Is it morally reprehensible to buy a Mercedes?

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Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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98 Responses

  1. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Are any of those decision-makers still running the company?

    Could we successfully prosecute a war crimes charge against a firm?Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      No, and in fact we are much closer to the management that decided to open corporate records and expose the abuses than we are to the management that aided the war effort.

      Could we successfully prosecute a war crimes charge against a firm?

      Legally, I have no idea. With respect to the “should” question, I do think there are times when a company as a whole should face criminal charges rather than individuals, but I think this should only be done when there is a clear, systematic pattern of abuse. And at one point, I would have fully supported such charges being leveled against Daimler, but even if I were made dictator of the world today, I wouldn’t level those charges now even though I would prosecute an individual human if they were to have done the same thing and were still alive today.Report

      • Re war crimes prosecutions:

        Per some of my comments below, I do believe we can, or ought to be able to if the law allows. (Of course, it gets murky. We have to investigate into the crime, because usually the established authorities at the time did not see it as a crime. There’s a rule of law question there I have difficulty addressing.)

        I do think some consideration ought to be given to what a successful prosecution would mean, once the corporation’s ill-doing agents have quit or died. Perhaps fines? Perhaps liquidation with proceeds going to victims?Report

    • Avatar LWA says:

      “Could we successfully prosecute a war crimes charge against a firm?”

      Corporations are people too, my friend.

      Sorry. It was just too easy.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

        I assume you’re joking, but you’re also missing the point: Romney’s comment (correctly understood), Citizen’s United, Hobby Lobby, and the argument against boycotting Mercedes Benz all follow from the observation that shareholders are people and corporations are not.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Isn’t there some sort of thought experiment wherein an axe has its handle replaced and then its blade replaced and the question is is it still the original axe?

      At what point — if any — has sufficient turnover taken place such that a company is no longer what it was?Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I think it’s possible to ask to what extent the existing fortunes of the company are a result of its past sins. I’m not sure what you do with the answer, exactly, but I think it’s a valid question.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Absolutely, @chris . It is possible that a company is never fully separated from its prior acts (good, bad, or otherwise). It was erroneous of me to only focus on personnel turnover.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Kazzy,

        I don’t think your question was out of bounds at all. In broad outline, there are two factors to consider when talking about about corporate sins of the past. One is the persistence of stakeholders over time. The other is the persistence of corporate culture. On the other side is the idea of redemption, change and forgiveness. Why some people hold onto this stuff so tightly is a mystery to me. They perceive something to be at stake which is completely alien to me.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I didn’t mean to imply that Kazzy’s question was the wrong way to look at it. I think it’s part of the way to look at it. I just meant to highlight another part.

        But even if the shareholders are completely different, they can still benefit from the advantages gained by a company through its past sins. Again, I’m not sure how you deal with that, but I don’t think it’s something we should simply let go of.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        @chris and @stillwater

        I understood Chris’s framing as he expanded on here. In a way, there is a parallel between objections to Mercedes and calls for reparations. It’s not enough to say that current actors were uninvolved in past sins. If they have gained materially because of those sins, do they carry forward any culpability?Report

      • Kazzy,

        I do think that when we’re speaking of a corporation that has continued in existence since the days of its misdeeds, the line of culpability is clear, or at least clearer than the line of culpability is, say, between whites who preceded me and myself. (I don’t think the murkier line of culpability absolves me of all responsibility or culpability. But it complicates issues.)Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        The thought experiment is called the “ship of Theseus” or simplified for Americans, “George Washington’s axe.” It’s a good point to bring up here.

        Do we say that contemporary Germany is a different country than the Germany that perpetrated the Holocaust? Because it’s not clear to me that the Germmans think this. Modern Germans visit the camps to commemorate and mourn and reflect on their national past, for which I commend them.

        Did the payment of reparations to Israel mitigate the stain on German national honor? If so, why wouldn’t a similar act by Daimler have a similar effect?Report

      • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I know someone once sued some major insurance companies because they insured slaves as property, with the argument being (IIRC) that those companies profited heavily from insuring slaves & thus owe a great deal of their current success to those past profits.

        I don’t recall what happened to the case, but it brings up an interesting point. At what point do the profits of business that was legal & morally acceptable then but illegal & morally repugnant now become… not sure what word to use here, maybe irrelevant?Report

      • @burt-likko

        Did the payment of reparations to Israel mitigate the stain on German national honor? If so, why wouldn’t a similar act by Daimler have a similar effect?

        I’m not so sure it wouldn’t. I’d say that positing the need/duty for Daimler to give reparations is an extension of the “lifetime of corporations” principle.

        @mad-rocket-scientist

        I’ve heard of that example, or a similar one, too. That was one of the things in the back of my mind. But I don’t know what came out of it, either.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @burt-likko – OT, but there’s a book by Peter Watts called Blindsight that has a spaceship named Theseus, and the old philosophical conundrum you mention does have thematic resonance with the book’s events and characters. I know you read some sci-fi, you might enjoy it.Report

    • Avatar Alan Hopgood says:

      The Second World War ended almost 70 years ago. War crimes trials ended not longer after that. What Daimler-Benz did during WWII is history. Atrocities were committed on all sides. By the British, the Americans, the Russians, the Germans and every other belligerent nation. The British bombed innocent civilians, the Americans murdered German POWs in Normandy, the Russians raped women wherever they found them. Almost none of the active participants are left alive. War is a terrible thing.

      I drive a Mercedes. It’s the best car I’ve ever had. Is it a Nazi car? Of course not.

      Don’t forget WWII and don’t forgive contemporary Germans. They don’t need forgiveness. They’ve done nothing wrong.Report

  2. Avatar Glyph says:

    For this reason, even if the false claims that Daimler-Benz built gas chambers were true, I wouldn’t really hold it against them.

    Er, really? I would. Unless they could reasonably claim they thought the chambers were intended for something else. “Just following orders” doesn’t work for cops or soldiers or citizens beyond a certain point, and it shouldn’t for corporations either.

    If that claim were true, it would go beyond “serving your government in wartime” and well into “aiding and abetting the mass murder of civilians”.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      That said, I’ve owned and driven more than one Beetle. And that’s the Naziest car of them all.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        @glyph, there is a revisionist history that the Nazis stole the idea of the Beatle from a Jew automobile engineer named Joseph Granz:

        http://www.amazon.com/The-Extraordinary-Life-Josef-Ganz/dp/1614122032/

        Normally, I don’t give credit to theories like this but the author does seem to have deep personal knowledge of automobile history and has provided a lot of original documents to prove his theory in his book. This gives it a bit more credence.

        Whether this makes the Beetle less Nazi, because it was invented by a Jew, or more Nazi, because they stole the idea from a Jew and took the credit for it, is open to debate.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        @leeesq – that looks like an interesting book, thanks. The “official” story (with Adolf and Porsche) is interesting enough, so an “alt-history”, or new info is pretty cool.

        And yeah, if that’s true (stolen from a Jew), I’d say it makes the car even MORE Nazi.

        Great car, though. My dad still drives my second one, and I may get it back again when he passes away.

        And, I have to say: the car that tops this post is beautiful.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      It would be awful, but I’m empathetic to the idea that they might not have been able to just say “no” and expect to live.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        That’s an interesting question, because certainly, we’d cut some slack to someone who did something awful to someone else while they had a gun to their head.

        But at another level, particularly to prevent atrocities at large scales, we may need people to fear the shame (or potential future retribution) of having complied with an immoral order or abetted an immoral action, more than they fear death.

        Otherwise anyone can employ “I was in fear for my life and just following orders” as their defense.

        Or, look at it this way: if someone rolled over for Hitler to avoid the cost of not doing so then, and you want to give them a break now too (because back then they were in fear for their lives) so there’s no cost to them now to having rolled over: how fortunate for them that they’ve managed to avoid any cost whatsoever, while still aiding and abetting mass murder.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Good point. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some people did try refusing and were shot. If you’re the manager who has to decide right after your superior got shot though, I think you’re likely to go ahead and build the gas chamber even if it inhibits your ability to market cars later.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        “It’s you X or my head!” At what value of X does “or my head” stop being an excuse?Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        If you’re the manager who has to decide right after your superior got shot though, I think you’re likely to go ahead and build the gas chamber even if it inhibits your ability to market cars later.

        Oh, no doubt. I don’t want to come across as some internet tough guy who would have bravely taken the next bullet. Sure, I hope I would’ve, but in reality I’d probably’ve folded like a cheap card table.

        But knowing that, and feeling that I would thus deserve to be cut a break for folding (when it’s time for war crimes trials, or when my company wants to market luxury cars in America) are two VERY different things.

        Which is why I say – if that claim was in fact true, the company may’ve needed to shoulder the blame (at least for a time, if not necessarily all the way to 2014), unfair though that may seem on some levels.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Glyph, I think it’s also worth noting that as far as my understanding of WWII history your view has some support. Many people were not punished because they were able to say they weren’t *really* Nazis and had no choice in the matter, and that’s why Europe settled on outlawing Nazism rather than locking them all up at the risk of imprisoning some people who could not have refused their roles.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        It’s not a matter of being tough. I admit that I have no real sense of how I would behave in the gun-to-my-head situation involving my participation in genocide. I’d like to think that I’d say “No!” but I can’t know that I would. I can know, however, what not saying “No!” would say about me, and I can also know that just because a gun was to a person’s head doesn’t mean that person shouldn’t be held accountable, to some degree, for knowingly participating in the murder of millions of people.Report

      • It would be awful, but I’m empathetic to the idea that they might not have been able to just say “no” and expect to live.

        I’d want to be sure that was the situation. My understanding, per “Ordinary Men,” is that there was often wide latitude to decline to take part in atrocities. That book was about 1 kommando unit, and perhaps doesn’t generalize to other units, let alone to industry.* The “gun to the head” in this case might have been a government takeover of the company and loss of a job. But it might not necessarily have personal punishment like jail or execution. Or it might have. I’m not an expert on the 3rd Reich.

        *I have a lot of respect for that book and its argument. But it’s only one book, based on one unit. Perhaps other stuff (besides “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”) has been written that corroborates or challenges the “Ordinary Men” thesis. I don’t know.Report

  3. Avatar Kim says:

    I patronize stores that are Anti-Semitic (if disinterestedly so) and whose founders helped Hitler’s war effort.Most of the people boycotting BMW do as well.

    NOBODY is boycotting Siemens, because they’re not INSANE.
    And Siemens deserves the fucking boycott.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Was Siemens worse than any of the other German industrials?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Siemens, in the past 10 years, tried to trademark Zyklon…
        the stupidity, it BURNS.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        OMG. You’re right:

        A year ago, Bosch Siemens Hausgeraete (BSH), the firm’s consumer products joint venture, filed two applications with the US Patent & Trademark Office for the Zyklon name across a range of home products, including gas ovens.

        It took a while for it to sink in how awful it was that it included gas ovens. Did no one who saw that application even bother to watch a documentary about the war?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        When Judgment at Nuremberg was first shown on TV:

        when Claude Rains said, ‘How can you ask me to predict the deaths of millions of people in ––– –––––?’ ‘Gas ovens’ got bleeped out because the show had a sponsor that was a gas company. Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Wow. I had never heard about that until just now.

        Wow.Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        Zyklon gas ovens reminds me of AYDS weight-loss candy.Report

      • Avatar Michael M. says:

        AIDS killed off AYDS. I remember those ads from the 1970s. But at least AYDS predated AIDS, unlike Sieman’s move with Zyklon.

        It’s funny, I was just reminded about AYDS a few weeks ago, because of a plot line in Masters of Sex concerning the Cal-o-Metric diet pills. I probably hadn’t remembered or thought about them since AIDS came roaring into the landscape in 1982.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        I only know AYDS because it used to be advertised in my Mom’s crossword-puzzle magazines. But the obvious sick jokes had indeed occurred to me.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Didn’t Bayer Corp. make the gas? And aren’t there people who won’t use Bayer products to this day?Report

  4. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I find it rather morally reprehensible to buy a BMW or a Mercedes irrespective of their companies’ history. There’s so many people in need who could be benefitted by that amount of money that I couldn’t justify the purchase of a luxury car.

    In terms of boycotts, I generally think there’s a point to boycotts if they’re against a company that is doing, or an individual who is doing or has done, something you find morally repugnant; in this case, refusing to give them your money is a way of refusing to be complicit in their actions. For example, spending money on anything made by Roman Polanski means you’re choosing to give your money to a man who raped a child; that, I consider unacceptable. Buying chocolate from companies such as Nestle, which use child labour in their production, means you’re contributing to those abuses.

    (Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-18644870.

    The report [by the Fair Labour Association, an independent auditor> also found rampant injuries, mainly with machetes that slice into the children’s legs as they harvest the cocoa pods, as well as both adults and children working long hours without pay.

    There has been evidence of child labour on the Ivory Coast cocoa farms for many years. In 2001, under pressure from the US congress, Nestle and other major chocolate companies signed an agreement to end the problem – but little was achieved.)

    But boycotting a companies for actions of former management, which it no longer commits and who are no longer part of the company or profiting from it, doesn’t make sense to me.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      I don’t feel that your first paragraph has resonance unless it is a quote transcribed from someone living an austere monastic life of service.

      That said I think the rest of your comment is 100% spot on.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Even people who live in a culture of excess can decry excess on top of excess, right?Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        I don’t feel that your first paragraph has resonance unless it is a quote transcribed from someone living an austere monastic life of service.

        Tried, lasted a month, came back.

        Yeah…

        It’s easier to have principles than to live up to them.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      I have to admit that I’ve never been at much of a risk for buying a luxury car in the first place. The closest my family has ever come was a used 1985 Volvo 240. (It had heated seats! Fancy!)

      I also don’t watch anything by Polanski and don’t buy Nestle products that I am aware of (though now that I think about it, maybe some of the Halloween candy we get comes from them), but I wouldn’t publicly call for the boycott of either because for whatever reason people on the whole seem OK with them. I’d rather save my energy for more winnable battles.

      And in the case of Mercedes too, I hesitate to say that I am “boycotting” them. I’m more…just not buying what they are selling.

      Edit: Now that I think about it, I think I actually might be willing to publicly call for a boycott of them.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Basically all of the major chocolate companies (Cadbury, etc.) have similar supply chains and thus the same ethical issues.

        I don’t know if anyone is making fair-trade Halloween-sized chocolate bars, so maybe candy rather than chocolate is the best way to go.Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        My preferred chocolate these days is the “Endangered Species Panther Extreme Dark 88% Chocolate” (for anyone who is ever interested in getting me something). It has a bunch of ethically-tinged labels on it, though that doesn’t really have anything to do with why I like it.Report

      • Avatar Michael M. says:

        @katherinemw or @vikram-bath or @north or anyone else,

        Do you reserve your moral condemnation for people who consume material created by people who’ve done repugnant things if those creators are dead, and therefore can’t personally profit from the consumption? Legions of writers and artists and musicians were reprobates (especially by modern standards), degenerates (sometimes by their contemporary standards, sometimes by modern standards, sometimes by both) and held racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, bigoted views that many would regard as contemptible today.

        I ask because I’m curious whether people who think like you tend to condemn the actual rewarding of someone who’s done something wrong, or if you condemn the decision to consume art created by someone who’s done something wrong. Is it “unacceptable” to you because the living, breathing person profits from the act of consuming that art, or is it unacceptable because the art itself must be corrupted by virtue of having been created by someone who’s done something wrong?

        I don’t agree with either view and would not hold myself back from anyone’s creative output simply because they have done something reprehensible, or because they are a horrible person. I am not judgmental in that way, though I’m certainly judgmental in other ways. I’m not looking for friendship with Roman Polanski, but Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown are two of my favorite movies in 100+ years of cinema and I certainly wouldn’t deny myself the pleasure of watching them or wait until Polanski is dead to watch them again. Nor would I hesitate to see a new movie he made if it interested me (the last film of his I saw was The Pianist). OTOH, were I moved to read another Orson Scott Card novel, I would probably try to find a used hard copy or check one out from the library so that Card (notoriously homophobic) wouldn’t profit personally from me buying his book. But I wouldn’t deny myself because I find Card’s views reprehensible, and if a new copy was the only option, I’d buy it. (As it happens, I am not moved to read anything other than the one I’ve read, Ender’s Game.)Report

      • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

        Is it “unacceptable” to you because the living, breathing person profits from the act of consuming that art, or is it unacceptable because the art itself must be corrupted by virtue of having been created by someone who’s done something wrong?

        Possibly the former, almost certainly not the latter. And even for the former, I’d only encourage others to boycott if it they did something truly out-of-the-ordinary horrible. Unfortunately, employing slave labor during doesn’t meet that standard since it seems many companies did that.

        As I mentioned in the prior post, I think it ought to be rare that I find someone worthy of losing their livelihood. That goes both for people and corporations. On the other hand, if I personally don’t buy a particular thing, I’m not stopping them from making a living, I’m just making a choice of what to do with my own dollars without discouraging anyone else to do what they want with theirs. So, it’s relatively easy to lose me as a customer but hard to get me to join an organized boycott.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Is it “unacceptable” to you because the living, breathing person profits from the act of consuming that art, or is it unacceptable because the art itself must be corrupted by virtue of having been created by someone who’s done something wrong?

        In my case, absolutely the former. Heck, I read Lovecraft, and he was an utterly despicable person, and what’s more, it seeps into his work quite a bit.

        If the person’s dead and can’t benefit, it doesn’t seem relevant to me. But if a living person has done things I find morally horrible, I don’t want to reward them by giving them my money. By the same token, I don’t have strong objections against people getting one of Polanski’s movies from the library.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        I would modify this a bit. The problem is not just what Polanski did. People do bad things, they “pay their debt to society” as we say, and then we ought to give them a clean slate, I think. Polanski ran, rather than face the sentence for his crime, so I’m inclined to not watch his films.

        But there are complexities to this case. Polanski did agree to a civil settlement of half a million dollars to compensate the victim. But then it’s unclear whether he ever actually paid that. But then the victim reportedly says that he’s paid for his mistake, and she wishes he could be forgiven. So if I don’t watch his films because of his actions, am I implicitly being patronizing to her? Who am I to tell the victim who appears to have forgiven the person who hurt her, no, you’re wrong and he must be further punished?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        James,
        You’re a member of our society. we have taboos for a reason.
        Would you apply the same standard to father/daughter incest,
        which in most cases becomes consensual? [It nearly always isn’t
        consensual the first time, mind — but the girls who want out,
        generally get out.] (Mom “not knowing” about it provides a
        good hedge ensuring that Dad is generally bribing or otherwise
        incentivizing the sexual contact).

        This is in no way shape or form to say that I support incestual relations.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        But then the victim reportedly says that he’s paid for his mistake, and she wishes he could be forgiven. So if I don’t watch his films because of his actions, am I implicitly being patronizing to her? Who am I to tell the victim who appears to have forgiven the person who hurt her, no, you’re wrong and he must be further punished?

        Who are you? Well, you are a human who views the actions of another human with disgust and repulsion.

        Maybe the victim found Jesus. Maybe she has Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe she’s just a better person than I am.

        The kind of guy who plies an underage girl with drugs then rapes her then flees justice – personally, I think it’s OK for anyone to consider that guy persona non grata, pretty much forever.

        Not saying they MUST; but I don’t see anything wrong with their reasoning if they DO.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        What a victim says when beyond the power of her attacker deserves some credence, I think. Perhaps not total deference — a crime is an offense against the victim but also an offense against society as a whole.

        Polanski may have paid for the harm he did to his victim, which if true is a good thing. But I’d hardly call living in comfortable, industrialized, and culturally refined France a form of “exile” in any meaningful sense of the word. And fleeing justice mid-way through judicial proceedings is an offense against the justice system itself.

        But he’s made some damn good movies, and he’s not the only one who profits from them. Do you boycott Jack Nicholson’s films because he worked with Polanski to make Chinatown? Or Harrison Ford because he made Frantic?Report

      • Avatar Michael M. says:

        It’s interesting that some people, like @james-hanley & @burt-likko , point to the relationship between the perpetrator and justice system. I don’t get the sense that is a big factor for most people, when it comes to boycotts inspired by moral outrage. There are plenty of people who won’t go see Woody Allen films because they believe he committed sexual abuse, even though he has never been charged. There are plenty of people who won’t watch the Naked Gun movies anymore because they believe O.J. Simpson committed murder, even though he was acquitted. Most cases of individual’s careers impacted by moral outrage never involved any criminal or civil charges, even if there might have been an investigation — usually sex scandals, like those in 1920s Hollywood or the moral outrage that resulted in Ingrid Bergman being blackballed from American movies, but sometimes events that resulted in death or injury — William Burroughs shot and killed his wife; Norman Mailer stabbed his wife.

        Likewise, the kind of moral outrage that leads to people to call for resignations or firings doesn’t necessarily involve anything criminal. No one who called for Mozilla to oust Brendon Eich thought he had done anything criminal. Just a few days ago, Desmond Hague, the CEO of Centerplate, resigned because of a video that showed him abusing a dog inside an elevator. The social media firestorm that pressured Hague to resign wasn’t prompted by concern that he may have done something criminal, it was prompted by moral outrage over him kicking a puppy.Report

  5. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I hadn’t seen the Goldblog article until now; I liked it.

    I find this an interesting use of the word boycott, since I usually associate it with an organized strategy. But as Goldberg himself says,

    “My boycott has targeted cars only. Many Jews, of course, don’t participate in this unofficial boycott (proof that it is only partially honored can be found in my synagogue’s parking lot on Rosh Hashanah) and I have recognized for a long while that this boycott is not rational, or rooted in smart policy thinking.”

    When he puts it like that, I have to admit that even though I don’t know that I would support a boycott of German cars, I totally support his previous acknowledgement that he didn’t feel comfortable with personally choosing to abstain and his acting on that.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Many Jews, of course, don’t participate in this unofficial boycott (proof that it is only partially honored can be found in my synagogue’s parking lot on Rosh Hashanah)

      I was going to link Sarah Silverman’s “German Cars” bit here, but it’s even less SFW than I remembered.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @tod-kelly

      I think many Jews just refused to buy German Cars as a form of private protest.

      Disclaimer: My car is a Mini and Mini is now owned by BMW.Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If Teddy Kennedy drove a Volkswagon, he’d have been president.Report

  7. Avatar Damon says:

    What about the Japanese cars? Anyone of those companies contribute to all the various war crimes Japan comitted during WW2? If so, those who are in favor of boycotts are boycotting them too right?Report

    • Avatar gingergene says:

      Well, first of all, everyone gets to pick the boycotts they want to participate in. There’s no Boycott High Council that declares people insufficiently committed and therefore nullifies the boycott. Goldberg chose not to buy a German car and that was as far as his “boycott” went. AFAIK, he never even publicized it until he wrote that he was considering abandoning it.

      Secondly, there are absolutely people who boycott Japanese companies for their role in WWII. A high school friend of mine tried very hard not to avoid driving her hand-me-down Mitsubishi to her Grandfather’s for that very reason.Report

    • Avatar Vikram Bath says:

      Honest questions: Did they use slave labor? Did they kill workers? Which among them supported political groups that led to aggression before it was a foregone conclusion?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      It’s funny you ask that. My parents would never even consider buying a German car, but they owned a Toyota, even though my Dad served in the Pacific during WWII.Report

    • Avatar KatherineMW says:

      Mitsubishi was one of the largest companies in Japan during WWII. According to Wikipedia, during the war it used Chinese, Korean, and Allied POWs for forced labour, and built military aircraft for the Japanese forces. “In the post-war period, lawsuits and demands for compensations were presented against the Mitsubishi Corporation, in particular by former Chinese slave labourers.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MitsubishiReport

  8. Avatar dexter says:

    A lady I knew way back when is a New York Jew and her father, after WWII ended started one of the first VW dealerships in Pennsylvania. Because of Pearl Harbor I had an uncle spend 3 and 1/2 years in some nasty jungles. He came back with a bad case of malaria and a severe case of PTSD and owned a Datsun before he died. If those two can get over nations going insane who am I to hold a grudge.
    The ones I won’t forgive are the one who won’t apologize. I am still pissed at Nixon. If your country does something I find reprehensible, all it takes is an apology, restitution, jail time or a noose for some and I am willing to forgive. I promise you I will not shoot you because your grandfather was a Pol Pot type of guy.Report

  9. Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

    My favorite soccer team plays in a stadium called Allianz Arena.

    When the stadium that the New York Giants and New York Jets now play in was being built, Allianz was one of the corporate sponsors being considered for the naming rights.

    Believe it or not, there was pressure from Jewish groups to due Allianz’ Nazi ties. So they dropped out of the running.

    Maybe they would have been very nervous taking a train to Allianz Stadium.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Ah, you’re a TSV 1860 fan, eh?Report

      • Avatar ScarletNumbers says:

        LOL

        Giants:Jets::Bayern:TSV 1860Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        TSV 1860 is more like a CFL team. (No offense, Canadiaites.)Report

      • Avatar El Muneco says:

        The likes of TSV 1860, and Rayo Vallecano (Madrid) have it relatively easy since they are kinda big clubs. How about fans of small teams in the catchment of huge teams? Now that’s rough.
        I am for complicated reasons a Leyton Orient fan, and the West Ham ground can just about be seen from Orient’s home (I don’t use the traditional supporters’ “we” since I’ve never been within 3000 miles of the home ground). The Irons are the sixth best team in London. Orient has been looking up at them (almost) every year for over a century. That’s a real good way to breed an inferiority complex.
        Supporters of Bury (greater Manchester’s third team) must feel the same way…
        With the way the league structures work in Europe – all the way from a potential breakaway superleague down to semi-pros all under the same umbrella, there’s a lot of stress. Even before bringing class, race, and religion into it (and eventually, to really analyze it, you must).Report

  10. Avatar Wardsmith says:

    Hmm, I was always an Audi guy, because I liked their Quattro engineering of four wheel drive. Really a good design and handles perfectly in the snow. When I bought my first one, the owner of my favorite Thai restaurant came out to admire it, and he said, “I always loved Nazi cars”. I hadn’t considered Audi a nazi company, not even sure if they were in business then, but remember it striking me at the time. After I got mine, a Jewish friend started buying them and never stopped. He even has the R8 to go with his A8, A7 and A5. Maybe they weren’t as Nazi as the rest. BTW, both his parents were in concentration camps.Report

  11. I don’t really have a problem in principle with holding corporations responsible for what they did ages ago if they’re the same company, even if they now are under different management and have repudiated past practices. A corporation’s decisions are part of its history, and its history is part of who/what it is now. Thus far would I in principle carry the analogy of corporate personhood.

    As to whether I would boycott a company for that reason? I don’t know. I’m not a car owner and if I were, I couldn’t afford a mercedes, so yeah, I might as well I say I’m boycotting them.

    As to whether one ought to be able pursue a legal claim against a current corporation for its past actions? I’d say yes, as long as the actions were illegal at the time and statute of limitations and other qualifications didn’t apply.Report

  12. Avatar zic says:

    This post by Jason K. Libertinage and Heteroticism seems pertinent:

    We would live in a horribly impoverished world if everyone had to gin up some love before they traded. As a less than fully sympathetic individual, I only live at all by the kind of sheer, blissful indifference that we find in the market. The same, though, may be said of you, even if it’s a lot less obvious: We all depend on largely anonymous trading networks for the specializations and the gains from trade that make modern abundance possible.

    Report

  13. Avatar Kim says:

    It’s funny. the folks running Trader Joe’s had a more front line seat to the Holocaust (they’re a logistics company), but who is boycotting them? Apparently the people annoyed at Israel.Report

  14. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    There seems to be a tendency to say that judgments like this are personal: it’s okay if you want to personally boycott Mercedes (or Roman Polanski, or Nestle, or Siemens) but it’s not mandatory that you do so. I’m not sure that’s right. Dr. Bath begins by noting:

    Cars can’t moral for Hindus but immoral for Jews.

    That’s indisputably right, especially if we also say (as I think is correct):

    People who are not Jewish should be morally horrified by the Holocaust.

    And that leads to the conclusion that if Daimler or BMW or Bayer or whoever else still bears moral blame for the Holocaust, and boycott is an acceptable way of expressing that moral repugnance, then everyone, not just Jews, ought to boycott and the question of when the moral stain is forgiven or expiated concerns us all, as if we were all Jews.Report

  15. Avatar Damon says:

    Not having been around during WW2, nor being a jew, and most of the perpetrators dead, I’m not sure it’s such a big thing. I do personally boycott certain companies for certain political reasons, but they are much more current political events.

    I will, however, say, that based upon my limited experience with german cars, I’m not sure you’re getting a good deal, price wise. I used to drive hondas all the time. Never had a problem. I bought a german car and the door moulding came unglued on both sides of the door. WTF. This car cost twice as much as my Acura. Quality aside, the handling and drivability was outstanding.Report