Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Common Good - 2

Why is petroleum not a public utility?
In this series we are taking a look at the American concept known as "the common good."

While doing so we are also bemoaning the loss of some of the meaning of that phrase, because our nation was solidly founded on that idea (The Common Good).

The loss of the meaning of that basic American concept is tantamount to national amnesia.

So, it is time that we all work toward focusing on one of our more important national concepts.

One easy way to grasp the concept in its fundamental essence is the sub-concept we know as "the public utility", an entity dedicated to the common good:
A public utility ... is an organization that maintains the infrastructure for a public service ... subject to forms of public control and regulation ... regulation occurs when the government believes that the operator, left to his own devices, would behave in a way that is contrary to the community's best interests ... utilities can also refer to the set of services ... consumed by the public: electricity, natural gas, water, and sewage. Telephony may occasionally be included within the definition.
(Wikipedia, "Public Utility"). The common good, the public well-being, is served when those public goods and/or services that everyone uses is a not-for-profit, but rather a for-the-common-good enterprise.

A fundamental question, in that context, is "why was oil never the subject of the concept of the common good by being handled by a public utility"?

I will focus on that issue more in a future post of this series, borrowing from other Dredd Blog series such as: The Peak of The Oil LiesThe Peak of The Oil Wars, A History of Oil Addiction, The Fleets and Terrorism Follow The Oil, The Peak of Sanity, The Private Empire, and perhaps others.

Especially in the sense that the Department of Energy has officially said that "Oil is the lifeblood of America’s economy", meaning at least that oil is equal to substances managed by public utilities, such as "electricity, natural gas, water ... sewage ... Telephony".

Why wouldn't the American Economy's "lifeblood" be part of the common good as a utility?

The reason has been revealed in the various series mentioned above, and will be enhanced in this series as we explore the evolution from the common good to the common bad.

An evolution which has resulted, among other things, in the entity we now call Oil-Qaeda, a prime example of "the common bad."

Anyway, the public utility concept has been experienced across the nation in every state for over a century and has been shown to be a structure that successfully provides for and increases the common good when applied well.

There are some difficulties, as technology arises, in accurately conceiving of what is public and what is private, as some sarcastic writers have shown:
Since not long after the Civil War we have accustomed ourselves to "private business" as one large category, and "public business" as another. The distinction is part of our settled ideas, and it has become a pretty clear thing in the treatment of the respective classes after the labeling has been accomplished.
Should the inquiring Martian tax us to explain, we should, no doubt, in some language or other, succeed in conveying that the answer lies in the sense, upon the part of contemporary society, of its dependence upon certain sorts of enterprises.
A logical Martian might then list the things on which, as human beings, we are most dependent, and conclude that the public utilities class are the enterprises by which food, water, shelter, fuel, or clothing are purveyed ...
(Harvard Law Review, "The Public Utility Concept In American Law", Vol. 41, #3, pp. 277-308, 1928). All we need to do is remember the concept of "privatization" to grasp the ancient movement to convert all public utilities, and all other things public, from public to privileged private hands (out of the common good hands into greedy corporate hands).

The results of succumbing to the common bad instead of the common good are written down in well-known history:
During the nineteenth century, in response to the dominant belief that public interest would be best promoted by grants of special privilege to private persons and to corporations, the Federal Government, by gift, or sale for nominal sums, alienated in fee simple, and without reservation of public right, the major portion of the public domain.

This basic privilege was supplemented by further federal grants in the form of patents, subsidies, banking powers, and tariffs. In the twentieth century this process has continued by means of federal grants of exclusive rights to exploit particular sectors of the public domain: hydro-electric sites (Federal Water Power Act of 1930); radio, wireless, and television channels (Federal Communication Act of 1934); public highways (Motor Carrier Act of 1935); and airways (Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938).

The states, following the same theory, granted corporate charters of extreme laxity; municipalities granted perpetual or long-term franchises of exclusive character.

In general, the recipients of these privileges were given practically a free hand in respect to organization, finance, and price policy.

They [corporations] followed the historic behavior pattern of all holders of special privilege and the final result was monopoly, exploitation, and political corruption.

These aggressions eventually became so apparent and so onerous that a widespread demand for legislative restrain arose, in response to which the Granger Laws, Interstate Commerce Act, Sherman Law, and the first state public utility statutes were enacted. Each sought in its own way to curb certain obvious manifestations of monopoly.
(The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics, "The Passing of The Public Utility Concept", by Horace M. Gray, 1940; emphasis added). The author used the word "passing" in the sense of ceasing to exist.

It isn't that we forget history, and therefore have to relive it, rather, it is that the supporters of King George during our revolutionary time frame never gave up -- like the weeds in a garden sometimes do, and their "the king can do no wrong" ideology has now become dominant in "our public garden."

Add to that the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and we are back to substantially being the nation of King George we long ago migrated away from, because we could not stand it.

We now live in a time when they (Epigovernment: The New Model) can and do make war based on lies, commit torture and other heinous war crimes, plunder the people's treasury, practice wicked propaganda, all with impunity and without accountability.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

1 comment:

  1. The poverty level indicates the tension between the common good and the common bad: Link