What we don’t need to see happen is we don’t need to have news stories of seniors or critical care customers who are in the hospital or dying because of the heat and then we decide to step in and do something.
But what we do need to see, according to Turner, is government coercion used against power companies. What we do need to see is a business forced to provide service to those who cannot pay for it.
Lest I sound like some kind of ogre, I spent two weeks after Hurricane Ike without electricity. So I have some idea of what it is like to be without air conditioning--it is not pleasant. Granted, the weather was somewhat cooperative and I did have a generator, but these provided only partial relief.
Turner has long been an advocate of using coercion against utilities for the alleged benefit of low-income citizens. He is certainly not alone in that regard. In 2007 Mayor Bill White appeared at a town hall meeting with Turner. White--like most politicians of his ilk--distorted the facts for political purposes:
They say there is competition. But there is not. That's a rip-off. You cannot have a situation where there are really two major monopolies and nobody regulates them without someone ripping you off.
White would like us to believe that "deregulation" is the same thing as an absence of regulation. He would like us to believe that a loosening of controls is the same thing as the removal of controls. The fact is, despite "deregulation" utility companies in Texas remain regulated. Consider this statement from the web site of the Texas Public Utilities Commission:
We are responsible for regulating certain services provided by telephone and electric utilities in Texas and for protecting utility customers.
I agree with White that a rip-off is occurring. But who is the victim? Who is the perpetrator? And if a monopoly does exist, what is the nature of that monopoly and how did the utilities achieve that status?
White and Turner would have us believe that consumers are the victims of the "unregulated" utilities, despite the fact that utilities are regulated. They would have us believe that politicians of their sort are truly concerned about the welfare of consumers. They would have us believe that government intervention can solve the problems created by government intervention.
Coercive monopolies cannot exist without government intervention--only government can prohibit entry into an industry. As Ayn Rand wrote:
Every coercive monopoly was created by government intervention into the economy: by special privileges, such as franchises or subsidies, which closed the entry of competitors into a given field, by legislative action.
If power companies are a monopoly, it is because of government intervention. (For an excellent expose on the history of utilities, see Raymond Niles' article in The Objective Standard.) Despite the platitudes of White and Turner, it is government intervention that gives utilities their monopoly status. And government intervention continues to plague the industry, regardless of claims to the contrary.
If White and Turner are truly concerned about the plight of low-income citizens, then they would not misrepresent the state of the industry. They would not make claims that are blatantly false. They would not ignore their own role in driving up the cost of electricity.
The solution--as in every industry--is not more government regulations and controls. The solution is to recognize the rights of electricity providers to use their property as they choose. The solution is to truly deregulate--to remove all restrictions on the provision of electricity.