Q&A Roundup

One of the more interesting traditions of our political culture is the questionaire. They’re sent to candidates by special interest groups, newspapers, and sometimes even unaffiliated private citizens. The answers are often published, sometimes in a parallel form so that candidates can easily be compared. They can also be used to help determine endorsements, but institutions with the courage to endorse a Libertarian are few and far between so that wasn’t really my concern.

As interesting as I find this practice, most of these go unnoticed and unread by most voters. So I thought it may be interesting to share a selected question & answer from some of the questionaires I’ve received. I may add a short additional comment here or there. Many of these are not particularly pertinent to the Public Service Commission, but someone cared enough to ask I suppose.

League of Women Voters

Question:

What measures would you pursue to promote the use of renewable energy in Georgia?

Answer:

First and foremost, reject any subsidy of fossil fuels.

Secondly, we should seek fair market treatment for small scale energy producers who cannot lobby government on the level of the large protected cronies. It shouldn’t be prohibitive for someone new to the industry to create a solar farm as a passion project.

As a side note, I’d point out that being renewable doesn’t make an energy source green. Biomass is considered renewable, even if it’s a matter of burning raw slash wood, which is inefficient by any measure but especially energy per mass of carbon emission.

I point that out mostly to show how subtle and complex these issues can be. We cannot trust five very fallible people to make these decisions for us. If someone wants to be involved in a form of energy they believe in, whether as a producer, investor, or consumer, I want to enable that.

Might as well start out with some pretty standard fare.

Georgia Solar Energy Association

Question:

Do you think the current factors used to determine the resource mix for power generation (i.e. capital investment, operations and maintenance, taxes) are sufficient? What additional factors — air quality impacts, water quality and water use, and land use impacts, for example — should be included in managing Georgia’s power generation decisions?

Answer:

Some appropriate considerations would indeed include water/air quality and land/water use. Also the directly attributable loss of human life, disruption of ecosystems, and less concrete quality of life issues like altering the horizon. When quantifiable, they must all be judged on a per-unit-energy basis, so that it’ always apples-to-apples.

However, there are undoubtedly thousands of other considerations that will never occur to me. I support electric choice, because Georgia’ most trustworthy judge of these complex matters is the general public — each of us.

Sometimes it may seem like I’m just looking for an excuse to talk about increasing consumer choice, but really it’s that my inclination is always to look for systemic fix. I don’t want to play whack-a-mole, especially since I won’t be in office forever. If we have an issue that came up with the current system, that’s a good indication there’s something wrong witht he current system. And most problems are best fixed in the long term by letting everyone make their own decisions – the most robust system of all.

Atlanta Magazine

Question:

Should the Georgia General Assembly amend the Georgia Nuclear Financing Act to limit or prevent Georgia Power from profiting from subsequent project delays?

Answer:

Yes, this is a no-brainer. Perverse incentives provide terrible results. It’s worth noting that perverse incentives like this, while not usually so obvious, are quite common in centrally-planned systems.

If you’re trying to keep your answer terse, but also say a lot, it is useful to call out to a higher concept so that people can see how you’re thinking about these things and hopefully consider your point of view. As such, I like to drop in well-known terms that are highly applicable and also important broad concepts, like “perverse incentive“.

Gwinnett Forum

Question:

Why are you seeking your office?

Answer:

Like many others, I would sit on the sidelines and hope for change. We can envision the
path forward. And however difficult it may be, there’s always a next baby step to take. This
year I saw the need. I wanted to see something happen, so I stepped up to make it happen.

The peculiarities of our anti-democratic, anti-competitive ballot access laws combine with
the platform of a statewide election, the history of multiple million-vote-plus elections, and
the limited scope of the office where liberty is more palatable to the uninitiated to make the
PSC a must-run.

Our ballot access laws – some of the worst in the US – are wholly offensive. Yet many people are completely unaware. I like to shine a light there when I get the chance.

Joe

Joe is a private citizen who did not give me permission to use his full name. I didn’t think to ask.

Question:

Should the Plant Vogtle project be shut down?

Answer:

Yes, unless they could somehow find voluntary financing.

I’m very willing to give leeway to people choosing to put their own money on the line. But the ratepayers should not be paying for this, not through the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery fee or any other mechanism. And I’m certainly not on board with any sort of tax money bailout.

Realistically, though, securing funding on the private capital markets would likely to be prohibitive. I’d be glad to be wrong, but I don’t expect they’re going to find institutions willing to fund it through a deal they can practically make. So that only leaves one option: ceasing construction and winding it down by-the-book.

Ballotpedia

Question:

Is there a book, essay, film, or something else that best describes your political philosophy?

Answer:

It’s an essay: Give Me Liberty by Rose Wilder Lane.

https://fee.org/articles/give-me-liberty/

It chronicles her transition from a communist sympathizer to a hero of Libertarians (“Libertarian” wasn’t a common word in her day, she wouldn’t have used it).

Even if you ultimately don’t agree with her conclusions, you have to appreciate the compelling way she makes her case. If nothing else, it’s fascinating for the historical context. In her work as a freelance journalist she experiences Russia in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution, Mussolini’s Italy, a horrifying police state in Hungary, and the mundane every-day waste of merchant regulations in France. When she writes of her mother tempering her impressions of the Westward Expansion, keep in mind that her mother is Laura Ingles Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame.

But perhaps most importantly, keep in mind as you read she’s writing these words at the height of the Great Depression. I’ve too often heard it’s easy for people to advocate personal liberty and free markets at a time of prosperity, but then people turn back to their strong-man saviors when times get rough. Yet here she is, in the most severe downturn our country has ever experienced, stating boldy “Give Me Liberty”.

I just think this is a great essay and a worthwhile read for just about anybody, but especially Americans. The astute observer will notice I reference it one other place – this is the source for the anecdote at the start of my Candidate Access spot on WSB-TV.


Zac Bolton

Question:

Do you commit to swearing off all financial backing from big businesses and corporate interests during and after your race for Public Service Commission, District 5 – Western, District 5?

Answer:

I’ve already sworn off funding from people and entities related to those the PSC regulates. Honestly that’s the only source of big money in an election like this one – the money comes from those with a direct financial interest in the outcome.

So, sure I can commit to that. I already swore off every believable source that might come up anyhow.

Georgia Equality

As far as I can tell, these answers were not published. So no link.

Question:

In your opinion, why are poor people poor?

Answer:

Poverty is the natural state — the vast majority of humans who have lived were destitute by
modern standards. The more fundamental question then is why anyone is not poor. In short,
collaboration/cooperation and innovation are the keys.

To answer your question more directly, though, a person’ benefit from the phenomenal wealth
creation of the modern era can be inhibited by an innumerable factors. Many are not of interest in
electoral politics, because government has little to no control over them. Physical isolation
through a remote location, for example, will naturally decrease opportunities. Some technologies
can partially alleviate that, but no decree of a central planner will.

The causes of poverty most solvable are the ones government caused in the first place. First
among these always has been and always will be war. Systemic discrimination, both de jura and
de facto, are often more identifiable in retrospect, so we need to be always on the lookout. Today
we should carefully watch zoning regulations and other matters justified by “ values”.
Licensing, both for entrepreneurs and occupational, directly remove opportunity from those who
need it most. And one cannot disregard the lives, families, and careers unnecessarily decimated
by our criminal justice system.

If you spend a lot of time immersed in the usual political rhetoric, you probably have some idea what sorts of answers they’re looking for. You could make some subtle attempt at looking down on poor people. You could pretend you don’t know anything about economics and try to blame rich people or corporations. You could blame our economic system, and since ours is a very mixed economy you could blame whichever label you find spookiest and claim it’s our system with some legitimacy.

But the real world just isn’t that simple. You can’t reasonably answer this question without writing a lengthy academic treatise on the human experience. So instead I made one critical point (that it’s the wrong question) and then tried to reduce the scope in a useful way. Reducing the scope of the question is one of the more important lessons young people can learn from strategy games. Instead of bogging yourself down and getting lost in the details, focus on what factors can be impacted the decision you have before you – if it can’t be impacted yet it’s out of your control and you should ignore it – and only how those factors can impact the desired result. Or as Finkel might say, “Focus on what matters.” In this context we’re speaking exclusively of government, so I tried to make my answer about the safest, most reliably productive, things a government could do. Namely stop trying to make people poor.

Georgia Arts Network

Question:

Do you support the statewide legalization of gaming at casino resorts?

Answer:

Yes. Gambling is a bad habit, but it’s not something I’m willing to use violence to stop.

When answering these I have the habit of reading all the questions first before beginning my first answer. This is usually quite useful, because there tend to be related questions, so that point you could make – you might want to hold off on it until a later question where it’s more directly applicable. In this case, however, reading ahead mostly just made me annoyed at how intentionally awful this questionaire is. If you look at the list of responses they got, you’ll see the vast majority of candidates simply did not respond. That was the correct answer. What I did was respond with short, direct answers that are not persuading anyone.

This is, however, a valid point. The difference between a suggestion and a law is that every law ends with an implicit “…or else.” For everything there is a season, and there is a time for threats of violence. Certainly a law backed up with force makes sense for something murder or arson. Convincing others not to partake in a vice that mostly hurts their own finances does not fit in that category.

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