The Problem With a Carbon Tax

August 19, 2017 by Joshua
in Nature, Perception

Shakespeare may have said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but you can’t smell taxes and the principle doesn’t apply to them.

The evidence? Call the estate tax a death tax and suddenly support for it drops, even among people who agree with it in principle, whose communities would benefit from it, and who would benefit from it personally, as Frank Luntz showed.

I support shifting taxes from some areas to taxing greenhouse gas emissions, but as far as language goes, as a carbon-based life-form, I don’t like the sound of taxing the basis of my life.

The problem that the tax will, I hope, contribute to solving isn’t even carbon, an innocent element that cycles throughout the biosphere. Nor is it even carbon dioxide, or carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The problem is too much greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, whose costs to clean up everyone has to deal with, while only the people emitting benefit. That is, the problem is poor accounting of externalities polluting and overheating the earth.

I propose stopping calling it a carbon tax, vilifying the innocent element, and calling it instead an “externality tax,” “pollution tax,” or even “overheating the Earth tax” if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

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