Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - Revenge of the nerds
| If there is one lesson that I took away from the new documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room it is that nerds should never get this much power.
The Smartest Guys in the Room is based on the best-selling book of the same name by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, reporters for Fortune Magazine. As you can probably tell, it chronicles the rise and fall of the company at the centre of one of the biggest scandals of recent memory. Enron has become synonymous with everything that is wrong with American capitalism and this film looks at how this came to be.
The central thesis of The Smartest Guys in the Room is that greed left unchecked leads to exploitation of the economy. The film uses comparisons of famous psychological experiments on evil to show just how easy it is for this kind of situation to happen. As long as we champion greed in the way we do, we are pretty much asking to be taken along on this ride.
As someone who didn't follow this story much while it was going on, I feel a bit embarrassed to say that I learned a lot while watching The Smartest Guys in the Room. Who knew that the energy crisis in California was caused by Enron as a way of manipulating the markets?
The documentary uses a fairly flashy style to tell its story so it never drags. Still, it always feels a bit like a high-end class presentation instead of a serious consideration of the issues involved. We all know what happened at Enron was bad, what can we do to prevent it from happening again?
The Smartest Guys in the Room focuses a great deal on the insecurities and egos of those behind the calamity that is Enron. Often it seems that these men were insecure, awkward and unpopular and became somehow high on the power and prestige that came along with all the money they were making. Suddenly girls were returning their phone calls, they could get seats in restaurants, they could acquire consumer goods of immense price and show it off to the world. Like addicts they always needed a greater fix and the whole country had to pay the price.
Having gone through law school I have seen first hand what it is like when awkward and clumsy guys inflate their own sense of self-worth through the imagined value that "status" supplies. This movie has confirmed it for me. Nerds should be limited in the amount of power they can attain in our society. For the good of all, let's keep the socially challenged in their place!