Home Energy and Environment Revisiting Enron: Sociopathic Undermining of the Economy and Its Lessons (Which We...

Revisiting Enron: Sociopathic Undermining of the Economy and Its Lessons (Which We Haven’t Heeded)


Of the sordid tale of Enron, this must be said: Almost no one went to jail for the biggest swindle ever in the US–until Wall Street collapsed in 2008.  There was virtually no accountability for the crime against millions of victims.  Over 20,000 employees lost their pensions.  Americans lost billions of dollars.  A governor was wrongfully forced out of office with a collaborator with the privateers (Arnold) taking his place.  Most of all the state of California was set on its perilous course to the tune of about 38 billion dollars and it has gone spiraling downward ever since.  This was a crime against the biggest state economy in the nation and one of the biggest in the world.  And it could happen again.  

Yesterday CNBC reran the powerful 2005 Documentary, The Smartest Guys in the Room. For those of you have never seen it, there is a glimpse of what the energy industry and the so-called free market movement have wrought.  

It is worth taking a step back into the narrative of that disaster. It predicted Wall Street’s demise, yet we did not heed the warnings. What we learned, or should have, is that there was no free market for energy at all. It was rigged in every way possible. The participants gleefully ruined others and some of it is on videotape.  It’s difficult to imagine how these yahoos became as twisted as the video shows.

Here is another short clip.

It is important to revisit and remember, because the revisionists will try to erase what really happened from the national consciousness. They will do so as quickly as you can say “free markets, which are a fiction.  And there never will be because greed, contempt for Americans, and raw sociopathy will intervene to rig markets.  

The next time the privateers try to reduce the paltry regulations left, rise up and say “No.” Then, more important, demand sensible re-regulation and oversight.  There is no meaningful oversight in the post Bushworld. (There was little enough before them.) There was money to be made before the Enronization of energy markets occurred. There could be again.  

One thing is certain: There isn’t is the room or capacity in our economy to absorb more shenanigans, leading to collapse, from the so-called brightest guys in the room.  Additionally, in the wake of the energy and environmental crisis we are now experiencing in the Gulf, we must learn the hard lesson that markets have not and will not fix the systemic abuses, fraud, corruption and downright evil practices of runaway industries in the grip of sociopathy.  And its time to stop the pretense that they do.  

  • Teddy Goodson

    when you say (as I have been for several years) that Free Markets are a myth and a fraud. Friedman economics makes a fetish of unregulated free markets, and it is the unquestioned dogma of Republicans, Wall Street, the Chambers of Commerce, libertarians, Tea Baggers…. and most national Democrats.

    Anyone of the Inside the Beltway crew who makes even a tentative remark even slightly questioning “free market capitalism” is relentlessly attacked, marginalized, and more or less burned at the stake. It is long past time for Democrats to drop the dogma and make a bold stand against that utterly bankrupt theory. Kill it dead…. and quit trying to be Republican Lite. (Are you listening, Obama?)

    What should we use to replace it? For now, it is enough to demand that strong national government oversight and regulation are installed, before any more disasters can occur. Next, the theory needs to be replaced and/or updated and adjusted by progressive economists—- “free markets” do not and cannot exist. It is a bastard concept.

    The theory does not include social and environmental costs, it cannot explain the macro-economic situation, and it has ruined many countries’ economies just as Enron did California’s, not to mention bringing on the recent collapse of Wall Street financial houses, causing the still on-going Recession. Keynesianism is also inadequate, and even Austrian economics does not quite do the job, so we need a new, updated model to answer the gaps in Friedmanism. And we need more than greed as a motivator.