By Robert Bradley Jr. -- July 16, 2019
“Add [to rent-seeking] the company’s rank imprudence and strategic deceit (what I labeled philosophic fraud), and a new term had to be invented to describe that which true capitalist luminaries from Adam Smith forward warned against: the contra-capitalist corporation.”
For many years now, as a poor man’s Robert Caro, I have labored to demonstrate that the worldview-testing event called Enron was Exhibit A of crony capitalism and Progressivism, not free-market capitalism and the classical liberalism.
The Progressive mainstream argued emphatically for their conclusion. Two examples are among my favorites. Paul Krugman in the New York Times: “I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.” Robert Kuttner in BusinessWeek: “Defenders of deregulation are mounting a heroic effort to insist that the [Enron] debacle was merely a business model gone bad, not an impeachment of freer markets”. Kuttner added in the American Prospect: “Enron should signal a whole new era of re-regulation—of everything from electricity to pensions to accounting standards.”
Never mind that Ken Lay’s Enron mined special government favor to resuscitate the domestic solar industry and save the U.S. wind industry. Never mind that Enron, splitting the fossil-fuel industry into two and then three, was “the company most responsible for sparking off the greenhouse civil war in the hydrocarbon business.” Never mind that Enron feasted on subsidies from the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Forget that Enron was in favor of a coal-killing BTU tax, CO2 cap-and-trade, or CO2 tax. And that Ken Lay championed oil tariffs in the wake of the Gulf War in the early 1990s.
Add the company’s rank imprudence and strategic deceit (what I labeled philosophic fraud), and a new term had to be invented to describe that which true capitalist luminaries such as Adam Smith, Samuel Smiles, Ayn Rand, and Charles Koch warned against: the contra-capitalist corporation.
I was reminded about all this upon reading a feature from Harper’s Magazine (August 2011) in which Thomas Frank lambasted capitalism through the lens of Enron. The Age of Enron, written on the 10th anniversary of the company’s fall, advanced the theme that more Enrons await with capitalism. And this remains the Progressive view today despite the opposite finding in my three books on the subject (with a fourth to come.)
It is as if LBJ remained Saint LBJ despite Robert Caro’s multi-decade revisionism of what had been a carefully constructed narrative. Oh well, my counter-thesis is not politically correct and, frankly, for a number of business ethics professors, a paradigm buster. But there is always a new generation to influence.
I reproduce Thomas Frank’s article in whole. Note that...………..
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Aussie Climate Crusader Turns Wind Power Nimby
Former Greens leader and veteran activist Bob Brown is campaigning to stop a $1.6 billion wind farm development in Tasmania because it will spoil the view and kill birds.
The proposed Robbins Island wind farm in Tasmania’s northwest will be one of the world’s biggest, with up to 200 towers measuring 270m high from ground to blade tip.
If it goes ahead, electricity from the Robbins Island project will be sent to the mainland via a new undersea cable to help make Tasmania a “battery for the nation”.
But in a letter to local media and on his foundation’s website, Dr Brown has slammed the project, which he said had echoes of earlier attempts to build skyscrapers in Hobart which were stopped by protests.
Despite the criticisms levelled at former prime minister Tony Abbott and treasurer Joe Hockey for describing wind turbines as “ugly”, Dr Brown said the Robbins Island plan was, visually, a step too far. “Mariners will see this hairbrush of tall towers from 50km out to sea and elevated landlubbers will see it, like it or not, from greater distances on land,” Dr Brown said. “Its eye-catchiness will divert from every coastal scene on the western Bass Strait coastline.”
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