On Wednesday White threatened to sue CenterPoint Energy for charges related to the Hurricane Ike recovery. According to the Chronicle:
The dispute, which will be considered Friday at a hearing before the Public Utility Commission of Texas, is not likely to change the $1.83 monthly increase on Houston-area bills to pay for the $677 million cost of restoring power after Ike.
But White said the city has taken on CenterPoint out of principle because the company is attempting to be repaid for paying employees who would have been working even if Ike hadn't hit. [emphasis added]
While most Houstonians will likely applaud White for "standing on principle", I am not one of them. The nature of White's "principles" is neither admirable nor principled.
Principles are, as Ayn Rand identified, “a fundamental, primary, or general truth, on which other truths depend.” They are man's means of evaluating the concrete alternatives he faces in life and of projecting the consequences of his choices and actions.
Men have only two means of dealing with one another--by rational persuasion or by force. They can appeal to the facts of reality or the threat of a club. They can use reason or they can use a gun.
Mayor White has made it clear which he prefers. Whether it is jamming "green" initiatives down our throat, or fighting the Ashby High Rise, or bullying a power company, he is quick to wield the coercive power of government to achieve his ends.
In the short term, both White and CenterPoint customers might "benefit" from these strong-arm tactics. White will score political points and customers will save money. But what of the long-term? What are the implications of White's methods for the future?
In principle, White advocates using force against the power companies. He believes that force is a legitimate and proper means for dealing with others. He believes that the government should determine what electric providers can charge customers. Indeed, he believes that those who do not abide by his desires should be forced to do so. That is the "principle" that is guiding Bill White.
Many states--including Texas--have "deregulated" electricity; however, those states have not created a true free market. They have retained some level of controls and regulations, and in the process continue to strangle the industry. The results have been predictable, at least to those who hold rational principles.
While keeping power companies in chains, White and his ilk complain that the market has failed. In response, many are now seeking to re-regulate electric companies. Maryland for example, has considered a bill that would arbitrarily reduce electric rates by 10% to 18%.
Having abandoned principles--that is, their conceptual faculty--power hungry politicians can only resort to the brute force of animals. Unable to project the consequences of their proposals, they tinker and tweak, issue mandates and decrees, and demand that others abide by their whims.
Building and operating a power plant is a complex undertaking. An animal cannot do it. Neither can men who are treated like animals.