Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Carbon tax and the libertarians

Jason Soon linked to an article about this last week, but I see more writers are commenting about the promotion of a carbon tax by an American libertarian Jerry Taylor.  He's gone and set up his own think tank and his proposal is for a revenue neutral carbon tax that gradually rises.  In other words, it does not result in greater government retained revenue (hence is supposed to be libertarian friendly.)  And the political deal is that this is done in replacement of Obama's attempt to reduce carbon burning by regulating the power industry via the EPA.

I have a few immediate observations:

1.    James Hansen, the (I think) registered Republican (how he can live with himself on that matter I don't know) granddaddy scientist of climate change has been promoting the same idea since at least 2009, possibly earlier.   Are window licking Tea Party Republican types going to suddenly agree that he had a good idea all along?   I don't think so...

2.   I see that even Republican hero for stating the obvious and then taking it too far (Arthur Laffer) and Republican representative Bob Inglis have also been suggesting this since at least 2008.

3.   Jason may recall a thread from Catallaxy years ago in which he, Sinclair Davidson and I had some exchanges about this, and Sinclair acknowledged that if you had to do something about climate change, a revenue neutral carbon tax would be the preferable way to do it.   I'm pretty sure that I said that one practical problem I could see was how to match the level of tax to the desired target of reductions, likely meaning some  continual fiddling with the rate of the tax leading to investment uncertainties that business dislikes.   (On the other hand, it is less liable to the rorting involved in cap and trade scheme offsets which may prove to be off dubious value - planting a bunch of trees that go up in a forest fire in decade's time, for example, or paying for no forest clearing in a country where poor law enforcement means it happens anyway.)

4.   Sinclair Davidson then wrote in 2014 [2010 - the IPA confused me by having two publications both called "Climate Change - The Facts"] in the IPA's short collection of essays by climate change denialists/lukewarmers, based on the "climategate" emails:
...we can have no confidence in the observations that temperature has increased due to human activity because the mechanisms of science have been subverted.
 So his attitude:  problem?  what problem?; and I'll throw my weight behind trying to convince the public there's no problem.

5.   There is considerable uncertainty in terms of modelling about its effects.  I think there was a good exchange between Taylor and an economist on his website about this, but I haven't found it again, yet.  This article looks more broadly at the question from a "progressive" point of view, and I think makes some decent points.   Certainly, I would be skeptical of some incredibly optimist forecasts for its effects as cited in The Guardian, even if it would seem the British Columbian example has some positive reviews.

My initial conclusion is therefore:

a.  good on Taylor for actually believing science and not taking the libertarian "denial or lukewarmer" line.  Good on him for pointing out the obvious about the "free rider" aspect, that if large, rich economies do nothing to institute this, developing economies have no clear reason to either.

b. as the idea has been around for quite a while now, the problem is not that it theoretically appeals to libertarians, even the likes of Sinclair Davidson - the problem is the degree to which the great bulk of libertarians have adopted multipronged denialism/do-nothing-ism, and not moved an inch from the position that there is no problem worth addressing.  The proposal is going no where until that changes.

c.  the requirement of "revenue neutrality" is an unwarranted ideological add on that puts one aspect of a carbon tax less useful that it could otherwise be, in that internationally governments are scratching around looking at revenue sources and the problems of corporate tax minimisation.  I don't see why this should be a strict condition on the implementation of a carbon tax, even if the bulk of it is used to reduce other taxes.  


Not Trampis said...

The idea that the we can no confidence in the observations that temperature has increased due to human activity because the mechanisms of science have been subverted is completely absurd.

did the e-mails suddenly change the temperatures recorded?

I remember a long time ago asking Sinkers if he was stating there had been a structural break in the statistical significant rise in world temperatures.
He simply didn't allow me to comment any further as well as deleting the comment.
Say no more!

Anonymous said...

He deleted your stuff because you're an objectionable stupid person, Homer Paxton. Your stupidity annoys everyone to a point of violence.

Anonymous said...

Stepford, you dishonest douchebag.

The carbon tax that libertarians support and have always supported was one that replaced all the subsidies and bullshit that are currently imposed.

That's not the carbon tax you and other leftwingers knee-padded to, you lying swine.

Not Trampis said...

Well no if I was stupid I would be part of the Catallaxy clown show like you.

He deleted the comment because he couldn't answer the question and he knew he couldn't.
Very easy to catch out the people at Catallaxy.

Good grief they didn't even know the difference between PEFO and MYEFO for pete's sake.

Steve said...

Libertarians have always supported a revenue neutral carbon tax? Go away and read the attacks coming from libertarians on Taylor's proposal, including at Cato, JC.

Steve said...

Or read the comments following Ron Bailey's recent article at Reason in which he listed the reasons he believed climate change was real and worth addressing, and the great majority of commenters dispute it:


Anonymous said...


You ignoramus. Libertarians have supported a rev neutral carbon tax and a total and complete abandonment of the subsidies to the subsidy whores along with beating the life out of rent seekers.

What part of that do you not understand you twat.

Anonymous said...


Let me repeat. You were banned because no one could tolerate your stupidity any longer. In fact you've been banned from several blogs for being a dunce.

Anonymous said...

You insufferable dunce, Paxton.

Steve said...

What you mean, JC, is that a hand full of libertarians have been saying for quite a while that it would be the best thing to tackle it if it is a problem; and even smaller number have actually moved to accepting "yes it is a problem" and advocating doing it.

The great majority of libertarians and small government types completely reject the idea of doing anything, let alone a carbon tax.

Anonymous said...

What we do support is that if anything is to be done then it should be a carbon tax and the removal of all the greenfacist bullshit that is currently imposed.

Now stay silent as you've nothing more to contribute.

Steve said...

BTW, I am aware that in Australia John Humphreys was proposing the same thing in 2008.

How many libertarian inclined Australian economists have you seen move towards endorsing action - any action at all.

And you, you twit: you'll believe any half baked allegation of temperature manipulation from an aging codger doing science from his backyard shed.

Not Trampis said...

Then I could n't have been banned from Catallaxy as stupidity reigns there.

Just look at Katesy's latest act of stupidity and al the ignoramuses talking about it like you!

Anonymous said...

Get lost Paxton, you twit. You deserve a serious clocking.

Anonymous said...

You bring out the worst in people Paxton, you nimrod.

Anonymous said...

i have nothing against homer personally. but christ he really can't string together a sentence or spell to save his life, even today


Not Trampis said...

Jason ,
don't be a hypocrite.
of course you have otherwise you wouldn't say it.


A revenue neutral carbon tax is nonsensical.
you bring in one to reduce the externality. It is either going to be revenue positive or negative depending on the externality.
in this case I fail lto see how it could be anything but revenue positive.

I see nothing wrong in assisting the poor .
Ross Garnaut showed us how to do it.

Anonymous said...

OMG I nearly died of boredom reading this site.