Commentary: The public clearly embraces marketplace competition
By Clayton A. Mitchell Sr.
The writer is a retired attorney who lives in Stevensville on the Eastern Shore.
Throughout my lifetime, I have been deeply immersed in the realm of politics and government. From my experience, it has become evident that when those entrenched in this arena are confronted with poll results that challenge their predispositions, their reflexive inclination is to assail the credibility of the poll itself. Rather than reevaluating the soundness of their current convictions or the efficacy of their political strategies, it seems far more convenient for them to attack the messenger.
In the present case, this time-honored path has been taken by none other than the director of the Office of the People’s Counsel, who recently penned a missive to Maryland Matters, berating the findings of the renowned Gonzales Poll.
The Gonzales poll, an esteemed institution in Maryland, has long been regarded as a trusted arbiter of public sentiment. Its latest survey reveals that a resounding 78% of Maryland consumers want authentic retail competition and the freedom to select their own energy providers. These consumers aspire to be liberated from an imposed energy plan and desire the freedom to embrace a tailored approach befitting their lifestyles.
Furthermore, they seek the superior service that arises when companies must compete earnestly for their patronage. Moreover, a compelling majority, encompassing 82% of African-American voters, 84% of young voters, and an overwhelming 93% of progressive voters — all core Democratic constituencies — stand united in their demand for increased competition and choice, replete with its attendant benefits.
The Gonzales scientific polling serves to underscore and corroborate the unmistakable truth that — in the annals of capitalism — monopolies have never engendered more favorable outcomes for consumers than competitive marketplaces. The tenets of competition stimulate innovation, foster transparency, and herald the advent of superior products. They serve as a chastening rod against the tyranny of inflated costs, disreputable business practices, and indifferent customer service.
An exemplification of the perils of virtual monopolies can be observed when BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric) seeks to foist upon its ratepayers a three-year, $31 rate increase. To compound this grievance, the utility recently resorted to disfiguring city streets and coercing beleaguered city residents, threatening to curtail their essential services merely to install visually unappealing external gas regulators in front of their homes. One can only imagine the magnitude of such rate hikes should this utility genuinely reign supreme as the sole supplier in the region. Predatory tendencies of monopolistic entities know no bounds because there are no alternatives for a distressed populace to turn to.
Let us not deceive ourselves; the fault does not lie with the pollster, the poll itself, or its sponsor. On the contrary, this poll stands as a beacon that faithfully reflects the intelligence, astuteness, and experience of the discerning Maryland consumers. Their collective demand for freedom of choice and the means to make well-informed decisions now calls upon the Legislature to dutifully heed their desires. The mandate is clear — pass legislation that ensures an environment of robust competition and consumer choice while safeguarding them from the depredations of monopolistic actors and exploitative stratagems.
In essence, the clarion call emanating from the Gonzales poll leaves us with no choice but to champion consumer-focused policies that herald the virtues of competition in the energy market.