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Volkswagen emissions fraud scandal proves why a libertarian approach to corporate ethics doesn't work: they cheat and commit FRAUD

Volkswagen emissions scandal

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(NaturalNews) The Libertarian Party's founding principle is "Minimum government; maximum freedom." It sounds good, especially in this day and age when the federal government has grown so large and powerful that it literally regulates every phase of our lives, every minute of each day.

With that in mind, the party's website states that the libertarian mindset towards corporate behavior is as follows:

Libertarians want all members of society to have abundant opportunities to achieve economic success. A free and competitive market allocates resources in the most efficient manner. Each person has the right to offer goods and services to others on the free market. The only proper role of government in the economic realm is to protect property rights, adjudicate disputes, and provide a legal framework in which voluntary trade is protected. All efforts by government to redistribute wealth, or to control or manage trade, are improper in a free society.

With so much corporate misbehavior in the news these days, is it proper to expect and push for a complete "hands-off" approach from government, especially if a company is violating rules imposed by a federal bureaucracy that was duly created by Congress?

It can be corporate nature to do the wrong thing

Take the current scandal surrounding Volkswagen. Here's the background.

According to CNBC, VW has admitted it installed sophisticated software known in the industry as "defeat devices" in the electronic control module of vehicles with diesel engines between 2008 and 2015.

Apparently, that software was designed to sense when an emissions test was being conducted on the vehicle based on the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, the duration of the engine's operation and barometric pressure.

When the software sensed these inputs, it activated a sort of "test mode" while the front wheels of the vehicle were on a dynamometer. That allowed emissions controls to run as expected during the official test.

However, while on the road under actual driving conditions, the vehicles reverted back to "normal," in which they emitted as much as 10 to 40 times the legal amount of regulated emissions as directed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although VW chiefs reacted quickly to the news, apologizing for the irregularities and pledging cooperation, that won't matter much. The EPA is nevertheless set to impose heavy fines on the carmaker to the tune of $37,500 per diesel vehicle sold in the U.S. since 2008. That's 482,000 vehicles, which could mean a penalty of up to $18 billion, CNBC reported.

So far, the EPA has not forced VW to issue a total recall, but the agency is expected to make such a move eventually; that, too, will be paid for by the car maker. Owners of the cars are also expected to file lawsuits.

If, as libertarians believe, the government should have no role in this private corporate behavior, then companies will do what VW did: they will pursue whatever standards they have to in order to maximize profits.

There is a time and place for limited government

The only reason that VW would have spent the time, money and effort to develop "cheating" software that fooled emissions testers is because it was likely cheaper to do that than it was to build a new diesel motor that had sufficient power and met the United States' stringent air quality requirements. It's not that VW could not have designed a new motor that would comply, it was likely just cheaper and easier to utilize a current motor and install software that fooled emissions specialists.

The EPA is no friend of the American people. Like most federal bureaucracies, it has been given far too much authority. In this instance, however, the government has a compelling interest to ensure healthy air quality and to protect natural resources, right?

Not if you're libertarian. That political perspective assumes that people who are left to their own free will do the right thing because that's just what they would do. Of course, history and common sense tell us otherwise, as VW has just proven.

The libertarian political mindset is correct in asserting that "minimal government" is a better way to ensure "maximum freedom." However, "minimal government" is not the same thing as "no government." There is a time and place for government, and this is one of those instances.

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