Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why I don't vote for the Green Party. . . .

I have a lot of sympathy for the Green Party on many issues. I essentially believe that Canada should have little or no standing military, we should have a much stronger education system, I think you might as well legalize marijuana at this point, etc, etc. I also believe that the Green Party is right that there is an environmental crisis in this country and the world in genreal.

However, I would not vote for the Green Party for the very simple reason that they believe that a 'market' approach can solve the environmental crisis. In other words, the Green Party is essentially a socially liberal, financially right-wing party.

This is the problem in a nut shell. The Green Party believes that they can shift the tax burden away from income (both personal and corporate) and put the majority of taxes onto the consumption of Carbon. There are two basic problems with this. One is that it would badly hurt rural and low-income people. It doesn't matter how much you attempt to compensate this portion of the population in the short term, they will ultimately suffer a great deal more than wealthy people. That is just the way it is, whether the Greens like it or admit it. The second problem with this tax shift approach is that it is by definition self-defeating. The objective of such a policy is to lower the amount of carbon products that people consume. (This is where they think the "market" forces will kick in). However, in this plan if carbon usage is reduced radically so is the government's taxation revenue and you are going to be forced to shift the taxes back to income anyway.

 I don't believe in letting the so-called market solve the problem for which it is responsible in the first place. The answer to the environmental problems is to regulate producers of carbon and carbon producing products, to make huge investments in alternative energy, and to heavily regulate the production and use of chemicals in general. Corporations have demonstrated again and again that they will not be environmentally responsible unless they are forced to be. And alternative producers in advanced technological markets simply need help because the entrance requirements (in financial terms) are simply too high to depend on so called innovation and entrepreneurship.

And let us not forget that environmental organizations and activists have consistently given the NDP higher marks for their environmental policies than the Green Party.

6 comments:

doconnor said...

The NDP's plan for cap and trade is arguably more market based on a carbon tax.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions isn't like banning CFCs. There are 10,000 ways of reducing them, and every individual should be able to how they do it. That is why regulation isn't be best approach. More here.

kirbycairo said...

Yes, doconnor but the market based approach coupled with the tax shift is the real problem.

On the other issue, I just think you are wrong. Practically every single significant environmental improvement in industry has be painfully enforced on business through regulation, from improved gas milage to the banning of DDT. Regulation isn't the best approach, it is the only approach with a proven track record.

doconnor said...

Taxation of tobacco products has been successful at reducing usage.

I've read arguments that improving gas mileage hasn't improved the environment because people drove further because it was cheaper.

Reducing oil isn't like anything we've done before. It is used in every product and by every person. In some cases, like air travel, there is no replacement. We will have to just do without.

For example to reduce carbon emissions from their commute people can get a more efficient car, take transit, move closer to work or become a vegetarian. All four are good options and people should have the flexibility to choose. How can regulation do that?

kirbycairo said...

Reduction in tobacco use is a result of many factors, one of which is taxation. But regulation has actually played a larger role by ensuring that it is harder for young people to be exposed and purchase cigarettes.

The issue of reduction of gasoline usage is somewhat unique for sure. However, depending on people's choices will not achieve your intended ends. For one thing people in rural areas are simply forced to drive more. And in Britain (where I lived for years) expensive gas prices did not compel people to make better choices for the most part. Because the government also privatized mass transit and privatized companies just stopped servicing rural areas, period.

There is no doubt that education can play a significant role in these things, and when I talk about regulation I assume a large role by government in eduction.

However, the solution involves a government that compels oil and auto companies not only to radically improve but to reinvest a large percentage by law directly into alternatives and new technologies. And the government also has to set a date by which internal combustion engines are outlawed, the same way they have outlawed other dangerous technologies thus phasing in electric cars etc.

But the larger area of regulation must surely be in the mining and chemical industries. These are areas of the economy that have simply faded into the background with the rising Global warming debate. We don't need to just prevent more Love Canals but much more heavily control such industries because history has proven that they will not self-regulate.

doconnor said...

"The issue of reduction of gasoline usage is somewhat unique for sure. However, depending on people's choices will not achieve your intended ends."

The nice thing about a Carbon Tax is that it treats all emissions equally. That is something regulation very well may not do.

"For one thing people in rural areas are simply forced to drive more."

Living in rural areas is environmentally destructive and should be discouraged.

"And in Britain (where I lived for years) expensive gas prices did not compel people to make better choices for the most part."

Transit ridership is significantly higher in Britain then it is in Canada.

"And the government also has to set a date by which internal combustion engines are outlawed, the same way they have outlawed other dangerous technologies thus phasing in electric cars etc."

Banning them in 2050 would be a good idea, but in the mean time we have to reduce their usage. That's where Carbon Taxes come in.

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