By Jim O’Neal
After recently analyzing foreign travel statistics, I saw that 157 people traveled from the United States to the South Pacific island of Niue in 2015 (latest census data).
This seemed high to me as I recall one of Captain James Cook’s logs had indicated he tried three times to visit Niue in 1774, but eventually gave up. The inhabitants of this small island were painted as “savages” (hence Savage Island) and had a red substance on their teeth that resembled blood. It was later determined that it was from eating hulahula, an innocuous red banana.
Sensing that things had changed in the 240-plus intervening years, I was more than surprised by the following data:
- In 1889, they petitioned Queen Victoria to “stretch out towards us your mighty hand, that Niue may hide herself in it and be safe.” The ploy eventually must have worked since the Niue Constitution Act vests executive authority in Her Majesty the Queen in the Right of New Zealand. On my numerous trips to New Zealand, Niue had a reputation for a great whale-watching spot (something I regret missing).
- In 2003, Niue became the first country in the world to offer free wireless internet to all inhabitants.
- They are reputedly close to becoming the world’s first fully organic nation.
- As a leader in green energy, they are in transition to 100 percent solar power.
- In 2008, Niue became the first country in the world to provide laptop computers to all students. I suspect they have upgraded to smartphones and tablets by now.
- Elections are held every three years. Since they do not allow political parties (everyone is an independent), term limits are not needed. This preserves the institutional memory.
In 2004, Niue was hit by a cyclone that disrupted the Niue Integrated Strategic Plan (NISP). The good news is that they still managed to pay off their national debt and are finally “debt free” – something the U.S. managed to accomplish in the administration of Andrew Jackson.
They have zero population growth so issues like unfunded pensions (e.g. SSA) or long-term healthcare liabilities should not be an issue for the next generation – something our Millennials will eventually find out about. “What?! You spent all our money and left us bankrupt?”
Rumor has it the people of Niue are puzzled by the inability of most modern nations to simply spend less than they make, and by the partisan rancor that causes so much gridlock and divisiveness. As you might recall, even our first president, George Washington, warned about the dangers of political parties.
Intelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is president and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].