“Germany’s leading company has toyed with the air people breathe. That’s shocking. In historical context, it’s devastating.The Volkswagen scandal elicits more than dismay. It is one of those moments when the entire culture of a nation — in this case one of scrupulous honesty, acceptance of rules, reliability, environmental sensitivity and atoning dedication to the common good — is called into question.Germany is never quite what it seems. There is a strain between its order and its urges. Formality may mask frenzy. When things go wrong, they tend to go wrong in a big way.”
This is an interesting piece, persuasive and subtle, but the commentators rip it to shreds for unfairness. I have collected the piece at my blog, LindsayOnVietnam.wordpress.com as an example of persuasive journalism, that might be terrible over-reaching. The commentators argue that it is absurd to take one corporate miscreant, and draw conclusions about an entire nation. As an analyst, I sometimes feel like a ping pong ball, going from one strong argument to its critique. Though I was captivated by his critics, I suggest that Roger Cohen is on to something sad and profound, though he didn’t throw out enough caveats. It is hard to discuss complex grey matter in 800 words.
The only exciting thing about the horrible Volkswagon story, is that it makes a gigantic case for strong government regulation and criminal penalties to protect the public from corporate malfeasance. So, one might argue that Roger missed mentioning the hottest part of the story. Cohen might be right however, that there might be something German about the size and scope of this epic-sized fraud. It is hard to believe in a free country, that there would be no whistleblowers over such a huge scam, that hurt the public’s health so seriously.