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Guest Post: VW cheating like Obama

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Written by Dr Nicholas Shackel

Cardiff University

Nothing annoys the plunderers more than when the producers try to get away with the tricks that they have reserved to themselves. I pointed out one such instance some time ago (Penzions and Politicians and we have another one before us in the VW scandal.

What VW did was arrange things so that we heard the news we wanted to hear about their diesel cars, that we could have low pollution, good acceleration and low diesel consumption, despite the reality being that these must be traded off against one another. VW promised us that we could have our cake and eat it.

Obama promised the same for medicine. Obama promised that Obamacare would make medicine better, would be provided to 41 million extra people who (he claimed) were not covered by medical insurance,  medical insurance would no longer charge extra for pre-existing conditions, whilst at the same time medicine and medical insurance would get cheaper. He also promised that if you like your health policy you could keep your health policy. The reality is that these must be traded off against one another and it didn’t matter how much you liked your health policy, you couldn’t keep it. British and Canadian politicians have told the same lies and keep their ill populations subjugated by those deceits, whilst the reality is rationing, delays, queues, denial of treatment and death.

So VW cheated and Obama cheated. The only difference is that when VW was caught, their Chief Executive Officer resigned and the company will have to pay for the deceit. Don’t hold your breath for Obama behaving honourably: remember, plunderers reserve these tricks for themselves. When a producer gets caught attempting them, the plunderers arrange a circus equipped with a variety of entertaining kangaroo courts in which the producers star: in doing this plunderers distract us from attending to their own trickery.

I’m not sure why plunderers succeed at this. It may well have something to do with them selling us a compelling vision of what is undeniably desirable and a promise that we can believe what we very strongly want to believe (‘We are the hope of those boys who have so little, who’ve been told that they cannot have what they dream, that they cannot be what they imagine. Yes, they can.’ Obama 5th February 2008). They promise us that goods can be had without costs and that there are no tradeoffs between goods. We can have it all. (‘Yes, we can!’ chanted the crowd at Obama’s speech). Why this contemptible twaddle is not seen as being nothing more than the lowest trick of the car salesman I do not know, but I think the parallel I have drawn here does at least make it clear that that is what it is.

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7 Comment on this post

  1. It’s remarkable that the only assertion here that is backed up by a quote or reference is one involving President Obama’s rhetoric, as opposed to the many explicit promises and statistics that are also mentioned. It is rather in keeping with the quality of argument, however. There’s no intellectual engagement with the cited ideas (for example, asking the obvious question of how a politician should be penalized, when compared to a CEO; the answer is at the ballot box… i.e. consider the Republican wave election of 2014), and no attempt to understand — this is casual contempt, not considered argument, and it merits the same attitude from readers.

  2. What VW did was arrange things so that we heard the news we wanted to hear about their diesel cars, that we could have low pollution, good acceleration and low diesel consumption, despite the reality being that these must be traded off against one another.

    That’s just factually wrong. We can have lower pollution, good acceleration and low diesel consumption. Not only with electric cars such as the ones being subsided by the Obama administration (, but also with regular ones. Moreover, solving this is an engineering problem, much easier than solving health care, something very few nations managed to do. Also, a company doesn’t need to lie to stay in business, but politicians do.

  3. The producer / plunderer distinction is a marker for libertarianism, and I noted in another comment that argument is pointless in the face of the entrenched attitudes that characterise such right-wingers. Obama and Obamacare are not my problem, fortunately, but there is an issue in Europe with people who deeply resent paying taxes, and deeply resent the existence of the state. (It’s not just an Anglophone thing, you can find such attitudes in Germany as well). There is no easy solution, but there is a logical policy option, namely the creation of a separate ungoverned territory without taxes, and the subsequent migration of libertarians to that territory. In effect a libertarian state, although of course they would not call it that.

    Libertarians themselves are fascinated by this idea, but never undertake any steps to implement it. What I suggest is that if they won’t go, they should be pushed, more or less. If you reject the state, then obviously you don’t share the fundamental values that underlie any existing state, so why should you be its citizen? If you view not just politicians, but any form of government as ‘plunder’, then how can you form a shared political community with those who accept and even value the state as an institution?

  4. As Paul Krugman notes, it’s a fact that there has been a rapid drop in the number of uninsured. It’s also a fact that outlays on Medicaid and exchange subsidies are coming in well below projections.
    But who cares about the facts if one is only interested in knocking down a straw man? Or perhaps you can give me evidence that Obama promised that goods can be had without costs, or claimed that there are no trade-offs, or that we can have it all.

    PS Thank you for directing me to Obama’s speech of February 2008, from which you quote briefly in order to give credence to your claims. I leave it to others to decide for themselves whether this credence is justified or not.

  5. Volkswagen broke the law and people died:

    Obama used admittedly deceitful political rhetoric, millions of people got health insurance, and thousands of lives have been saved:

    Indeed, what could the moral difference between these two cases be?

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