January 28, 2012

JAMES TARANTO: Happy Enroniversary! Did the company’s collapse turn out to be a “greater turning point” than 9/11?

“I predict that in the years ahead Enron, not Sept. 11, will come to be seen as the greater turning point in U.S. society.” It’s one of our all-time favorite quotes, and it was published 10 years ago this Sunday. As former Enron adviser Paul Krugman might say, this statement is false.

It was, of course, Krugman who wrote that statement, in his Jan. 29, 2002, New York Times column. It took chutzpah, considering that, as Glenn Reynolds reminds us, his column just four days earlier had been a testy defense of Krugman’s past position on Enron’s advisory board. While serving in that capacity–before joining the Times, whose strict ethics rules prohibit such moonlighting–he had written a puff piece about Enron, “The Ascent of E-Man R.I.P.: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit,” for Fortune. . . . That of course raises the question: Was Krugman deceived, or was he a deceiver? Possibly both, but the absence of any introspection in the Jan. 29 column was the second most striking thing about it.

The most striking thing, of course, was the 9/11 comparison, obviously designed to be provocative, even offensive. This was a scant 4½ months after the attack, and it seemed, at the time, churlish to diminish a national wound that was very far from healing. Time heals all wounds, and the comparison no longer seems invidious, just false.

Like a lot of what Krugman says.

Comments are closed.