By John Keller | UNITED STATES
Ryan Graham is a libertarian living in Atlanta, Georgia. He is currently seeking office in the Georgia Public Service Commission. He enjoys a career in software development and is passionate about economics. He believes it is time for a change.
Keller: You are running as a Libertarian. In your own words, what is Libertarianism all about?
Graham: The easiest way to describe libertarianism is, “Don’t hit people, and don’t take their stuff.” Everything else can be derived from that. Personal freedom for all people is all important.
Keller: What inspired you to seek office with the Georgia Public Service Commission?
Graham: We have an issue here in Georgia surrounding the construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. Electric companies in Georgia are granted monopolies in their area or are all municipal owned, still in monopolistic fashion. Georgia Power is being granted the right to profit off of the construction of the nuclear reactors and consumers don’t have a choice. It’s blatant cronyism and I see that as a major problem.
In a libertarian world, there’d be no Public Service Commission granting favors to the companies they are meant to regulate. There’d be no monopoly because decisions like this one would generate competition as people became fed up with these types of decisions. That’s the world I’d like to see. I want to see the people empowered to make these decisions for themselves.
Keller: The duopoly has dominated the political scene for over one hundred years. Why should voters choose a Libertarian this election cycle?
Graham: I think most of America can look at the current “political scene” and see a lot that isn’t working. Americans were presented with a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016. Many of them held their noses and pulled the lever for one or the other. Many more stayed home. Americans need to take a chance on another party. As I mentioned before, I’d like to see a world with real competition. That goes for the market of ideas as well.
Keller: The Public Service Commission, in many ways, is an institution of economic protectionism. As a Libertarian, how will you reform this institution to provide more freedom to consumers?
Graham: The easiest way to do that is to use the post as a bully pulpit to speak about deregulation of electricity and an expansion of the deregulation on gas. Deregulation stops the cronyism inherent in a system that has five officials overseeing regulated monopolies. They currently rubber stamp anything from Georgia Power that comes across the desk. It should be obvious to anyone watching that this system doesn’t work.
While taking that fight to our state legislators, as a commissioner, I can make decisions that at least attempt to mirror the free market. While not nearly as good, it’s the system we’re in and it’s the system we have to work with.
For example, in the Plant Vogtle case mentioned above, I would support a plan that didn’t include charging ratepayers. Georgia Power is investor owned and those investors should be the ones taking on the risks involved in a capital project. Customers shouldn’t be forced to bear that burden. Taking on risk in the hope of reward is literally the job of an investor.
Keller: What priorities do you have for this office? In essence, what three things are most important to you that you want to see completed while part of the Georgia Public Service Commission?
Graham: My top three priorities in office are deregulation of electricity, consumer advocacy, and increased transparency in the office.
I’ve talked a lot about deregulation above. The benefits of opening up the market would directly empower Georgians to make decisions on their utility use. Is renewable energy important to you? You should be able to go to a company that serves 100% renewable energy. Is price more important to you? Then you should be able to shop around for the lowest price. You’d have everything in between and Georgians would be able to make decisions that are right for them and their families.
While we have a system that is weighted towards monopolistic power the Public Service Commission MUST be the voice of the people. We have a broken system that basically allows companies to get away with much more than if they were held accountable to their customers. The Public Service Commission has to work to ensure that accountability.
One of the most striking things I’ve noticed as I’ve been campaigning is how many Georgians have no idea the Public Service Commission even exists, let alone what they do. Decisions they make impact each Georgian every single month when they pay their electric and gas bills. That has to change, and I think the commissioners themselves can do a lot to change it. A video stream of proceedings, more advanced notice of hearings, a larger social media presence, these are all things that commissioners could provide that would help connect them with the people they represent. Stan Wise quipped during the Plant Vogtle hearings, “These meetings are made available as a courtesy to the public.” That’s a terrible attitude. You are serving at the behest of the public.
Keller: The Georgia Public Service Commission’s mission statement is as follows: “The mission of the Georgia Public Service Commission is to exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.” Libertarians tend to believe in less government intervention in the markets. How can you provide free markets to the citizens of Georgia without undoing the mission statement and the very essence of the institution?
Graham: That’s an easy one, free markets are the best at ensuring safe, reliable, and reasonably priced products. They also ensure the services come from financially viable and technically competent companies. If a company produces an unsafe product the people will purchase it from another provider. If a company has unreliable service the people will switch services to someone more reliable. If a company charges too much money the people will switch to another who finds a way to charge less. Free markets, while in no way are perfect, are the most efficient way to ensure the public is getting all of the items listed in the mission statement.
Keller: If someone was interested, how can they get involved in your campaign?
Graham: The easiest way is to head on over to Graham4GA.com. There is a place there to sign up as a volunteer and to let me know how you can best help out. If time is an issue and you’d just like to help out financially you can always go to Graham4GA.com/donate. You can also get me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all under the username Graham4GA.
Keller: Do you have any final remarks to the readers and the people of Georgia?
Graham: We’ve been doing things the same way for years, electing “free market” Republicans to fill these positions, and all we have to answer for it is cronyism. The current commissioners graciously accept dinners, convention travel, even Christmas hams(I didn’t realize how expensive those were until I looked it up), as trade for rubber stamping their proposals as they enter the commission. I want to take office and abdicate the power back to the people. Individuals are the best at making the decisions that are best for them, and they should be empowered to do so.
I would like to thank Ryan Graham for conducting this interview with 71Republic. Be sure to get involved with his campaign by visiting his website Graham4GA.com and follow him on social media:
Image from Utah Citizen network.