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We have a link to the aff—the presumption that they increase democratic deliberation by expanding a form of consumption is the hallmark of neoliberal promises

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We have a link to the aff—the presumption that they increase democratic deliberation by expanding a form of consumption is the hallmark of neoliberal promises

Mun and Byrne 2003 – Center for Energy and Environmental Policy, University of Delaware (Yu-Mi and John, “Rethinking reform in the electricity sector: Power liberalisation or energy transformation?”, in “Electricity Reform: Social and Environmental Challenges”, ed: Njeri Wamukonya)
4.1 Commodity policy or policy commons¶ Experience with power liberalisation suggests that its promises of efficiency,¶ environmental improvement, greater equity and more democracy¶ are overdrawn. Several explanations can be offered for the¶ worldwide embrace of what has turned out to be a poorly performing¶ policy strategy (see, e.g., Wasserman 2001; World Bank 2001). A keyfactor surely is the effectiveness of the ideology of market efficiency,¶ which directs policy attention to the benefits of unsubsidised prices¶ and competition. In formulating a public benefits agenda as an outgrowth¶ of market processes, this ideology conceives social need incommodity terms, that is, as a good or service whose value is determined¶ by individuals being able to afford more or less of it. In the¶ case of electricity, an efficiency-based strategy expects to increase service¶ and lower short- and/or long-term costs, thereby enabling more¶ people to consumer more electricity. It is the empowerment ofindividual choice, coupled with the promise of expanding consumptionthat is the hallmark of commodity policy in electricity.¶ In this respect, a commodity policy relies for its claim of being a¶ distinctive source of public benefits on two premises – cornucopianism¶ and individualism. Specifically, a commodity policy’s public benefitsare the result of the production of ‘more,’ on the logic that ‘more isbetter’ (cornucopianism); and/or the result of a greater exercise of¶ individual choice, on the logic that individual choice is the only true¶ expression of freedom or, at least, its principal expression (individualism).¶ The experience with power liberalisation described above has underscored¶ the existence of vital public values that are neither cornucopian nor individualistic. These include the value of reducing energy¶ use in the interest of sustainability – a direct contradiction of cornucopianism;¶ the value of social equity that can only be realised by acollective commitment to, for example, universal service even when it¶ is ‘inefficient’ – a direct contradiction of ‘individualism; and the valueof democratic deliberation and participation, which can interfere with¶ individual choice but may build long-term confidence in the efficacy¶ of the process. Because these values inescapably conflict with thenorms of commodity policy, it is not reasonable to expect them to beeffectively considered under existing liberalisation strategy. Furthermore,¶ adding ‘policies’ to address them in some manner, while maintaining¶ the basic architecture of power liberalisation, can onlypromise to heighten awareness of the conflict between commodity¶ and non-commodity values in electricity reform.¶ What might be an alternative base informed by the specific experienceof power liberalisation? A policy commons approach (Figure¶ 2) replaces liberalisation’s marketplace – an economic space – withpublic discoursea socio-political space. It

does this in recognition of¶ the fact that non-commodity values are not intended to be efficient –¶ instead, they most often are intended to correct failures of democracy,¶ equity and sustainability. These values are lost when the decisionspace is economised. Invigorating the socio-political character of the¶ decision space is therefore essential if a public benefits agenda is to be¶ pursued.¶ The pre-liberalisation era of electricity supply hardly offers guidance¶ in this matter. Relying on a mixture of technocracy and monopoly,¶ the era preempted public discourse and responded to social and¶ political criticism only in moments of crisis. A vigorous public discoursewould require that technology choice, investment commitments,¶ social impacts, and ecological implications would all beroutinely considered in an ‘open access’ regime of ongoing evaluation.¶ As discussed below, a policy commons would be distinguished by a¶ process of evaluation unavailable in either the marketplace or technocracy.¶ As well, the content of decisions should differ, since a policy commonswould authorise policy actions that are responsive to a range ofvalues incapable of being valorised within the realm of commodity¶ production and consumption. These values stand apart from the¶ cornucopian and individualist norms of power liberalisation. Broadly,¶ their content is to be found in the emerging ideas of an electricity¶ system governable by communities and responsive to criteria of¶ equity and sustainability. While specific policy content will be shaped¶ by the particulars of each societal context, the evolving discourse on¶ sustainable energy strategy (Reddy et al 1997; Byrne & Rich 1992;¶ Goldemberg et al, 1988) is likely to contribute ideas about theattributes of a new energy-environment-society relationship. In this¶ respect, a policy commons approach will be less likely to yield reform¶ of the power liberalisation model than a transformation of the electricity¶ policy agenda. Moving beyond the ‘genius of the market’ appears¶ to be unavoidable. What then might be elements of process and¶ content that could help to transform the policy agenda? We first examine¶ the question of process.

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