the CAMP ENRON Report


CAMP ENRON:
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?

Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew's been smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.


For a brief orientation, see this
Welcome to Camp Enron

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Camp Enron Archives
01/01/2002 - 02/01/2002 02/01/2002 - 03/01/2002 03/01/2002 - 04/01/2002 04/01/2002 - 05/01/2002 05/01/2002 - 06/01/2002 06/01/2002 - 07/01/2002 07/01/2002 - 08/01/2002 08/01/2002 - 09/01/2002 06/01/2003 - 07/01/2003

NOTE to READERS:
(2) All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


OUR DEPARTMENTS:

the COGENT PROVOCATEUR:
free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading the tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.


For brief orientation, see this
Welcome to CP


CAMP ENRON:
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?

For a brief orientation, see this
Welcome to Camp Enron

OTHER GOOD STUFF:
Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Tuesday, March 05, 2002

 
--- Welcome to Camp Enron! Blogward and Upward!!! ---

"... a Culture of Minimal Disclosure". We clipped this phrase from the inside continuation headline on a 2001-12-04 WSJ article, an in-depth backgrounder on how Enron ended up on the rocks in its failed Dynergy merger and Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The phrase stuck, and we reprised it a month later when DOJ announced a criminal probe and the story started really hotting up.

Our Camp Enron Reports -- some are excerpted below -- have been accumulating in other forums. We'll collect and extend them here for convenience and continuity. The biggest existing trove can be tapped at QuasiPundit.

[Please bear with us while we import existing material, double-check stale links, and follow up with status checks on some of our early sightings and predictions.]

Enron is a big story, but how big, and what kind? A vocal faction to the right of us insists it's not that big, and it's practically over, and it'll be forgotten by Christmas. A faction to the left of us is gearing up for re-enactment of classic political scandals and scathings and scourgings. We think the first group is absorbed in anxious wishful thinking, and the second group is distracted from weightier possibilities by the unfortunate coincidence of Enron's proximity to Bush43. But that leaves the question pending ... how big?

We think it's really, really big, and more a culture story than a business or political story. A story that'll keynote headlines and history books for decades to come. And ideal branding, really ... a two-syllable, five-letter, easily-pronounced emblem for "what's wrong with this country".
The Fall of the House of Enron is a seminal event, of far greater magnitude than the production of one Blue Dress. A cultural bombshell. A watershed. An end to Business as Usual. The End of an Era. A massive failure of intelligence. A massive failure of epistemology. A tipping point. A Bridge Too Far. A collective epiphany. Losing our religion. Nietzsche's Transvaluation of Values. McLuhan's Reversal of the Overheated Medium. A Hegelian Crisis of Cannibalism. The fall of a dynasty of baseless enthusiasms. A Bonfire of Inanities. A compound fracture of the Pillars of Community, where jagged scissile bones of Unjust Enrichment protrude sickeningly through the riven flesh of Shattered Trust. A Hoberman Scandal. Could it even be a Paradigm Shift?
So what is wrong with this country? And what's to be done about it? That's TBD, as we noted here:
On the way to learning how Andersen failed us and why Everybody did it, a web of assumptions will be examined ... beliefs so pervasive our culture has no names for their alternatives, since we never imagined there might be (or must be) alternatives. Where this journey will take us is beyond the capacity of anyone to anticipate -- even yours truly.
Cultures on the make go through cycles of idealistic hubris, systemic corruption, re-examination and reform. Whether it's the echelons of irreconcilable privilege in ancient Rome, or provincial bureaucrats in Imperial China, or commissars in Soviet Russia, somebody figures out how to game the system 'til it breaks, and it breaks, and then something else happens.

As we capsuled it elsewhere, "How will republican democracy and market-based capitalism escape being eaten alive by their own demon spawn?"

Sometimes "reform" is abrupt and bloody. Sometimes "reform" means centuries of relative disorganization and creeping experimentation far from the mainstream. US tradition favors rapid eras of corruption and reform, with limited bloodshed (except for that Abolitionist phase). No guarantees, but we look to Enron as
an early skirmish -- and a decided upset -- in the battle between what was supposed to come next, and whatever will come next. The early favorite, anarcho-capitalism, blows out a knee in the preliminary heats. Samizdata may have it nailed in their mission statement: "Developing the libertarian meta-context" (and, artfully avoiding any possible confusion) "... for the future". That's exactly what's at work here: creative destruction of the prevailing meta-context ... "for the future".
The questions won't be easy ones, and the answers will lead to more questions. For instance:
Were energy markets so inefficient to begin with that Enron's participation lubricated the wheels of commerce to the tune of $60B value-added? Or were equity markets so inefficient they placed a $60B price tag on something with zero economic value?
This will lead us, among other rambles, to discover how the market for securities analysis experienced a severe case of market failure. And what we find there may lead us to deeper and more disturbing discoveries.
So here we find ourselves, a ragged band of Capitalist tools -- Jenkins, Krugman, Tony, Will (Vehrs), Will (George), RonK, and more -- puzzling over the bones of a fallen giant, trying to discern what it portends for the rest of us ... saying things out loud to see if they sound right, haphazardly agreeing and disagreeing, not yet divided into factions, striking this or that pose of confidence or concern, fishing for the keys by which we can attach meaning to this event without tearing up too much of the chain of meanings we learned and used in the world before Enron.

Our faith enjoins us to place Capital in the hands of those most capable and inclined to use it best, to create more Capital. Something has gone amiss, something we can't comfortably dismiss as an isolated instance, something we can't readily trace to a single defective component. This may take a while.

We're dug in here to track the story in depth as it roots in and branches out. If Enron is forgotten by Christmas, of course, we'll look like idiots ... wouldn't be the first time ... but mercifully, you'll have forgotten that, too.
Camp Enron coverage will include ample servings of highlights and sidelights ... politics (including PPD), and courtroom drama, and soap opera, and farce, and even sport. But keep in mind that Enron itself is merely the chimerical sideshow poster child for a three-ring circus of misplaced devotion.

Enron wouldn't be a big story if we weren't already knee deep in systemic distortions ... but we are. The reward systems have been jimmied, the stage is set for an epoch of unravelings and rewindings. The Enron case(s) may be eclipsed by Global Crossing, and that may be superseded by JP Morgan Chase or CSFB, and that in turn by something else. But by virtue of first mover advantage, pop identifiability and transmissional efficiency, the meme will forever be identified as "Enron".

So "look for the Enron label" ... and stay tuned.