Conservatives: Volkswagen Only Cheated Because of Regulation

AirPollutionI’m sure you’re as outraged as I am about Volkswagen installing technology that cheated emissions tests to get approved to sell cars that spewed far more pollution than was legally allowed in the United States. But conservatives and libertarians seem to be mad not about this cheating, but about the regulations that they cheated to get around. The National Review’s Kevin Williamson:

Humans cheat and, hence, human institutions cheat. In the matter of genuine corporate scandals (which are not rare but which are rarer than media-invention corporate scandals) you often will find that this is a matter of cold calculation. When cutting a certain corner provides savings in excess of what is likely to be extracted in fines or litigation should the scheme be discovered, then the temptation to cheat is strong. This is particularly true when it comes to phony moral imperatives, notable examples of which are American automotive emissions standards and their big brother, the worldwide global-warming crusade.

Yeah, who are you gonna believe, nearly every climatologist in the world or a right-wing crank who knows nothing about the science? Williamson is right, of course, that corporations will cheat and skirt the rules to make a buck if they can make more money doing that than they will lose in fines if they’re caught. Which means he just unwittingly made a very powerful argument that the fines assessed for such criminal behavior should be far higher and that the executives who made the choice should be put in jail.

And isn’t it funny where conservatives put their priorities? Find out that some poor family in Detroit has been gaming the system to get a little more in food stamps and that is a Very Big Deal that must be dealt with severely. In fact, it’s proof that the whole welfare system should be scrapped because they’re all cheating. But here Williamson admits that cheating is widespread and inevitable by corporations to get around environmental regulations and he is not the least bit concerned about preventing it in the future. Funny how all that talk of personal responsibility only applies to the poor and not the wealthy and powerful.

And corporations are people, except when they’re not. If an individual was caught dumping toxic chemicals into a river, that person would be placed in jail. If a corporation is caught doing it, they’ll get a fine — one so low that, by Williamson’s own admission, it would not be enough to deter the behavior because they still make a net profit on doing so. And of course, no one ever goes to jail.

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