Let's leave law-abiding businesses aloneBy J. Bradley JansenJanuary 23, 2002While (so far?) lacking a sexual impropriety with a young intern angle, the Enronstory elicits strong reaction with buzzwords and soundbites: scandal, papershredding, subpoenas, political contributions, Congressional hearings, fraud and aspectacular stock price rise and fall.While there are a host of issues involved, it is important to separate thosepublic policy issues that need to be addressed and other issues that might tear atthe heartstrings but do not warrant governmental policy concerns.Allegations of fraud and shredding documents (both by Enron and Arthur Anderson)need to be investigated by the proper authorities and will be. Politicians seekingthe limelight that fail to focus on the proper issues will not help anyone.Responsible public officials will divert their attention to the systemic issuesinvolved and let the courts, company officials, shareholders and regulatorsconcentrate on individual cases of wrongdoing.Bush Administration officials were right to refuse to bail out the company. Kudosgo to economic advisor Larry Lindsey and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill foracting in the best interests of all of us instead of the special interests of afew. They understand that the gales of creative destruction, as Austrian economistJoseph Schumpeter explained, free up resources for more productive uses. Takingmoney from the people of this country who work and provide products and servicesthat people want in order to redistribute it to Enron or other failed companiesmakes us worse off. Such policies are not compassionate.This decision was entirely within the character of the administration. Rather thanviewing government as a means to micromanage the economy, the budget requests hadsought to reverse the Clinton administration policies that contributed to themess. Specifically, so-called export promotion programs represent the worst ofcorporate welfare and corporatist central planning: High-priced lobbyists lavishfunds on corrupt politicians who increase taxes on the more productive parts ofthe economy to fund projects that the wisdom of the sum total of everyone else,i.e. the market, knew better to reject.Unfortunately, the majority of Congress appears to fear cutting off the feedingfrenzy of political contributions for political favors. The Export-Import Bank wasfunded in fiscal year 2002 at $94 million over the president's request. OtherExport Assistance Programs will waste $92 million more than the president'srequest. The $348 million for Congress will give to the International TradeAdministration will also be more than requested. The list goes on … To the extentthat there is a political scandal here such as Whitewater, it rests on those thatabuse their office. Refreshingly, at least this president and his team abide by ahigher standard.Now is the time for Congress to clarify the consumer privacy issues related to thedata of companies in bankruptcy proceedings. While this is not an issue as muchwith Enron, we should not have to wait for the next ToySmart.com, eTour.com orVoter.com before politicians step forward to address these important questions.How will our data be used when a company fails? Will our personal information besold to pay off creditors? There is a story now circulated by email about a manwho is having trouble controlling use of his data by a company that bought anothercompany where he had closed an account years earlier. A consent-based approachwould go a long way to clarify some of these questions.