The Volkswagen Scandal

Sunday 27th September

Why are we surprised?  After all we have had the PPI miss-selling scandal, we have had the phone hacking scandal, we have had tax avoidance by many big businesses; we have had the LIBOR rate-setting scandal and many others.  It almost seems commonplace that Private Enterprise (you know, those paragons of virtue the Government praises at every opportunity) is cheating us, the public, their consumers, or us tax-payers by not paying their taxes correctly, at every opportunity.  Yet, let a benefit claimant be late for an appointment and the punishment is severe.

Never has this maxim seemed truer – “Steal a million from one person and you are the vilest criminal ever; steal one pound from a million people and it is a good business idea.”

And make no mistake the Volkswagen Scandal is Grand Theft Auto on a massive scale.  Firstly there are the customers, who either out of environmental concerns or because they wanted cheaper road tax were sold something that was not what it purported to be.  There are the, admittedly immeasurable, extra deaths that the undeclared pollution may have caused.  There is the theft from Governments who, incentivising lower emission cars, have received less tax from buyers of these cars, and subsequently that is theft from all of us.  There is the theft from other car manufacturers whose emissions may have been accurate and who maybe lost customers because of this deception.  And there is the theft from all of us too in a different but no less serious way.  We live in a world governed by numbers, mostly generated by computers and often supposedly regulated by Authorities.  Whenever those numbers turn out to be unreliable or downright falsifications, then our trust in Authority is eroded too.  Some might argue that this may be a good thing, but none of us has the technology or ability to check these numbers, and we make decisions based on the supposed truth of them.  And if trust is constantly eroded then more of us will resort to a sort-of black economy where we do not tell the truth either and taxes are evaded and we cheat and lie whenever possible, because everyone else is doing it too.  Let us hope that Volkswagen and any other manufacturers found cheating are severely punished; although of course it will be ordinary workers who will be sacked if customers desert them.