Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Enron, rubber barrels and the dream of unlimited power

/ corruption / celebrations /
... in which Matt Taibbi uses the Enron trials as a metaphor for the past few years of all-around unabashed controlfreakery:

...When Daniel Petrocelli, Skilling's grating and pompous solicitor, made his "my client is just a simple caveman" pitch to the jury, he argued with a straight face that rich people are more perfect and less prone to temptation than the rest of us.

"In 1999, [Skilling] had more money than he ever dreamed of having," he said. Indeed, Skilling and Lay walked away with $150 million and $220 million, respectively. "So why would he do it? What is Jeff Skilling's motive?"

There was silence for a moment, and I kept waiting for some enraged citizen to leap out of the jury box, tackle Petrocelli, start pulling ligature out of his neck. The obscenity of the lawyer's argument defied description, but it also expressed the mind-set that led to Enron. In Skilling's world, being poor was the only real crime; at any rate, being poor made you more suspect than someone with $150 million.

The Enron scandal, from the very beginning, was always about men not being satisfied with mere riches. The Lay and Skilling story is the story of a company with a simple, comprehensible and highly successful pipeline business that was hijacked by economic revolutionaries desperate to break free of the old reins of traditional business. Their innovation was a gibberish algorithm that allowed them to will themselves to vast riches simply by saying they had them. The idea that there should be any limits offended these people; they wanted to be gods, with limitless wealth, and not subject to the rules of the market but actually being the market themselves...

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