Perhaps one of the biggest mainstream business media cliches is the surprising discovery that industry leaders often favour regulation of their industry. Time and again, reporters somehow manage to be surprised that by industry leaders who favour policies that increase the barrier to entry and regulatory costs. It’s as if they are completely immune to evidence of the the anti-competivive effects of regulation.
Last night’s 60 Minutes featured a classic example of this trope. “Coal has made [Duke Enegy CEO Jim] Rogers and his company rich, and that’s why we were surprised to hear what this high-flying power-baron has to say about what coal does to the environment,” Scott Pelley says in the introduction to the piece. And what does Rogers have to say? Well, that the government needs to make carbon emissions much more expensive.
It almost reaches the level of parody when Pelley says Rogers is “like a reformed tobacco executive.” Of course, the leaders in the tobacco industry are the greatest backers of tobacco regulation. It kills their competition. So, yes, Rogers’ support of carbon emissions regulation is like the support of anti-advertising policies of tobacco executives. 60 Minutes just doesn’t understand why. To them, it’s always surprising.