Letter to the editor about a proposed public utility

July 7, 2016

(This was sent to our local newspaper during a big dispute over whether to fund a study to see if we would be better off with a public power utility or staying with the incumbent private utility.)

All this hooplah about Puget Sound Energy and Island Power has distracted us from the true culprit among our island utilities: Bainbridge Disposal. Here we have a local, family run business, worse, an efficiently and well run business. It isn't right! Fortunately the remedy is clear.

First, Bainbridge Disposal must be replaced by an entity of a multinational corporation. This will siphon off economic value from the community into the pockets of distant rentiers, where it should be. Perhaps the Australian company that holds Puget Sound Energy would be a good option.

Using the same holding company would also concentrate more power over local affairs in one set of distant hands. This concentration helps when it comes to the next steps of our remedy: maximizing profits. A utility is a natural monopoly, so the efficiencies that competition can drive to not apply. If more utilities are in the same hands, more pressure can be brought to bear on the populace to accept high, even punitive rates, and in the future the utility is more likely to succeed in neglecting capital investment and forcing the community to pay for luxuries like functioning garbage trucks. Internet service conglomerates such as Comcast have had great success with this latter tactic.

Finally, the garbagemen and other staff should be fired and replaced with contractors. This saves the money that would have gone to absurdities such as health insurance and lets it be extracted as profit, plus it makes it simpler to replace workers if they become demanding. Again, Puget Sound Energy's holding company would be ideal, since they have already contracted out all repairs to the power grid.

Bainbridge Disposal is even a private entity, thanks to historical accident, which avoids the unpleasant mutterings of some rabble when a public utility is to be privatized. A combination of "forceful" persuasion by the chosen holding company and studied indifference by local legislature and law enforcement could quickly put this situation to rights. Heil Milton Friedman!

(A friend of mine got me to replace the last paragraph with "In all seriousness, please fund the study for Island Power!" in the version actually sent to the newspaper.)


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