Economist N. Gregory Mankiw presents a compelling and succinct case for conservatives leading market based climate change through the carbon tax in a recent posting in the New York Times.
As Mankiw states in the article, “It encourages people to buy more fuel-efficient cars, form car pools with their neighbors, use more public transportation, live closer to work and turn down their thermostats. A regulatory system that tried to achieve all this would be heavy-handed and less effective.”
At this juncture, conservatives and libertarians should think of government responses to climate change as a binary choice – either opt for the inevitable heavy-handed and likely ineffective machinations of government agencies that are riddled with cronyist handouts and contradictions, or put a price on a substance that is in having an environmental impact to drive market-based incentives to change behavior and let private industry innovate around the new landscape. The role conservatives can play is to ensure that moves in this direction are consistent with limiting the role of government and making sure that carbon taxes are offset with tax reductions elsewhere. Otherwise, we will be left with a double penalty of more taxes and a higher burden of regulations.
A carbon tax would be at least neutral or perhaps much less economically malicious than taxes on income, investments, consumption, or taxes on production (corporate taxes). Conservatives could propose a compromise approach to climate change in which carbon taxes are offset by reductions in the aforementioned tax types that would likely pass into law.
It encourages people to buy more fuel-efficient cars, form car pools with their neighbors, use more public transportation, live closer to work and turn down their thermostats. A regulatory system that tried to achieve all this would be heavy-handed and less effective.
Indeed, a simple carbon tax is, as quoted in the article, “a solution that is consistent with free enterprise and limited government.” This rings particularly true when compared to the current arbitrary rule by diktat patchwork that is the EPA.