Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"Built to Fall"

That headline should be the title of the the next business book I want to write, with one of those long, long subtitles:

"The story of how two books, William Greider's 'Secrets of the Temple, and Kurt Eichenwald's 'Conspiracy of Fools' foretold the U.S. and global financial crisis of 2009, and offered solutions long ago that could have saved us from the bother."

Eichenwald's book is about the fall of Enron, and I just finished reading in it about how a woman Enron executive's failure to read an e-mail, and one in-house attorney's failure to read Sherron Watkins' memos on mismanagement at upper levels of Enron may have helped bring the company down.

It's a fault I have identified as chronic among executives throughout America. People no longer read the materials they are provided that could make a critical difference to the profitability of their companies and the success of their own careers.

I have already started a series of blogs on this site that I call "Traitor to Myself," and this could stand for another chapter, for I am as guilty of the corporate fault as the two Enron execs, Jim Derrick and Cindy Olson, according to Eichenwald.

But so are Ben Bernanke and George W. Bush.

Both of the books have been sitting on my shelf for at least a year, and I have not brought myself to read them thoroughly until now. I'm sure Bernanke is aware of Greider's book on the history of the Federal Reserve following the 1981-82 recession. He probably read it long ago.

Since George W. openly boasted he did not read, I am just as sure he did not read Eichenwald's tome on Enron even if he did call the company's late chairman "Kenny Boy."

Greider's book, read now, tells more about what the Obama administration is doing to rectify the wrongheaded financial industry than anything else I have read during the past 18 months.

Reading the Enron book for background to a book I'm writing now about Tim Marquez, a Denver oil man, has been a lesson for me in the necessity of doing proper background reading before you launch the writing of anything, from a blog posting to a magazine story.

Yet, you learn, too, that it's never too late to do the right thing. Or start doing it.

Life is an education in everything we do, and our schooling lasts from the day we are born until the day we die. If only we could all appreciate that; and not assume what we don't know.

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