Maui Wildfires: Hawaii Governor Adds Insult to Injury

by | Aug 22, 2023 | LAW

Preventing some individuals from making bad decisions also prevents individuals from making good decisions.

Property owners in Maui have suffered tremendously because of the recent wildfires. Now, Hawaii’s governor Josh Green proposes adding insult to injury. He has directed the state attorney general to draft a moratorium on the sale of damaged properties in Lahaina. The stated goal is to protect property owners from being “victimized” by investors, i.e., protect owners from making bad decisions. [1]

Undoubtedly, the moratorium will prevent some individuals from making rash decisions that they later regret. But that doesn’t justify the governor’s rights-violating proposal. Preventing some individuals from making bad decisions also prevents individuals from making good decisions. The governor’s proposed moratorium prevents all individuals from acting as they deem best for their lives. The governor implies that individuals are too stupid to know what is best for themselves.

Those who desire to sell their property could have a wide variety of reasons. They may not be able to afford to rebuild. They may not want to endure the hassle and time required to rebuild. Even before the firse, some may have planned to sell. Regardless of their reasons, the property owners have a moral right to sell if they so desire. The governor disagrees, believing that he knows what is best for the owners.

This type of paternalism isn’t new. For more than one-hundred years, government officials at every level have sought to protect us from our own choices. The nanny state is present when the Food and Drug Administration determines which drugs we can legally ingest. It was present when state and local governments closed businesses and issued stay-at-home orders. Paternalism exists in every form of regulation, from financial to land-use, from occupational licensing to education. The unwashed masses, government officials imply, are simply too ignorant to be trusted with the freedom to choose.
However, as Ayn Rand pointed out, those same unwashed masses are smart enough to elect the government officials who will issue dictates and prohibitions. We are too ignorant to make choices regarding our own lives, but when it comes time to choose elected officials, we suddenly possess the wisdom of Solomon.

The wildfires have already inflicted enough misery and suffering on property owners. It is both callous and insulting to add insult to their injury.


Editor’s Note:

[1] The govertnor stated: ““I’ve actually reached out to our attorney general to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed.” He also made the comment: “I’m already thinking about ways for the state to acquire that land, so that we can put it into workforce housing, to put it back into families, or to make it open spaces in perpetuity as a memorial to people who were lost. We want this to be something that we remember, after the pain passes, as a magic place. And Lahaina will rebuild. The tragedy right now is the loss of life. The buildings can be rebuilt over time; even the Banyan tree may survive.”

Brian Phillips is the founder of the Texas Institute for Property Rights. Brian has been defending property rights for nearly thirty years. He played a key role in defeating zoning in Houston, Texas, and in Hobbs, New Mexico. He is the author of three books: Individual Rights and Government Wrongs, The Innovator Versus the Collective, and Principles and Property Rights. Visit his website at

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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