James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, February 16, 2007

Global Warming

Where global warming differs from other controversies is that it shouldn't really matter in terms of public policy. That is, the same policies would curb the problem and mitigate the problem, but would work just as well if the global warming didn't exist at all. In any scenario the sound policy is to tax land, don't tax anything else, cut government spending and government-created perverse incentives, and let free markets work:

-If global warming didn't exist, pollution is still pollution. It is smarter to tax "bads" rather than "goods" like working and saving. Taxing harmful emissions would be beneficial even if there is no globabl warming. It would discourage pollution and encourage public health.

- Taxing non-renewable resources would internalize the costs. Companies wouldn't be able to sell a precious resource at windfall prices only to have the community pay later on for its scarcity. This would encourage more efficient use and alternatives. This would help globabl warming, but would be beneficial in any case.

- Taxing land values, - while not taxing other property, work, savings, or consumption - will put land to its best use. Populations will live in denser, more prosperous areas. This will preserve more forests and agricultural lands, helping the carbon problem, biodiversity, and the food problem as well.

- Beyond taxing these forms of "land," the free market would mitigate harmful effects of global warming. For instance, if more floods are predicted, insurance companies will stop insuring property in the most vulnerable areas. Populations would migrate to safer areas. On the other hand, if global warming isn't happening and insurance companies have no reason to be concerned about the risks, then insurance policies will stay the same.

- Free markets mean the end of direct and indirect subsidies. The State and Defense Departments wouldn't be in the service of oil companies, for example. We wouldn't waste money on grossly inefficient ethanol subsidies at home while keeping out cheaper ethanol from abroad.

- Smaller government and lower taxes will allow each person to do what they think is best to help solve our problems, whether it means installing solar panels, or donating that money to make water cleaner abroad.

Such policies, and others like them, would work best if they were put in place everywhere, but that can not be imposed. In any case, they will help mitigate global warming wherever they are tried. We should each start locally, then move nationally, and see other countries follow our example.

1 comment:

  1. Amen to that!

    I’ve been arguing this very point to Global Warming deniers for months. People are spending so much time arguing for or against Global Warming that they are missing the point. There are many negative side effects of car emissions and factory pollution that are prevalent regardless of whether the earth is getting warmer or not.