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Jim,

Thanks for responding. This wasn't off topic at all. It's precisely what I'm looking for. Narrowly defined, utility regulation is a little boring and the statutes are easy enough research. The more challenging task is knitting together the intellectual tradition that undergirds all of it. Texans are suffering in a particular way. We're all suffering in general ways. So, my interest in this draws me back to the Big Think ideas about social control, institutions and public life that you find in people like Montgomery and the other Texas OIE types. 

I want to write about this mostly because I see a tendency for critics to say things like, "This is what Texans get for being a Red State." That's clearly incorrect and reductive, missing the broad movement for social control of industry and deliberative institution building for the sake of resiliency. What better moment to bring back the ideas of these economists?

Again, a lot of this stuff is hard to find outside of the oral traditional, so I'm quite grateful for this community. 

Best wishes,

Mitch



On Fri, Feb 19, 2021 at 9:24 AM Sturgeon, James I. <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
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Mitch, et al.,

I’m not sure of the scope of your interest.  If it is confined to utility regulation some of what follows may not be useful.

I suggest Ronnie Phillips’ book, The Mavericks, which, if memory serves, has a chapter on Montgomery.  Montgomery’s book on the Sulphur industry, The Brimstone Game: Monopoly in Action, is a classic (in my view). Montgomery had a book on his shelves in his home in San Marcos (circa 1971)  entitled “Overcharge.” He pointed to it favorably. I have forgotten who wrote it but perhaps others know it or it can be located.  I am attaching a paper by Montgomery that used to reside on my web-site.

 

Michael Sheehan, who lived near you in Beaverton, did work on utility regulation in Iowa and several other places as an expert witness.  I’m not sure how to access his work.

 

I add an oft repeated story about Montgomery as an example of his wit.  For years he argued for years, in his classes and elsewhere, to bring about social control of utilities, and railroads, in Texas. He was famous for his advocacy of regulating “public utilities.”  He believed they should be collectively owned, but understood it was unlikely in Texas. Thus public regulation. Once in the lobby of the Baker Hotel in Dallas during the Southwest Social Science Association meetings, Montgomery was surrounded by a crowd of attendees.  During the course of the discussion one participant ribbed him about one of his (Montgomery’s) students that had gone to work for the Texas Utility Company (Investor Owned).  Montgomery did not initially comment, but after repeated “inquiries” he paused and quipped,

“Well, the greatest teacher who ever lived only had twelve students, and one of them turned out to be a Republican.”  Ken Galbraith once told me he could have improved it by saying “turncoat Republican.”  There are several other such stories about Montgomery.  I know this is off topic, but may have interest to some.

Cheers

Jim

From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Mitchell Green
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Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] The Texas OIE Tradition and Public Utilities Regulation

 

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Thank you Eric and Anne - tremendous resource! I loaned out my copy of Professor Rutherford's book and it never came back, so I'll need to get another. Good for his publisher, bad for my wallet. I'll be sure to check out Trebings work and look into the connections between LCRA and TVA.

 

Warm regards,

 

Mitch

 

On Thu, Feb 18, 2021 at 12:49 PM Mayhew, Anne <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

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To start I suggest that you check out Malcolm Rutherford’s brief discussions of Robert Montgomery in his (Rutherford’s) book, THE INSTITUTIONALIST MOVMEMNT IN AMERICAN ECONOMICS, 1918-1947.

 

Though he was well known as a source of good stories about the legislature and other oddities of Texas and Austin life, Dr. Bob, as he was generally known, was, as I remember, semi-retired or retired by the time I went to do graduate work at UT in the early 1960s.  Milton Lower would be a good source to ask if my memory is correct.

 

It might be interesting for you to check the history of the Lower Colorado River Authority which played a big role as a publicly owned river and power management agency.  There was some movement of people and ideas between LCRA and its much larger cousin TVA.

 

Eric Hake is correct in saying that Harry Trebing carried on the Institutionalist tradition of involvement in public utility regulation.  His major work was done at Michigan State where he is still honored.  I do not think that he had many connections with Texas or with Bob Montgomery but I could be wrong about that.

 

-Anne Mayhew

 

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Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2021 6:05 PM
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Subject: Re: [AFEEMAIL] The Texas OIE Tradition and Public Utilities Regulation

 

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Hi Mitch,

 

The work of Harry Trebing I think would be relevant, and some of his students are still involved in AFEE.  In my conversations with Harry, he said he continued to train utility regulators until there was no place left to employ them.

 

Milton Lower has a long history in public service and had a close eye on Texas politics. Perhaps he could provide some details or information that would be useful to you.

 

I’m sure others may have more specific and useful details, but these were the first things I thought of in reading your note.

 

The news coverage of the day, which included a fair number of “we can do nothing better” regulator comments was of course discouraging to anyone who can remember a different system.  I guess when critical debate and practical policy engagement is wiped out of the profession, it is no wonder we can’t maintain the infrastructure necessary to provide a stable power grid. 

 

At least in my classes, I am heartened to see the next generation of inquiring minds seems less enthralled with libertarianism.  Maybe they will be able to reinvent the wheel. Maybe the final descent into Qanon crazy will finally start turning off reasonable people.  I guess I said the same thing about LBO merger mania in the 1990s.  

 

Eric

 

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Eric R. Hake

Dean, Ralph W. Ketner School of Business
Elias B. Saleeby Professor of Business
Secretary-Treasurer, Association For Evolutionary Economics www.afee.net
Faculty Advisor, SMIF


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From: AFEEMAIL Discussion List <[log in to unmask]> On Behalf Of Mitchell Green
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Subject: The Texas OIE Tradition and Public Utilities Regulation

 

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Good morning / afternoon,

 

With the significant failure of ERCOT to provision electricity reliably to the state, my interests have wandered back to the OIE tradition of Texas. There was an oral tradition at UMKC carried on by Jim Sturgeon about the legacy of Ayres, his students, and people like Robert Montgomery in the interwar period and their influence on public service regulatory commissions. I have a very vague recollection of Jim lecturing about some of these figures serving on the Railroad Commission, but that's years ago now and I don't have my notes, and so perhaps I've misremembered. 

 

I'd like to explore any literature of this nature, particularly of the Texas tradition, as it pertains to the evolution of public utility regulation. I'd appreciate any insights on the oral tradition there or leads to literature. 

 

Thanks in advance. And solidarity to those of you freezing right now. 

 

Best,

 

Mitch Green, Ph.D.

Bonneville Power Administration.

Research Scholar, GISP

Instructor, Portland Community College. 

 

--

"In our society, it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income.  You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist."  --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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"In our society, it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income.  You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist."  --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.



--
"In our society, it is murder, psychologically, to deprive a man of a job or an income.  You are in substance saying to that man that he has no right to exist."  --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.