Kevin Williamson: A Lesson in Cooperative Capitalism
In theory, this kind of cooperation should not exist. If every utility executive were in fact a rational specimen of Homo economicus, he would gleefully greet hurricanes that put his competitors at a disadvantage and imposed large losses on them. (Utilities may not often compete directly with one another for customers, but they do compete for capital.) The difference of a few tenths of a percentage point in the dividend could be the difference between a large institutional investor putting its money into Jones Power instead of Smith Power, with billions of dollars potentially at stake. And, yet, Jones Power does not revel in Smith Power’s troubles — instead, it sends its own workers into Smith’s market to help out Smith’s customers.
No doubt you could construct a plausible economic narrative in which this can all be explained in terms of each firm seeking to secure its own self-interest very broadly defined — utilities maximizing utility.
But that misses the point.