~e; Enron's angels

From bc <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Fri, 14 Dec 2001 17:14:15 -0600

The Enron outrage
Free-market ideologues said the energy titan's triumphs proved them 
right. Now they should admit its humiliating collapse proves they 
were wrong.

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By Thomas Frank

Dec. 13, 2001 | "I believe in God and I believe in free markets," 
Enron CEO Kenneth Lay told the San Diego Union-Tribune back in 
February. What's more, continued this titan of the energy business, 
Jesus himself was something of a '90s-style libertarian: "He wanted 
people to have the freedom to make choices."

Maybe, then, it was the Lord's work Enron was doing as it pushed 
electricity deregulation through the 1990s, and transformed itself 
from a gas pipeline company into an energy trader designed to provide 
choices and maximize profits in the freewheeling aftermath. After 
all, what better sign of the Almighty's favor could there be than 
Lay's compensation for the year of Our Deregulated Lord 2000: $141.6 
million, a full 184 percent increase over 1999. Blessed indeed are 
the market makers! "We're on the side of angels," the company's 
former CEO Jeff Skilling told Business Week a little while ago. "In 
every business we've been in, we're the good guys."

Fortunately for the rest of us, though, Enron didn't inherit the 
earth. The company may have promised to deliver greater 
"transparency" to energy markets, but upon inspection its own affairs 
turned out to be a tangled mess of lies, nepotism and exaggeration 
that included the overstatement of profits by some $586 million -- a 
revelation that caused panic among investors and a catastrophic 
collapse for the mighty energy trader.

Nor will the obvious implications of the Enron affair be suppressed 
for long. Enron's failings were in fact directly related to its 
corporate ideology, to its zealous, cult-like love of free markets. 
It isn't a coincidence when those who run ads mocking government 
regulators and saluting themselves as colossal rule breakers turn out 
to be engaged in literal rule breaking and regulation circumvention. 
Why are we feigning surprise?
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