But the historian must look deeper. Was Enron really a free-market, capitalistic company even when its apparent self-interest lay elsewhere? Or were profit centers dependent on tax subsidies, advantageous regulation, or checks written on the U.S. Treasury? Was Enron passive or active in seeking and receiving special government favor?
As it turns out, Enron was a political colossus with a unique range of rent-seeking and subsidy-receiving operations. Ken Lay's announced visions for the company--to become the world's first natural-gas major, then the world's leading energy company, and, finally, the world's leading company--relied on more than free-market entrepreneurship. They were premised on employing political means to catch up with, and outdistance, far larger and more-established corporations.