Isn’t that a horrible word? I’m sure it fills you with that indignant feeling – oh great, there the government goes again, taking loads of my hard earned wages to spend on their 5 star holidays and second homes. Great.
But what if it could be a solution to the problematic discrepancy between environmental action and the profit-hungry market? Basically I think the tax system should be completely reworked so that companies are heavily taxed for any environmentally damaging behaviour. The money from these taxes should be put into a governmental fund and used for public spending on environmental protection, education, health care, community investments etc. This would mean pollution would be taxed, short-lived poor quality designs would be taxed (encouraging high quality, long-lasting, adaptable products) and use of virgin non-renewable materials would be taxed (encouraging recycling and reuse). And they shouldn’t be the kind of sums that are crippling for small businesses but can easily be shook off my multinationals – they should be percentage based so big companies would need to avoid them to be viable. I feel this is a rather controversial idea and of course many business leaders would hate it. They would probably protest against such a scheme.
But… Tough? For as long as our world is based around buying and selling and making money, businesses will do what is most profitable and individuals will do what they can afford. Goodwill alone will not be enough if the entire economic system discourages it. A business is admirable if it uses renewable energy and pays extra for pollution to be cleaned up. Definitely it should be commended. But a lot of the time it won’t be, it’ll be punished with lower profit margins than if it had not been so responsible. This is an awful system – and the system needs to change in such a way as for ‘green’ practises to be the most financially viable way of operating.
People opposing such a scheme would probably argue that it’d be devastating to the economy. That most businesses would be unable to cope and would instantly go bust. Well, I think this is not necessarily true. It would favour different types of business perhaps, but this would be favourable to us as they’d be the types that aren’t trashing our’s and our children’s futures. It would open up huge opportunities for innovation and enterprise. And I’m not suggesting this should happen with no warning. If something like this was to be introduced, the government should issue a formal warning outlining all of the terms, and a big media hoo-ha should be ensured so that every business leader knows about it say one or two years in advance and has time to adapt her/his business to the changes before they occur. No only would this mean the environmental benefits from the changes would take effect sooner rather than later, it’d also prevent mass bankruptcy.
Companies that are currently incredibly environmentally damaging (Shell, McDonald’s, Esso, Monsanto etc etc) would obviously have the most work cut out here. But they should be cut no slack at all. If Shell can’t switch to generating renewables quick enough, if McDonald’s can’t switch to producing sustainable food quick enough, then let them fall by the wayside. They need to keep up with the times. If you think this is harsh, let me just say that killing off companies for the ‘greater good’ is not like killing people. Or even animals or ecosystems. Companies are economic/social constructs that might be allocated equal rights to actual individuals in America, but they shouldn’t. Of course they are important for the security of the people that work for them. But in the nicest way possible, these people could find other jobs if the company went down for this reason. And the ‘green collar jobs’ that we keep being promised would be springing up everywhere like weeds after rainfall. Greener companies would be flourishing with their non-tax-paying advantage and new ones that weren’t viable before would come into action. In fact, if grants and starter packs were supplied for new green businesses, I wouldn’t be surprised if this scheme would create a more prosperous economy than the one we currently have.
As you can see, I think the theory that has been around since the Thatcher government that things will be best if we just allow the market absolute freedom – getting out of the way as capitalism takes it’s course, only occasionally throwing money at the system if it’s not working quick enough – is pretty rubbish really. It’s concentrating wealth in the ‘top 1%’ while everyone else gets poorer, and is degrading the global ecosystem we all rely on in the process. I suggest that rather than acting as pawns in the chess game of money, we take the reins and use money as a tool for achieving a better world for the 100%.
I know this is all a bit controversial, and it’s just my opinion at the moment. I don’t even know if this is a good idea, not being able to tell the future. I just had this idea and wanted to communicate it to you. So what do you think? Have you got a better theory? I’d love to hear about it.
I like it!! If a tax were passed like that it would create all kinds of new jobs. Think of the number of people who could work in cleaner working environments, money could go into light rail or other public transportation that was greener, etc. I have only one problem that you would need to work out further. That is who would be controlling how the tax money was used? Here in my state gasoline is taxed higher than neighboring states because we have more harsh winters here and the money is supposed to go to keeping the roads up. There is one toll road that I used to use frequently. I didn’t mind the small toll, and the road was amazing to drive on. Now the toll is more than triple the cost of only 2 years ago, and the last time I was on the road it was horrible. Where is the money going? Also my state heavily taxes cigarette sales. The money we are told was supposed to pay for low income health insurance, yet now we are told that money never made it there, but we aren’t told where the money has gone, only that our state is broke, but no explanations seem to be forthcoming.
Here in the US the lobbyists seem to run the government, so this plan would be hard to get through, but I’d love to hear more of your ideas on the subject.
It’s a good point that tax payers money is often spent on ‘other stuff’ rather than what we’re promised it’ll pay for. I think this is so corrupt and would be a major source of public distrust for a kind of scheme like the one I’ve been thinking about. All I can say is that perhaps a special kind of Fund would be required that mixes governmental regulation with other people – specialists from different fields or community leaders are whatever, that meet and decide on what the money should be spent on. Perhaps an online voting system could even be employed for citizens to vote out of the top options decided on by specialists and okay-ed by government. ….? Who knows.
Also if you haven’t already, give this little film a look:
It’s very relevant to the where’d-my-tax-go issue.
After I left my comment, your post stayed with me. I started thinking about the agreements the casinos had to make to be allowed in our state in the US. They have to give a percentage of the profits to the local municipalities who are nearby. Many of these are very small communities. They then have to hold their council meetings, inviting the public, to vote on how the money gets spent. In some cases near me some towns only have 7,000 residents. I think when you put it in the hands of the people who actually live there it may be better allocated.
Thanks for the link, I watched the story of stuff, but not story of broke.
Great ideas ….Love you
Thank you Dad, I’m glad you liked it!
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