What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.

By Elton Beard

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into two kinds and those who don't. I don't.

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02/10/02 01:15pm link

Money counts and the government should eliminate my taxes. An article in today's Washington Post describes a computer model developed by Enron economists to predict the cost or benefit, to Enron, of any existing or proposed federal regulation. The data generated by "the matrix" (did these guys have a thing for movies or what?) was used to optimize the distribution of cash to politicians in order to obtain the best return on investment.

There's nothing wrong with that. Enron was playing by the rules, and the rules say it's OK to contribute to politicians who best represent your interests. In fact, it's possible that government-dependant companies like Halliburton and Carlyle are remiss in their fiduciary duties if they don't run computer simulations of various what-if scenarios for military spending and energy policy, in order to maximize return on their investment in politicians.

Gia Maisashvili, an economist who had worked on the Enron computer model, ultimately quit in disgust at the way it was used. He told the Post:

They could have cared less if that was a good thing [for the public] or not. They cared only if this was good for Enron.
Mr. Maisashvili may have let his conscience guide him, but we can't expect corporations to have a conscience. Corporations exist in order to maximize profits for investors, and they shouldn't be expected to elevate some concept of the public good above profit. They shouldn't even be expected to discern what the public good is, other than to obey the rule of law.

It's up to government to decide what is in the interest of the public and the country, not corporate CEOs. Capitalism works, but it only works to the benefit of all in the context of sufficient government regulation and oversight. The fiduciary responsibility of corporate management is to maximize shareholder value; attendance to the public good is the duty of government.

More from the Post (via JMM):

"The ingrained philosophy was, me first, money counts and the government should eliminate my taxes," said another former manager. "That's all they cared about -- what impacted them personally."
Paul O'Neill
But "I got mine" is the defining principle of conservative economic philosophy, and of the Republican philosophy as a whole. Can an administration that adheres to such views be trusted to properly design and enforce rules that regulate business in the public interest?

The administration recently produced a budget document featuring a drawing of Gulliver tied down by Lilliputians. The analogy, presumably, is to the constraints imposed by on business by elected politicians.

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill had this to say on the issue:

I've dedicated my life to doing what I can to get rid of rules that limit human potential, and I'm not going to stop.
Don't have your secret decoder ring handy? No problem. To understand what he really meant, just substitute "corporate" for "human" in that quote. And that should answer the question of whether this administration can be trusted to look after the public weal.


July      8th - July     14th, 2002
July      1st - July      7th, 2002
June     24th - June     30th, 2002
June      3rd - June      9th, 2002
May      20th - May      26th, 2002
May      13th - May      19th, 2002
May       6th - May      12th, 2002
April    22nd - April    28th, 2002
April     1st - April     7th, 2002
March    25th - March    31st, 2002
March    18th - March    24th, 2002
March    11th - March    17th, 2002
March     4th - March    10th, 2002
February 25th - March     3rd, 2002
February 18th - February 24th, 2002
February  4th - February 10th, 2002
January  28th - February  3rd, 2002
January  21th - January  27th, 2002
January   6th - January  13th, 2002
December 10th - December 16th, 2001
December  3rd - December  9th, 2001
November 26th - December  2nd, 2001
November 19th - November 25th, 2001
November 11th - November 18th, 2001
November  4th - November 10th, 2001
October  11th - November  3rd, 2001

Busy, busy, busy.

What bokononists whisper whenever they think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.


The floggings will cease when morale improves.
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