few hyper-ambitious people Hawaii has produced. Others include Bette Midler, Steve Case of AOL, and Hiram Bingham III, discoverer of Machu Picchu and U.S. Senator from Connecticut. (Here's a list of famous Hawaiians, although many are people who retired there, like Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors.)

But for world-shaking ambition, they are all pikers compared to an earlier student at Obama's famous Punahou prep school, Sun Yat-sen, first president of China.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Dick Parsons, Chairman of Time Warner, although not raised in Hawaii, went to college there for four years. His Mom is Chinese, maybe that was why he went there from Bed-Sty?

Anonymous said...

Could the presence of a massive tourism industry and its abundant jobs be a factor? There might be less on an incentive to take risks with new ventures.


Steve Sailer said...

Peter, right, that makes sense. I imagine hyper-ambitious locals in Hawaii tend to go into real estate development.

Anonymous said...

The cost of living/business and taxes in hawaii make it a lousy place to begin a startup.

Hawaii did have one interesting tech venture of note - Honolulu was where much of computer animation for the Final Fantasy movie was programmed. The programming team was half Japanese , half American, so Hawaii was a good compromise culturally and timezonewise.

For the most part though, amibitious go-getters tend to leave Hawaii for the mainland (LA, Vegas) - unless of course they come from old-money families of the sort that send their kids to Punahou.

Anonymous said...

"Hawaiian" is used only to refer to people of Hawaiian ancestry, which Barack most definitely is not.

Non-Hawaiians who are born and/or raised in Hawaii, or who relocate to Hawaii, are never referred to as "Hawaiian," but only as "Hawaii residents" or people "from Hawaii," etc. If they're of mixed ancestry (as many people in Hawaii are) and don't look haole (Caucasian), the catch-all term is "local."

But when someone is called "Hawaiian" it's because they are, genetically.