| In the old days, most destructive activities such as pollution were
easy to get away with for two reasons: (1) by the time a law or regulation
actually got passed, it was so weakened that lots of polluting activities
weren't covered at all, and (2) even if a certain polluting activity was
totally banned, the fine for breaking the law was often small or
Those are two big problems and some environmental groups are attacking them. But there is also a whole new approach, the Green Tax Shift.
Here's how it works.
Taxes have two interesting properties that we can use to our advantage. One, taxes discourage things. If they tax wheelchairs, fewer people will have wheelchairs, and that's bad -- but if you tax toxic chemicals, fewer toxic chemicals will be produced, and that's good. Aha! We can promote taxes on all sorts of destructive or dangerous activities -- air pollution, sprawl, water pollution, creating nuclear wastes, etc. At the same time, we can propose reducing the tax burden on things that are actually good for society, such as wheelchairs, people's wages, affordable housing, and books. It's very easy to support a tax shift like this.
The other interesting property of taxes is that they tend to make something public. I may not want you to know how much money I make, but you can probably get hold of IRS records of my federal income tax returns. If a polluting activity is legal and unregulated, and most are, it's very hard to find out about it -- but if that activity is taxed, even slightly, suddenly you can find out a lot about who's doing it and how much.
So, the Green Tax Shift is moving us in some very good directions -- tax bad things so as to discourage pollution and other destructive activities, and liberate good things from burdens of taxation. And every tax levied on a destructive activity brings that activity more and more into the public eye, makes it easier to measure, to debate, to find alternatives, and to spot violations.
Across Europe and the United States, the Green Tax Shift is gaining momentum. More and more people are realizing that while pollution may mean nothing to a big corporation, dollars mean a lot. The moral appeals of the early environmental movement are now being supplemented by an approach that strikes closer to the root of the problem. Americans may not all be environmentalists, but anyone can understand the common sense behind an idea like "tax bads, not goods" -- go after pollution before you go after my wages, hit resource depleters before you hit my house, swat the land speculators before you swat my children's books, and so on.
The Green Tax Shift has become a major focus of environmental activism --
our government is regulating destructive activities less, enforcing
anti-pollution laws less, but you know one thing it will always pay
close attention to, and that's Taxation. Forward to victory!
Tax Shift Resources for You:
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