A Free-Market Energy Blog

Electricity: Have I ‘Tarnished’ my Reputation and ‘Marginalized’ Myself? (Giberson’s huff)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 11, 2024

“But messages [against] … Lynne [Kiesling] … just serve to marginalize you. …. I’d encourage you to divert your efforts to re-establishing the reputation you have had, because your existing approach has tarnished and is tarnishing it.” (Michael Giberson, below)

“Lynne and Mike’s modus operandi is tweak, tweak and continue down the road of climate alarmism – forced energy transformation – centrally planned electricity.”

Keep your eye on the ball. In recent days, I have noted the irony of the “Queen of Power Markets” Lynne Kiesling presiding over a Public Choice conference where her central planning electricity model (Independent System Operators/Regional Transmission Organizations) is not teed up for some serious Public Choice application. That’s the situation going into the conference, judging from the scheduled panels and talks.

Such was my Friday post, “Public Choice and Electricity: Kiesling Ducks Again (Plano, Tx. meeting next week).” I sent this post to dozens of classical liberals who I have known over the years/decades, as well as those associated with the conference that I have not ever met, with the note:

I write in hopes that you will share this communication with others and try to get (President) Lynne Kiesling to address the central topic of the Plano conference next week in regard to electricity, her area of specialty. She is simply ‘in denial’ about applying free market economics and public choice to her governmental central planning model of electricity. 

A free market in electricity would avoid both the ‘knowledge problem’ of ISO/RTOs and the politics of governmental organization. And with electric reliability now a wild card (yes, government intervention did this), it is time for serious open debate (something Lynne has a studiously avoided).

Classical liberals of all stripes need to understand and debate the ‘virtual power plant’, which is open-ended wind/solar displacement of reliable generation with battery backup and ‘smart meters’ in the home that will surge-price to rescue the wounded supply side. And all (per Lynne) in the name of Hayek, Coase, Ostrom, etc.

No complaints, either. A lot of folks are suspicious of her techno-eco analysis but do not want to get into the intricacies of electricity. I am trying to change that, one step at a time.

Some Background

Classical liberalism has been hijacked by Lynne Kiesling and her faithful follower, Michael Giberson. Both purposefully bypassed a long tradition in free-market electricity thought in their writings, with Lynne substituting “my synthetic theory of regulation and technological change.”[1] They have resisted pushback (from me and others) against the theoretical and operational flaws of such a contrived market. Lynne and Mike’s modus operandi is tweak, tweak and continue down the road of climate alarmism – forced energy transformation – centrally planned electricity.

I have been following Lynne for decades and attended two of her electricity conferences as a last minute addition at the request of one of her major funders. I was told at one meeting that the conference premise of climate alarmism (thus forced energy transformation, conservationism) was not to be debated. At the other, with a room of mostly left-of-center electricity specialists debating how to regulate/price power inside the home, I commented, “I want to just leave the temperature at 72 degrees and pretty much be done with it.” My point–which the large majority of Americans would have also uttered at the experts–was curtly dismissed by Lynne: “You can already do that.” (Transaction costs, anyone?)

I put up with Lynne’s peculiar technocratic approach to electricity until the Texas Blackout of February 2021, which she and Giberson blamed on record cold as an Act of God, a force majeure event. Except that wind and solar predictably disappeared. Except it happened despite on-the-shelf weatherization technology for thermal generation (yes, ruined margins and crowding out from $60 billion in wind/solar forcing was causal). Except that is happened within a government system with major planner error. Except that the ‘obligation to serve’ got lost in the transfer to PUCT/ERCOT. And except that Texas’s planning setup was Lynne’s model for the country.

Giberson’s Complaint

My efforts on social media to get Lynne to frontally challenge her central planning (ISO/RTO) model with Public Choice resulted in this email to me yesterday from Michael Giberson:

I was asked about your email regarding Lynne Kiesling. My reply was to say I don’t know why you can’t see this is an unprofessional manner of engagement. 

Keep writing your blog (but focus on the issues rather than attacking people you disagree with). Write a op-ed. Write a scholarly paper. Present at an academic conference. Write a policy paper, you have written for Cato in the past and the folks at TPPF share some of your concerns. Try them. These are reasonable ways to advance your concerns.

But messages like the email and your frequent Facebook “challenges” to Lynne in response to unrelated posts just serve to marginalize you. They make you seem like a tiresome and impotent outsider rather than an independent free-market scholar, long-time liberty proponent, and well-known energy expert.

I’d encourage you to divert your efforts to re-establishing the reputation you have had, because your existing approach has tarnished and is tarnishing it. 

I answer Giberson as follows:

Keep your eye on the ball, Mike. The obvious opportunity here is to get a very reluctant Lynne to frontally address the obvious issue of politicized electricity markets via Public Choice analysis. Lynne, the ‘expert’ in both, should be challenged to address the obvious. And with a lot of folks in the audience eager to hear just this, tell Lynne to do so!

Second, I find it peculiar that you are more interested in my “reputation” than I am. I am about to enter my seventieth summer. For nearly a half-century, I have stated my views with a lot of history and theory–and nary considered what others (often the political majority or “establishment”) think. I am not a second hander. “Speaking truth to power” is an old refrain of classical liberalism, and Lynne is certainly at the throne of power.

I do realize, however, that there is a new generation that may be taken aback by my frontal challenges to a person they consider as a real classical liberal in the complex field of electricity. Problem is that she misinterprets (or, to be charitable, selectively interprets) different classical liberal literatures to justify central planning for electricity. It does not work.

If you were really concerned about my reputation, why didn’t you chime in to tell the audience (such as on a particular Facebook post) that I have expertise and represent the free market tradition in electricity? Why write an email to me rather than intervene at the point of engagement, if it concerns you?

Regarding your point about scholarly output, yes, I am building up to a major article–probably for The Review of Austrian Economics–on a praxeological, classical liberal view of electricity in theory and practice. But this is the article that you should write (should have written years ago)! You once thought for yourself without the hubris of defending political electricity. Instead, you have gone the other way.

Lynne Kiesling (and to a lesser extent you) have purposefully “raised rival’s costs” in my (and others’) effort to understand synthetic regulation and political power. Lynne says she “hates monopoly.” Yet not unlike a political monopolist, she tries to protect her “synthetic theory of regulation” and pronouncement of the “grid [to be] a common pool resource in which it is literally—literally—impossible to define and enforce property rights.” A real free market? She refuses to even define it and arrogantly dismisses her rivals.

But …. I have created a long, point-by-point evidentiary record to get to my future article. And other position papers are on their way. Stay tuned ….

Final Comment

The floor belongs to Lynne Kiesling starting this Thursday in Plano, Texas at 61st annual conference of the Public Choice Society. May the conference be great! And surely it would be greater if President Kiesling would share her expertise on the theory and practice of the second most regulated sector of the American economy next to money and banking. Go for it, Lynne!


[1] Of the approximately 300 references in Kiesling’s major book, Deregulation, Innovation and Market Liberalization: Electricity Regulation in a Continually Evolving Environment (2009), there is a glaring absence of those in the free-market electricity tradition, including

Stigler, George, and Claire Friedland. “What Can Regulators Regulate? The Case of Electricity.” Journal of Law and Economics 5: 1-16, 1962

Demsetz, Harold. “Why Regulate Utilities?” The Journal of Law and Economics. Vol. 11, No. 1 (April 1968), p. 56.

Poole, Robert W. Jr. Unnatural Monopolies: The Case for Deregulating Public Utilities. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1985.

Primeaux, Jr., Walter J. Direct Electric Utility Competition: The Natural Monopoly Myth. New York: Praeger, 1986.

Moorhouse, John, ed. Electric Power: Deregulation and the Public Interest (San Francisco, CA: Pacific Research Institute, 1986.

Bradley, Robert L., Jr. “The Origins of Political Electricity: Market Failure or Political Opportunism?” Energy Law Journal. Vol. 17, no. 1 (1996), pp. 59–102.


  1. Michael Giberson  

    Rob, a search of your blog turns up 30 or 40 something mentions of Lynne Kiesling, many of which are critical of the way she has pursued her research agenda. I suspect the readers at your blog have sufficient information available to them to make up their own minds, and hazard the view that the marginal effect of one more anti-Kiesling blog post is zero if not negative. You are, presumably, more expert on what your readers want.

    At the same time, Kiesling is likely more expert on what she should be doing with her time. Why do you feel the constant urge to monitor her work? Sure, you both draw deep inspiration from the Classical Liberal tradition. Classical liberalism is not an exclusive club, there is no purity test, and you are not the hall monitor.

    Your list of allegedly references “glaringly absent” from her book suggests you would not be a good hall monitor. While she did not reference the Stigler paper you cite, she cites the more recent Jarrell paper that updates Stigler and Friedlander. She also cites another Stigler paper on regulation. She further cites Bastiat, Boettke, Buchanan, Coase, Kirzner, Koppl, Hayek, Lavoie, North, Ostrom, and two Smiths: Adam and Vernon Smith.

    Surely the biggest seller among your own books is “Energy: The Master Resource.” How many of these references do you include? I don’t see any of these particular scholars in your index. (No doubt a few of them feature in other things you have written. Same is true of Kiesling.)

    In any case, interested readers can make up their own mind. Kiesling has a Substack at https://knowledgeproblem.substack.com/ and the old Knowledge Problem blog posts are archived online at https://knowledgeproblem.com/.


    • rbradley  

      My rebuttal:

      1) My repeated posts on Kiesling (and you) are carefully documenting the climate alarmism/forced energy transformation/central electricity paradigm that you two favor, either implicitly or explicitly. Future historians of thought in the electricity area will have all the information they need on the backstory and on the play-by-play.

      2) The classical liberal tradition is just the opposite of what Lynne and you are purporting to advance. The “knowledge problem” and “politicization problem” of the seven ISO/RTOs cannot be hidden anymore. Why don’t you too tackle the failures head-on rather than ‘intellectualize’ around them or ignore them?

      3) I do and will monitor Kiesling’s work because she has less and less room to hide with the theoretical and practical problems of the ISO/RTO model and her “energy transition” premise. She (and you) are a classic case study of obfuscation in the service of a thoroughly statist, failing agenda. Instead of amending your views, you two have continued down the path of more intervention to address the problems of prior. At the beginning, and until this day, you two have not ventured to describe what a real free market in electricity is. Just don’t want to go there, because if you did, you would be in a debate that you really do not want to have.

      4) Lynne’s 2009 book on electricity misses five of the most important references (out of her chosen 300!), indicating that (yes) she jumped frameworks from a free market, true deregulation model to a MOA/ISO/RTO governmental model of a central planned wholesale market to contrive a retail market. Very poor representation of the free market tradition in electricity–because this is not what she refutes to then get to her governmental model. It is poor scholarship to ignore a tradition to replace it with a statist (!) model.

      5) You stated: “She further cites Bastiat, Boettke, Buchanan, Coase, Kirzner, Koppl, Hayek, Lavoie, North, Ostrom, and two Smiths: Adam and Vernon Smith.” The problem is that she has misinterpreted or falsely assumed that the work of these people somehow support her governmental model. I venture to say that few of them would support electricity statism, particularly because it is now failing…. And citing them does not make her a classical liberal, does it?

      6) Poor analogy to Energy: The Master Resource, which was a non-technical general-energy primer. Do you have criticism of the book’s content? Milton Friedman said: “This splendid book effectively debunks the widespread predictions of energy doom. Its factual base is comprehensive, its exposition clear and straightforward, and its economic reasoning sound.”

      7) Why the ad hominem of “a hall monitor”? If your criticisms are superficial and not correct, why am I a ‘hall monitor’. Neither of you like the scrutiny. Are you hiding something? Why not define what a free market is in electricity, for starters. I have asked you to do so repeatedly, and Lynne simply responds: “I will not dance to your tune.” The music being played is free market classical liberalism….

      Rather than “hurting my reputation” (your claim), my email communication elicited no complaints other than you, and, in fact, received praise and an invitation from a prominent economist at the top Austrian academic program in the country for an article on the problem of Lynne Kiesling and electricity.

      A whole lot of sideline Austrians and classical liberals are suspicious of what Lynne has concocted, I am connecting and will connect the dots for them. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, can you get Lynne to do a Substack on the knowledge and Public Choice problems of ISO/TROs? Include pricing problems, planning error, and sovereign immunity, for starters.


  2. Michael Giberson  

    It is certainly the case that much of my work has been done within the current regime, but I think the allegation that my work promotes statism is off the mark. My aim is to advance liberty.

    Here’s a simple example. On your blog you’ve dismissed virtual power plants as some sort of plot to boost wind and solar and help destroy grid reliability. What the term most often refers to is the use of aggregators of small consumer responses to react to prices or grid conditions. Typical electric power institutions have raised significant barriers to even this small amount of active consumer engagement in electric power markets. Supporting customer aggregation programs give consumers some modest ability to better control their power use.

    (By the way, I’m not claiming I am responsible for any current customer aggregation program. Unfortunately, I don’t have that much sway. It’s an example of a change within the current regime that is making real people better off in a small way today, which I support and you seem to dismiss as a statist plot. My own policy work is mostly more obscure and in the weeds, so to speak, but remains in service of advancing liberty.)


    • rbradley  

      First, this is a very skinny reply to my points.

      Second, “much of my work within the current regime” is code for your acceptance of the MOA/ISO/RTO framework of Statism. And as it has been taken over by politics, climate alarmism and forced energy transformation. Simply define what is a free market in electricity and how you are advancing it? What is your end state? MOA/ISO/RTO also?

      The ‘virtual power plant’ as I am encountering it (not disputing your definition) is a bypass of central station power. Open-ended wind and solar and batteries and surge pricing in the home. Lynne likes Doug Lewin in this regard.

      “An essential source of information about Texas is Doug Lewin’s Texas Energy and Power Newsletter. Too many of his essays have been important and insightful for me to pick one, so I’ll just recommend subscribing to his newsletter if you want to keep up with one of the most vibrant local economies in the US and the steps and missteps its political leaders are taking as they try to balance the many objectives of such a complex system.”

      My take on Lewin: https://www.masterresource.org/texas/electricity-statism-and-misdirection-doug-lewin-texas-energy-and-power-newsletter/


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