Beyond a certain point complexity is fraud. It's the Airline Ticket Price Axiom. Am I getting the best deal on my airline ticket? How could I know? To map the labyrinth of airline-ticket pricing structure I would have to spend a greater value in time, at the minimum-wage billing rate, than the value of the money I'd save. Or it's the Finnegans Wake Postulate. We all know that Joyce, the old soak, was just scribbling a learned version of what Jack Nicholson typed in The Shining.
Maybe "complexity is fraud" doesn't apply to mathematics or the physical sciences. Nevertheless, when someone creates a system in which you can't tell whether or not you're being fooled, you're being fooled. This is true in the intellectual food chain from the fine arts, literature, and sociology on down.
And Enron was pretty far down—down there among the cunning weasels of ratiocination. What Enron was doing, what caused investors to embrace it in a rapture of baffled awe, was hiding debt. Several friends of mine who work in finance tried to give me a simplified model of the kind of thing Enron would do: Enron would have some business in which it had invested a lot of money. But that business wasn't making a profit. Enron would form a partnership with outside investors. The partnership would buy the business. But almost all the money to buy the business would be lent to the partnership by Enron, usually in the form of stock. Enron would count the sale of that business as income and count the loan to the partnership as an asset. The unprofitable business would disappear from Enron's financial statement, because under accounting conventions, if a mere three percent of capital is brought into a partnership from outside a corporation, then the corporation doesn't have to carry that partnership on its books. Enron's liabilities were turned into black ink.