In his sweeping 1996 Cato book, Oil, Gas and Government: The U.S. Experience, Rob Bradley described a century of political capitalism in the energy industry. In recent years, leading energy entrepreneurs such as Ken Lay (Enron), John Browne (BP), Jeffrey Immelt (GE) and, most recently, Elon Musk (Tesla) continue the clammy pursuit of wealth via government subsidies and regulations, often perfumed with trendy environmentalism.
Now, in Enron Ascending: The Forgotten Years (1984–1996), Bradley identifies a broader context for political capitalism—“contra-capitalism,” a repeating syndrome that links rent-seeking with corporate deceit and personal violation of bourgeois virtues.
From this new perspective, Bradley rebuts both the charge that corporate scandals reflect badly on capitalism and the apologia that they are merely committed by capitalism’s “bad apples.” As an alternative, Bradley lays out a well-developed mirror image of contra-capitalism—a suite of behaviors consistent with classical-liberal teachings for business management.
Jack High, professor emeritus at George Mason University, has published several books on business and regulation. During a visiting professorship at the Harvard Business School, High edited the Business History Review.
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