Thursday, July 01, 2004

Pravin Jain, Part II

Jain emphasized throughout the essay (see prior post) that capitalism was practised in its purest, most unimpeded, form within the confines of Enron, as if Adam Smith were its patron saint. And this was was responsible for the great successes and innovations that Enron was able to achieve, as well as its final downfall:

Laissez-faire capitalism within Enron did not discriminate between wannabe entrepreneurs -- the con men -- and the genuine ones. Both were equally nurtured by the intoxicating environment, much like weeds and grass growing side by side in an untended lawn. But however dangerous, this was a logiacal, even invigorating, engine for Enron's greatest potentials. New worlds are not easily born, and Enron sought nothing less than a new world in their attempt to loosen potential commodities such as energy and bandwidth from the grip of old monopolistic systems. Con men -- the energy release by the intensity of their passions -- helped the older, sclerotic systems break down, so that new markets could be born.

I read this with fascination and horror. It reads like the part of Beowulf that describes Grendel's spawn. But I also read this with complete recognition. If you've ever worked on Wall Street, or in Silicon Valley, or anywhere that great fortunes were being made and lost, you will recognize this frenzied, monomaniacal activity:

Innovations this far-reaching require a radical mutation in their environment to grow beyond a certain point....To catalyze more far-reaching changes, the economy seems to mobilize a special breed of people -- people so obsessed with self-interests that they end up deceiving themselves and others. The intensity of their passion imbues them with the amorality of any destructive force.

I'll post a third part to this series.