All Episodes

[Episode #73] – Regulatory Capture

Utility regulators are playing an increasingly important role in steering the energy transition of the power grid. However, many regulators aren’t equipped to sort through arguments put forward by competing interests, because they often need to consider highly technical questions that only a power system engineer, or a market design expert could properly evaluate. Some regulators are simply political appointees who may or may not have the appropriate technical expertise, while others are elected by the public, who in turn may not be able to evaluate the technical expertise of the people they are electing. As a result, it is quite common for regulators to depend on the guidance of the companies they are supposed to regulate, and for those companies to seek as much leverage or control over their regulators as they can get—a problem known as regulatory capture.

In this episode we’ll delve into the problem of regulatory capture, and what might be done about it, with the help of Gary Wolfram, a professor and the Director of Economics and Political Economy at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. He has published extensively on public policy and taxpayer rights, on the role of government in capitalist market economies, and on the governance and incentive structures of utilities…and we promise that this interview will be a lot more accessible and interesting than this dry description may make it sound!

Geek rating: 6

Guest: Dr. Gary Wolfram is the William E. Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy as well as the Director of Economics and Political Economy at Hillsdale College. Dr. Wolfram is a consultant specializing in taxation and policy analysis. Dr. Wolfram's public policy experience includes serving as Congressman Nick Smith's Chief of Staff, Michigan’s Deputy State Treasurer for Taxation and Economic Policy under Governor John Engler, and Senior Economist to the Republican Senate in Michigan.  He has taught at several colleges and universities, including Mount Holyoke College, The University of Michigan, and Washington State University.  He has contributed to national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Human Events, American Spectator and National Review.

On Twitter: @gary_wolfram

On the Web: Gary Wolfram’s page at Hillsdale College 

Recording date: June 4, 2018

Air date: July 11, 2018