Today, I spent 12 hours at a Los Angeles FLL Robots competition.    My wife coached a group of “Bad News Bears” and they managed to win a couple of trophies.   She won a trophy for “Rookie Coach of the Year”.     I won nothing but I built up my muscles and I carried around heavy robots and followed logistical orders.  What happened to just playing Atari pong all day?

I spent much of last week in Honolulu.  I had never been there before  and I just naively assumed that it would be like San Francisco but sunnier.   To my surprise, it is only a tourist town.  While my hotel was located in the city center 2 blocks from the beach, I couldn’t find any office towers. Nobody appears to be working except to help tourists have fun.  I had assumed that Hawaii’s location would make it an epicenter of Asia-U.S trade and interaction but perhaps information technology has chipped away at the need for a physical location that solves a logistical issue.   I did learn at least one important lesson. One can overeat at an “all you can eat” buffet.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

4 thoughts on “Honolulu”

  1. “One can overeat at an “all you can eat” buffet.” Children seem to have better regulators here than adults. Spock reported delightful experiments on infants presented with a wide menu of all-you-can-eat choices: the individual meals were weird – nothing but peanut butter, say – but averaged over a few days the diets were well-balanced. That fits my anecdotal observations of my own children, the one time we went on holiday at a Club Med, where parents lose control completely over the diet of offspring.
    I can also confirm that it’s easy to overeat at Brazilian al quilo restaurants, where you pay for what you eat. It’s not a simple story of “free good = overconsumption”. Too much choice comes into it.

    1. The problem for adults (well, me, anyway) is that the medium-term memory is too good. I go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, or even a salad bar, and I tend to get at least one utensil-full of each of the things there that I like. If I just lost track, my plate would be emptier.

  2. Was that comment about honolulu serious? I lived there for 20 years without knowing one person who worked in the ‘helping tourists have fun” industry. Visit a neighborhood for christs sake.

    1. Hush, Tyler. Of course its a bit silly that he thinks he was downtown when he was clearly in Waikiki (or maybe Ala Moana), so didn’t realize that the tallest building in the city is the Bank of Hawaii offices. But that ignorance is rather nice if tourists are happy without straying from Waikiki they don’t bother us at our favorite beaches, restaurants, hiking trails, or museums (or take up space on our rather clogged highways). I’m always astonished by how confined the tourist crowds are.

      Yes, keeping tourists happy is the single biggest part of the Hawaiian economy, but there really is a lot more going on.

      Hawaii is too far south to be a major hub for Asia/North America trade. The great circle routes go well north of us. Not like Singapore which is adjacent to a big bottleneck in seaways.

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