’’My cautious and modest optimism is primarily fuelled by the fact that in today’s internet based information society, knowledge and information spread at such a way and speed that it makes it harder to keep secrets’’ – says Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, in the interview he gave to Alapblog. For him, one of the most important lessons from the Volkswagen scandal is that the executive management excluded the outside world; they created a closed society within an open one, and it was destined to fail. The other major world market participants will certainly learn the lessons from it.
Péter Zentai: In your last essay, you said that the exposure of the Volkswagen scandal will contribute to the development of a business world with higher moral standards. But again, we learnt that human nature never changes; if it feels it can do something, it will most certainly do it…
Peter Singer: Human nature does not change, indeed. However, circumstances do; continuously narrowing down the margins of actions deriving from human nature. One of the most crucial elements of the VW fraud is that it was uncovered. Since this was the only possible outcome, we can only reproach them for detaching from the real world.
If in the 21st century, in one of the world’s most democratic society the leaders of a major economic participant can lose contact with the real world for a long time, then things are not right at all in open societies either…
The VW case has little connection to the overall German social structure. For me, the essential message of New York Times’ investigation was that the internal structure of Volkswagen became oligarchic: some people – who otherwise were competing with each other – had exceptional power in their hands. One of the main shareholders was able to include his secretary – a layman – in the circle of decision makers… According to the signs, closed systems can develop in open (social) systems; however, in the end, their failure is inevitable.
In this case, could their failure be so serious that they might take their surroundings down with themselves too?
If a giant with Putin clientele system did the same in Russia, it would be covered up, and the world would not know of it. In the modern Germany and its approach of transparent, competition based system, misuses are inevitably uncovered, and perpetrators are always held responsible.
Participants of such systems only have the natural ability to start over and learn the lesson. The VW case contributes to acknowledging that it is impossible to expect profits – even if it is in certain areas only – through deception. VW – a brand which was built up for decades – suffered immense financial and ethical losses within moments. On one hand, it has a deterrent effect; on the other hand, it showed the need for increasing control over decision-making positions in world automotive industry and global economy.
A concentration of power is happening in global economy; the most advanced and profitable economic technology field is dominated by only a handful of enterprises. Companies with monopolies can do as they please with the information regarding themselves and their actions. Do you think after the VW case, China, India, Mexico and Brazil will draw any conclusions?
Those who make a living from the world market, and primarily those with convertible mark most certainly will. Actually, there is not a single technological or economic field which can be dominated by a sole participant, or where would not be a fierce competition. This is getting accepted by most, even by the major participants too. Otherwise, those who developed information technologies to expose frauds and trickeries, are the ones who usually are accused of monopoly charges. ’’My cautious and modest optimism is primarily fuelled by the fact that in today’s internet based information society, knowledge and information spread at such a way and speed that it makes it harder to keep secrets.
Original date of Hungarian publication: 16 October 2015