Edison to Enron: Energy Markets and Political Strategies

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The oil industry in the United States has been the subject of innumerable histories. But books on the development of the natural gas industry and the electricity industry in the U.S. are scarce. Edison to Enron is a readable flowing history of two of America's largest and most colorful industries.

It begins with the story of Samuel Insull, a poor boy from England, who started his career as Thomas Edison's right-hand man, then went on his own and became one of America's top industrialists. But when Insull's General Electric's energy empire collapsed during the Great Depression, the hitherto Great Man was denounced and prosecuted and died a pauper. Against that backdrop, the book introduces Ken Lay, a poor boy from Missouri who began his career as an aide to the head of Humble oil, now part of Exxon Mobil. Lay went on to become a Washington bureaucrat and energy regulator and then became the wunderkind of the natural gas industry in the 1980s with Enron.

To connect the lives of these two energy giants, Edison to Enron takes the reader through the flamboyant history of the American energy industry, from Texas wildcatters to the great pipeline builders to the Washington wheeler-dealers.

From the Reviews...

"This scholarly work fills in much missing history about two of America's most important industries, electricity and natural gas."
Joseph A. Pratt, NEH-Cullen Professor of History and Business, University of Houston

"... a remarkable book on the political inner workings of the U.S. energy industry."
Robert Peltier, PE, Editor-in-Chief, POWER Magazine

"This is a powerful story, brilliantly told."
Forrest McDonald, Historian

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About the author

ROBERT L. BRADLEY JR., a 16-year Enron employee and Ken Lay confidant, is a noted free-market scholar and public-policy entrepreneur. The founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, Bradley is the author of numerous books and essays on the history and political economy of energy. He is an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.; a visiting fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London; and an honorary senior research fellow at the Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2002, he received the Julian Simon Memorial Award for his work on energy and sustainable development.
Bradley lives in Houston and likes to spend time in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.
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Additional Information

John Wiley & Sons
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Published on
Oct 24, 2011
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Business & Economics / Economics / General
Political Science / Public Policy / Economic Policy
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This content is DRM protected.
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This book is an empirical study on the relationship between private enterprises, entrepreneurs and the government in P. R. China. The two authors conducted a detailed survey of enterprises and entrepreneurs in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China. Although it was only conducted in a medium sized city, the survey provides a rare source of information on matched entrepreneur-enterprise pairs. It provides detailed information on management, performance, enterprise-government relationship, as well as entrepreneurs' personal information and measurements of various psychological parameters. With this first-hand information, the authors analyzed several interesting issues concerning enterprise-entrepreneur-government relationships. Readers will gain an understanding of the following topics:Why and how does China have such special enterprise-entrepreneur-government relationships?Do enterprises' political connections in the form of entrepreneurs' political status help improve the performances of these enterprises?Which of the surveyed entrepreneurs could become members of the People's Congress and the People's Political Consulting Conference?How do entrepreneurs feel when they are faced with greater government intervention?How will China move ahead in the ongoing reform and development in the light of the enterprise-entrepreneur-government relationship?

This book examines the way in which China's enterprise-entrepreneur-government relationship helps enterprises develop in a transitional market. In the appendix to this book, one of the authors, Ming Lu, provides evidence, based on data from listed companies, that having political connections can help enterprises enter the markets of provinces other than their place of registration. However, this political connection also distorts the market by giving the entrepreneurs more opportunities to develop their business. At the same time, those entrepren

eurs who face interventions from the government also shoulder greater costs in the form of loss of psychological happiness. The inference of this book is that at some point in the foreseeable future, China will gradually build its market system and integrate its domestic markets, so that private enterprises will no longer rely so heavily on their political connections.
For many, small firms are everyday realities of the economy and visible in every high-street and industrial estate. Their existence and importance is unquestionable. Such beliefs are understandable, but the authors of this new book would suggest they are misguided. The Political Economy of the Small Firm challenges the assumptions regarding small firms that pervade society and political representation. Small firms are not organised into a homogenous sector that has a clear constituency or political influence. In fact, the small firm is shown to be an inconstant political construct that is discursively ethereal and vulnerable to political exploitation.

Fusing theories from political science, management and linguistics, Dannreuther and Perren assert that the idea of the small firm is an important discursive resource used by political actors to legitimise their actions, influence their citizens and help sustain regimes of accumulation. On top of this, the authors also empirically test their claims against 200 years of UK parliamentary debate, from the Industrial Revolution to the Blair government.

The political construction of the small firm is shown not only to provide rhetorical mechanisms to maintain periods of capitalist accumulation, but also to increase the relative autonomy of the state and to centralise power to elite politicians. For a period of 150 years up to the 1970s, the small firm was an unexplored presence, below the political radar and resonant with poor working standards and extreme forms of competition. During the so-called Fordist period from the 1930s, the small firm was seen as the dirty, out-dated, contrast to the clean, modern future represented by mass production and corporations. The perceived failure of Fordism led to the invention of the small firm and its presentation as an ideal political construct. By fabricating assertions of what small firms are and what they want, frequently out of conjecture, the authors of this book show how political elites have been able to advocate radical reformist agendas since the 1970s in the name of a phantom constituency.

A great fall cannot be understood apart from the rise that preceded it. Enron Ascending is the only book to date that examines in detail the first two-thirds of that iconic energy company’s life. Thus, it is the only book to date that exposes the deepest causes of Enron’s stunning collapse. Nobel economist Paul Krugman predicted that history would look upon Enron’s plummet as a greater turning point than the fall of the Twin Towers.

Enron Ascending explains the shock of the company’s fall by recalling the astounding achievements of Enron’s birth, childhood, adolescence, and early maturity. It sets forth the once-celebrated but now-forgotten industry and innovation that caused the company and its reputation to soar stratospherically. At the same time, always conscious of the company’s fate, the book highlights throughout the developing habits of thought and behavior that later evolved into self-destructive acts of desperation and deceit.

Written fifteen years after the firm’s demise, Enron Ascending offers the long perspective of a uniquely positioned insider, Robert L. Bradley, Jr., the company’s director of public-policy analysis and Chairman Ken Lay’s personal speechwriter. The book also offers a library of previously unavailable information, drawn from Bradley’s innumerable corporate documents and unrepeatable interviews, which he collected in his capacity as the company’s prospective historian.

Most important, however, Enron Ascending offers an antidote to the unending stories, studies, and books about Enron that are presented as just-the-facts but are in reality shaped decisively by the worldview of their authors. Bradley shows, beyond dispute, that the early habits which set precedents for Enron’s history-making demise were directly contrary to the free-market behaviors and capitalist attitudes generally blamed for Enron’s fall.

Capitalism took the blame for Enron. Yet Enron was anything but a free-market enterprise, and company-architect Ken Lay was hardly a principled capitalist. On the contrary, Enron was a politically dependent company and, in the end, a grotesque outcome of America's modern mixed economy. That is the central finding of Robert L. Bradley's Capitalism at Work: The blame for Enron rests squarely with political capitalism - a system in which business interests routinely obtain, and employ government intervention for their own interests at the expense of consumers, taxpayers, and competitors. Although Ken Lay professed allegiance to free markets, he was in fact a consummate politician. Only by manipulating the levers of government was Enron transformed from a $3 billion natural gas company to a $100 billion chimera, one that went from seventh place on the Fortune 500 list to bankruptcy. But Capitalism at Work goes beyond unmasking Enron's sophisticated foray into political capitalism. Employing the timeless insights of Adam Smith, Samuel Smiles, and Ayn Rand, among others, Bradley shows how fashionable anti-capitalist doctrines set the stage for the ultimate business debacle. Those errant theories, like Enron itself, elevated form over substance, ignored legitimate criticism, and bypassed midcourse correction. Political capitalism was thus more than the handiwork of profit-hungry businessmen and power-hungry politicians. It was a legacy of failed scholarship. The fundamental lesson from Enron is this: Capitalism did not fail. The mixed economy failed. The capitalist worldview is stronger, not weaker, post-Enron. But there is another, deeper lesson that explains Enron and the mistakes of the intellectual mainstream before, during, and after Enron's active life. It is that arrogant behavior, or what in the Enron vernacular is called the smartest-guys-in-the-room problem, can strike anytime and anywhere. Whether in business or academia or a profession or association conceit, deceit, and dogmatism are the bane of personal, intellectual, and organizational success.
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
From 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a captivating account of how "a skinny Asian kid from upstate" became a successful entrepreneur, only to find a new mission: calling attention to the urgent steps America must take, including Universal Basic Income, to stabilize our economy amid rapid technological change and automation.

The shift toward automation is about to create a tsunami of unemployment. Not in the distant future--now. One recent estimate predicts 45 million American workers will lose their jobs within the next twelve years--jobs that won't be replaced. In a future marked by restlessness and chronic unemployment, what will happen to American society?

In The War on Normal People, Andrew Yang paints a dire portrait of the American economy. Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans' livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills. The future looks dire-but is it unavoidable?

In The War on Normal People, Yang imagines a different future--one in which having a job is distinct from the capacity to prosper and seek fulfillment. At this vision's core is Universal Basic Income, the concept of providing all citizens with a guaranteed income-and one that is rapidly gaining popularity among forward-thinking politicians and economists. Yang proposes that UBI is an essential step toward a new, more durable kind of economy, one he calls "human capitalism."
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