I thought about calling this week’s episode “Everything You Know about the Enron Story Is Wrong,” but that isn’t completely accurate, nor just to my guest and the breadth and depth of his insight into this subject.
This week’s guest is Robert L. Bradley Jr., who deserves to be known as the Robert Caro of energy history. Rob is the founder of the Institute for Energy Research, one of the best go-to sources for information and analysis about energy (and especially debunking the nonsense energy romanticism of the left), but most important for our purposes is the author of several astounding histories of the energy industry in America. His latest book is Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years, 1984-1996. Rob had a front row seat to the meteoric rise and ultimate collapse of Enron as director of public policy analysis and senior adviser to Enron’s CEO, Ken Lay.
Enron Ascending is the third volume of a four-volume series (the final volume will be about the last years and ultimate collapse of Enron in 2001) that has an important common theme—political capitalism, which might be thought of as something like “crony capitalism,” though Rob is more precise than that. Far from being a market failure of capitalism, the Enron story is what Rob calls “contra capitalism,” and warns that we have more Enrons in our future if we attempt the “Green New Deal.” (Meanwhile, see the first two volumes in the series here and here. As unlikely as it may sound, they are riveting reading—real page-turners.)
Rob shares here some of his inside stories from his Enron days, along with some fascinating personal history of how he came to have a contrarian point of view about the wider scene.