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Bradley’s Political Capitalism Project (Part IV: Who is John Galt?)

In the closing act, we have the protagonist foisting on the world a set of insights, which we proceeded to dissect in Act II and Act III. Is there a happy ending to our play? Alas, it is a tragedy.

The Bradley Project, which can be overviewed at his website Political Capitalism,  brilliantly narrates the ethos of what he calls “Heroic Capitalism” in contrast with “Political Capitalism.” As applied to energy policy, Bradley is largely correct in his insights that the energy industry has become so mixed up with the mixed economy that corporate leaders legitimately fear that capitalist advocacy will be punished.

As an out-of-the-closet energy policy market advocate, I have often been privately besieged to take public positions that corporations were loath to take publicly because of their fear of regulatory retribution.

Thus, we have lost any truly national champions for the views expressed in the Bradley Project. We have bit players. I have run small pro-market energy think tanks for more than a decade, after a career of almost 20 years in government advocating pro-competitive energy policies. Bradley has run the Institute for Energy Research even longer. We have been on the front lines, as have some others in the think tank community, credit the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, and even to some extent, Brookings Institution.

But Bradley names only one nationally recognized corporate advocate of pro-competitive energy policies: Charles Koch. I would argue, however, that while Mr. Koch has applied his pro-competitive thinking to his company and has generously supported some think tank efforts, he has not really taken on the mantle of the national leader of a free-market-in-energy movement.

Indeed, the most recognized name in energy is T. Boone Pickens, an entrepreneur who never saw a political intervention into markets that didn’t excite him if he could make money with it.

The list of Ken Lay look-alikes, on the other hand, is a mile long. Who is John Galt?

At best, the think tank community is splintered and woefully underfunded, especially compared to the enemies of competitive energy markets, both on the left and the right. Additionally, most think-tank effort concentrates on holding at bay the 600-pound gorilla—climate change.

Where are the voices for a radical overhaul of energy policy so that it makes sense for the 21st Century? We are meeting in a phone booth next Friday if anyone wants to join us.

Curtains close. Finis

2 comments

1 Kent Hawkins { 02.05.12 at 3:30 pm }

For a variety of reasons that do not withstand close examination, the majority of people have been convinced that continued use our current energy sources is unrealistic and/or unthinkable. As a result, the only course is seen to be a rapid change to a totally different energy policy, characterized by a stampede to unreliable and unsustainable new renewable energy sources.

I agree that we need to make changes, arguably significant changes, but we have to step back, take a deep breath, and look again at other options. There is another approach that is different from today’s conventional wisdom to look to renewable energy to bring about the needed changes. This other approach is radical, but in a different way. It should be considered radical because it goes counter to this conventional wisdom.

Simply put, we must “stay the course” on established energy sources, extraction, conversions and use for the foreseeable future – a generation or two. Our modern societies cannot survive and prosper unless we do so, making this overwhelmingly sensible. Here is the catch. We have to do better than we are right now in all the above areas. The market should be allowed to lead the initiatives, but I do not believe we can get away from some elements of a regulatory role for government (to be defined by wiser people).

This is not a “business as usual” approach. One reason is that much patience, effort and ingenuity from of all us are required for it to succeed, which makes it relatively unpalatable. The other alternatives do not require such from us, which is one of their unfortunate attractions.

It is the only sensible approach, because this is where we will end up anyway, so the sooner we start the better. If not chosen now we will waste irretrievable “time, money, and intellectual energy” (quote from Part 2 of this series).

For starters, let’s bust the seams of the phone booth on Friday.

More information can be seen at http://www.dimwatt.eu/index.php/our-campaigns/keeping-the-lights-on/publications/99-we-are-not-getting-energy-policy-right-and-we-must.

2 Jon Boone { 02.05.12 at 9:05 pm }

Where are the voices for a radical overhaul of energy policy so that it makes sense for the 21st Century?”

Where indeed? This is the question. Certainly, the leadership of the Republican and Democrat Parties speaks out of both sides of its mouth, and does nothing but welcome political intervention in all markets, not just energy markets. Ditto for FERC and NERC, those regulatory wombats charged with making electricity secure, affordable, reliable–but that in recent years have prostituted their mission so accommodate the most outlandish political/corporate plundering.

And, despite the praise for CATO and others in this article, the overwhelming evidence suggests that conservative think tanks have bellied up to renewables for many years in genuinely unconscionable ways, only recently giving evidence that they believe such an alliance is problematic.

I have long wondered why coal and natural gas interests have not launched a massive PR campaign exposing renewables as the pretenders as they. Then, it dawned on me: they’re making money on the stuff, in the process costing everyone more while making our electricity supply less secure and reliable.

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