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Case 4: A Really Easy Counter-Example

I can't be all smiles for an entire column. My final example is blindingly simple proof that some combinations are ill-advised always: Enron. The combination in this case is corporate ambition and political authority. Without becoming pointlessly partisan—in the interest of full disclosure, I loathe both parties equally—I think we can all agree that even the continued existence of Enron partners in important positions of government (Secretary of the Army, head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, and others) constitutes an egregious violation of conscience.

A term already exists that makes quite plain the case that people must not be involved in competing interests: conflict of interest. The combination of the roles of beneficiary and overseer in the same person has a long history of ending badly. Not only are the seeds of temptation planted (assuming, of course, that the motives are inherently corrupt), but simple objectivity and perspective are compromised. Those features are most crucial in the activity of problem evaluation. Of course, subject area expertise is desirable, but intelligent, independent thinking is far more valuable. This is true from the upper echelons of power down to the rudiments of business application analysis.

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