William Massey, Counsel, the COMPETE Coalition; Partner, Covington & Burling; and former FERC Commissioner, Washington, D.C.
In his article, “Bottling the Genie(Fortnightly, May 2013<) Ohio State Professor Douglas N. Jones points to the actions of “decision elites” in the 1980s to abandon failed price regulation of key sectors of the U.S. economic engine and to pursue what he calls “aggressive deregulatory movements in transportation and public utilities.” He laments the “retrenchment of social regulation” that resulted, and ironically advocates that the same government decision elites should once again control the social and economic fabric of U.S. society and remove decision making from consumers where it rightly belongs.
Let’s examine the social and economic benefits that occurred as a result of the move away from aggressive governmental price regulation, a trend that began in the Carter administration.
The end of aggressive price controls in the airline industry made air travel, which had been expensive and largely confined to elite well-to-do and business travelers, more affordable to the masses. Air travel is far more common, convenient, and affordable to the average consumer today.
The end of wellhead price controls for natural gas similarly had positive effects for the national economy, lowering prices and paving the way for the shale gas revolution that is benefiting consumers, the environment, and our economy today.