How Appalling Is This?

According to John Fund’s Political Diary on today, California Governor Gray Davis showed his temper in a most appalling and embarrassing way on Friday 18 October. His outburst was prompted by a professor’s attempt to initiate a conversation about an editorial about electricity pricing in California written two days earlier by Vernon Smith, recent Nobel laureate. has reprinted Smith’s article today.

All Ely Dahan wanted was a brief conversation with California’s Gov. Gray Davis of California about an exciting article by a Nobel Prize winner that had just appeared in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Dahan, a UCLA business professor, thought the article had valuable insights into California’s electricity problems. What he got instead was a highly agitated governor ignoring the policy points, cursing the Journal as “f—ing a–h—s,” and declaring: “They don’t see the world realistically.” End of conversation. …

Mr. Dahan’s encounter with Mr. Davis came on Friday, Oct. 18, after the governor had finished a taping of CNN’s “Moneyline,” hosted by Lou Dobbs. Prof. Dahan approached the governor along with several students. Mr. Dahan wanted to discuss an article he had just read in the Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal by Vernon Smith, a George Mason University professor who the week before had been one of two winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics. The article, “Power to the People,” explained how California could take advantage of the fact that the cost of producing electricity can vary along with its pricing. California’s energy crisis was born because of a state rule imposing on utilities an “obligation to serve” all customers “could not be met at times of severe stress because the unresponsive demand exceeded energy supply, and the shortfall was met by rolling blackouts.” California utilities lost some $14 billion trying to avoid those blackouts. A small fraction of that would have solved the problem if utilities had been allowed to “sell less to consumers by offering a discount if they consumed less.”

Read the rest for yourself. Davis’ anti-intellectual lack of willingness to engage with ideas in the electricity policy process indicates a lot about him. I hope Davis has the dignity to be embarrassed about his outburst. But I doubt it.