There is an important side story about what just happened in Texas with their (not completely unpredictable) freezing weather, and the collapse of their electrical grid. The story we are being told is that Texas deregulated their energy system in 1999, using the promise that this would increase competition, provide consumer choice, and thus lower prices for electricity and other sources of energy. However, in this competitive “free” market, certain (shall we say) shortcuts were taken. In particular these companies didn’t bother to winterize their pipelines and other equipment, as is required in all other states through — you guessed it — pesky and “socialistic” regulations.
But ironically, some Wall Street Journal reporters looked into the Texas energy market, and found that (surprise, surprise) Texans with deregulated energy rates paid $28 billion more than those with traditional, regulated plans. They could do this because not all areas of Texas became deregulated, and what they found was that people who bought “free market” energy paid 13% more than the national average for their energy, compared to people who were still getting their energy from regulated suppliers, who paid 8% less than the national average. And the increased competition and choice that was promised through deregulation? Mergers left Texans with a duopoly of essentially two main retail electricity providers.
Bottom line? Deregulation was a total bust in this case. The resulting deregulated market cost consumers more, provided worse service, did not anticipate obvious problems, and when those problems occurred the lowered supply of energy and the increased demand naturally resulted in insanely high energy bills, as high as $17,000 for a single month’s electricity for a single house. That is, if their electricity wasn’t actually cut off, leaving them freezing cold (in some cases, to death).
Now, I am a capitalist. I believe in (actual) free markets. But what they had in Texas was not a free market in any sense. If people are freezing to death, they will pay any price necessary to stay alive. It isn’t freedom if there is a gun to your head. That’s why we have laws against monopolies, which the Republicans seem to ignore, while pretending to sing the praises of free markets.
Also, note that when the Texas energy market failed, the federal government had to declare an emergency and bail out the energy companies. If this were a truly free market, the energy companies are the ones that would suffer, not the consumers.
In the system championed by the Republicans, the corporations are the ones who are protected, and the consumers suffer. There is a name for this kind of system, where corporations are partners with the government, and individual rights (like for consumers) are suppressed. It is called national socialism (also known as Nazism). The Republicans paint the Democrats as socialists, and manage to scare people into voting against their own interests. How many times will we be fooled by this?