Tax or Preemptive Fine?

A Tax to Protect The Environment?

    Uses for taxes

    Relationship to projects

    Not so for the "tax to protect the environment"

    Face it, it's a preemptive fine

    Manipulating people

Excerpted from March 1998 issue
Every time we turn around, somebody is proposing some new "tax to protect The Environment." As of this writing, it is a tax on CO2 emissions but there will surely be others before you can shake a stick. 

Occasionally, a tax is levied with the express purpose of raising revenue for some specific project. For example, a tax might be raised from gasoline sales, with the revenues going into the building of roads or bridges. Never mind that a large fraction of the money gets spent for other projects instead: this kind of taxation does meet some criteria for relevance. 

A tax on homeowners to build and run a sewage treatment plant is another tax that has a specific purpose. Water that is polluted with every conceivable chemical and germ is processed and returned clean to the river, but not for free. 

Sometimes, there is little relationship between the taxation and the projects for which the money is supposedly raised. For example, the income tax is used to raise money for many purposes, none of which are related to governmental costs associated with the individual's income. It is well to note at this point that the best interest of the IRS is for people to have high taxable incomes. 

But a "tax to protect The Environment" is not a tax in any conventional sense, nor is it capable of protecting The Environment. For example, the so-called "carbon-tax" that has been proposed to cut CO2 emissions is in no way tailored toward treating the air to remove CO2, nor is its main purpose simply to increase governmental revenues for any particular purpose. No governmental agency (American or international), no profit-greedy corporation, and no public-spirited non-profit organization has proposed any remediation scheme for which they need money. 

The purpose of the "carbon tax" is to discourage the burning of fuels, an idea totally at odds with conventional notions of taxation. That is, if the "tax" worked so well that nobody burned any fuels, there would be no CO2 releases, and the government would collect no revenues from it, not to mention that they'd get no taxes from anything else, as the economy would be in shambles. The more the purpose of the so-called tax would be realized, the less revenue would be raised. 

In other words, the CO2 "tax to protect The Environment" is not a tax at all, but rather a preemptive fine. Even troops from Nader's misnamed Public Interest Research Group who go out ringing doorbells to collect "donations to protect The Environment" have some measure of honesty: they ask for money rather than taking it by coercion. For both The Federales and PIRG, the money will be spent to fatten the wallets of lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits for the general purposes of obstruction. 

Lawrence-Berkeley National Lab's politically correct Environmental Energy Technologies Division makes this pretty clear in a front-page article, "Five-lab Study Examines Carbon-Reduction Strategies [LBNL-EETD News, Winter 1998]." The thrust of the article is to determine how many tonnes of carbon emissions can be avoided by imposing "taxes" of up to $50.00 per tonne of carbon. There is not a single word about remediation (even if it were necessary). It's all about manipulating behavior. 

Excerpted from March 1998 The Energy Advocate
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