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The case against a carbon tax

National Post writer Jonathan Kay made the conservative case for a carbon tax. Paul McKeever thinks this case can't be made...not from a conservative, free market perspective, anyways.

Paul McKeever - July 31, 2008

Liberal Party of Canada leader Stéphane Dion may very well lose his job following the next election. His ouster might even be justified by the fact that his unprincipled “Green Shift” platform is politically costly yet offers nothing conservatives would recognize as a benefit. However, were conservatives to press ahead with “The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax” described by National Post columnist Jonathan Kay, they would actually be functioning as the liberal collectivist’s most effective weapon against both conservatism and capitalist individualism. The leader of such a conservative movement would be more deserving of ouster than even Mr. Dion.

The Conservative Case is prefaced by the idea that it would be “too bad” if “serious environmentalism” were “killed for years to come”. This implies that conservatives regard serious environmentalism to be a good thing. Capitalists cringe, knowing that “serious environmentalism” is almost always code for anti-capitalist political efforts to combat mass production, the division of labor, and an ever-increasing quality of life. Socialists and fascists, ever seeking a crisis with which to justify more collectivist governmental intervention, smile as they see their opponents supporting the key notions that a man-made climate crisis exists, and that environmentalism is the answer.

The policy proposed by The Conservative Case is the creation of a retail sales tax on the purchase price of “any... fuel whose use results in the discharge of carbon dioxide”. Conservatives are said to believe such a tax would make sense because it would produce four things considered by “true” conservatives to be benefits:

1. a reduction in the size of government (replacing a number of standards, ethanol subsidies, rebates, research grants and other ‘green’ programs with a single carbon tax, thereby reducing the number of government employees needed to administer said programs);

2. a reduction in the taxation of production and of the productive (because a retail carbon tax is a single rate tax on consumables and higher income earners spend a smaller percentage of their income on consumables);

3. an improvement of family life and an increase in civility (each resulting from less time spent driving, away from friends, family, and neighbors); and

4. a reduction of terrorism and rogue power (via a shrinkage of the oil revenues of foreign governments and a corresponding increase the tax revenues of domestic ones).

Given that The Conservative Case is talking about a carbon tax in the context of the environment and environmentalism, what is the most striking commonality amongst these four conservative “benefits”? Answer: none of them appear to have much, if anything, to do with the environment or environmentalism.

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