Our first review looks at Tax Shift, by Alan T. Durning and Yoram Bauman.
Tax Shift is a slim paperback volume of just 116 pages, but there's more quality in here than in many a longer treatise. The topic? Protecting natural resources by using tax mechanisms -- specifically, by shifting tax burdens away from labor and capital and toward the use, monopolization or consumption of natural resource values instead.
That's a tax shift. Here's the idea in just four words, the favorite slogan of the Banneker Center for Economic Justice -- Tax Bads, Not Goods.
In Tax Shift, the reader is introduced to a whole bunch of tax innovations, one after the other, that would serve environmental protection and economic efficiency goals simultaneously. Taxes to curb pollution; to reduce carbon emissions; to reduce traffic congestion; to reduce urban and suburban sprawl; all are introduced and discussed in considerable depth.
This is not a theory booklet or a manifesto. Tax Shift is full of actual numbers, how many dollars this tax would raise, how many dollars we could cut from that iniquitous tax, etc. The authors give us practical proposals that are ready for enlig htened, forward-thinking politicians to take up right away.
When writing about taxes, probably the biggest danger is that the people who most need to read your material will find it, like nearly anything about taxes, RATHER DULL. This is not a danger with Tax Shift. The booklet has a friendly, informal and engaging style that is quite readable. There are too many facts and figures for you to actually read the book as you would a novel, but the style is definitely conducive to understanding.
Our only complaint is that many of the book's figures and calculations are performed for varying regions. The booklet actually concerns itself with a region that includes parts of Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah and California. But the figures we are shown are usually from just Oregon, British Columbia, Washington and Idaho. It's not easy to pull together disparate reports across state and national bound aries, and the authors have done good work on this, but it's hard to keep the reader oriented to when fact X pertains to Montana alone, but fact Y pertains to the whole bioregion, or was it just the USA portion of the region, etc.
A particularly welcome section of Tax Shift concerns sprawl, that degrading, life-cheapening phenomenon that none of us like. Site value taxation is proposed and discussed -- convincingly -- as a tool against sprawl. The Sierra Club and the Henry George Foundation of America are among other organizations that have already proposed site value taxation as a way to contain sprawl and encourage efficient, infill development that won't endanger winderness areas. For the whole story, get your own copy of Tax Shift -- the lucid treatment of site value taxation alone is well worth it.
The bottom line? This is one heck of a good piece of work, and a definite contender for our Best Economic Justice Book of 1998 Award. However, there are plenty of competitors too! Next Saturday you'll see another interesting review.
Tax Shift, published 1998 by Northwest Environment Watch.
List price is $9.95.
Northwest Environment Watch
1402 Third Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98101-2118
Or place your order by phoning toll-free 1-888-643-9820. Please mention this review. (Thanks to Art Scholbe for pointing out this toll-free number!)