Friday, 22 July 2011

What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Part 1: Un-taxes

    Imagine a ‘Party X’ that was actually committed to opposing statism ,and to advocating for free enterprise. Imagine such a party had a cabinet committing to rolling back the state, and an environment minister brimming over with ideas to do that.
    Here, in several parts, are the sort of environmental policies such a party (and such a minister) could advocate. Seven simple policies using present-day political realities to roll back the state without introducing any new coercion along the way.
    This morning,

Every party in parliament wants subsidies for its favoured “outcomes,” and “resources” for their favourite pork barrels.  And every party is wont to waffle ad nauseum about “sustainability,” “renewable” energy, and other words they’re ill-prepared to define. Put the two together and you have a buggers muddle of bullshit and budgetary blowouts—of Eco Taxes, Eco Subsidies and Eco Grants—that’s unsustainable both for the taxpayers forced to pick up the tab, and producers trying to survive.

All parties blather on about the need for “grass roots” eco businesses and “sustainable” alternative technologies, yet between taxes, regulations and indecipherable rules about how to qualify for the various grants and subsidies they promote, they make it near impossible for alternative technologies and grass roots businesses to thrive.

All of them waffle on about subsidies for this and grants for that and assistance with the other, and at the same time they talk about “sin” taxes to discourage so-called “polluters” like the energy companies who produce the power that keeps our lights on.

I say that’s bullshit. I say the only thing that’s truly sustainable is stuff that stands on its own two feet, i.e., stuff that’s economically sustainable, i.e., that produces more resources than are consumed. I say if a profit can't be made on all these schemes for solar panels and wind farms and for turning banana skins into biofuel, then those schemes shouldn’t exist. If they can’t turn a profit, then they’re a waste of the resources that Russel Norman and Nick Smith insist are so scarce.

But what new business gets a chance to turn a profit when they’re buried under tax and compliance costs? We know that tax is theft. We know that how you run your company is your business. So why not let at least some companies in this country be free of the burden and show just how their profits rise when they’re not being taxed to hell and back—when they’re not burdened by paperwork, and weighed down by bureaucrats.

And why not let the current fad for “sustainable” this-that-and-the-other help drive this gradual unburdening, and let the eco warriors themselves learn at first hand that free trade and profits are always superior to subsidies and socialism.

What I suggest then is that eco industries, eco businesses and eco products be made totally tax free, and that all these eco industries be freed as much as possible from the regulations and compliance costs imposed by the likes of the Resource Management Act (RMA), the Income Tax Act, of collecting and calculating GST, and comforming to minimum wage laws (what’s wrong with volunteers who freely volunteer?).

Let’s say for example you’re doing research and development on micro-power producers or wave turbines, or trying to erect and bring on small and economically viable hydro stations or domestic wind turbines. All of these are potentially viable and small alternatives to the Big Thinking state-owned and state-controlled power producers (the state always Things Big, doesn’t it), but not when burdened by Kafka-esque problems with resource consents (for which the large producers maintain a large staff to make opposing submissions), by the compliance costs that weigh down every business, and by taxes on research and development and production, and on any profits that might be made down the line.

I say let’s help out these smart small producers—not by laying out the fatted calf, but by not goring them with the state’s lumpen big bullocks. Let’s help out every business we can, starting with these ones.

Let’s free up “eco” businesses, and at once we liberate at least some businesses from the shackles of the grey ones (and perhaps help kick start some fashionable export industries selling to the gullible overseas, and initiate the partial removal of the RMA and other onerous laws and regulations here).

At the same time we demonstrate the power to produce when the shackles of statism are removed; and we lay down a serious challenge to the prophets of sustainability that requires them to objectively define what they mean by sustainability so that investors and the grey ones know clearly and in advance what an eco industry actually looks like.

Sure, this don’t give every business a break, but with eco un-taxes, at least there’s more freedom and no new coercion, and nothing here that the eco warriors shouldn’t be chomping at the bit to sign up to. It’s a start, right.

INTRO: 'What Would 'Party X' Do About the Environment?'
THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

Tune in tomorrow for policy proposal number two: “The Overwhelming Importance of Damn Nuisance”


  1. I think this is your worst idea, PC. Who will decide what is an "eco-business"? Oh, right, another bureaucracy. And why should I continue to pay exhorbitant tax and comply with the miriad of regulatory requirements just because someone in the bureaucracy doesn't think I am an eco-business. It's a great way to drive everyone other than the eco-businesses out of business. Better to make everyone tax free - now there's an idea!

  2. @Kiwiwit: "Better to make everyone tax free ... " Yes, you and I agree. But few others do--and most of those others would fully support SOME kind of support for the kind of sandals, macrame and wind chimes businesses we're talking about here.

    So why not use that support to get at least some businesses "off the grid," and start from there?

    As Confucious say, biggest meal start with first bite.

  3. Tax breaks for "green" business/products isn't a particularly innovative idea (not to say that it's a bad one). But wouldn't introducing a whole raft of tax exemptions create compliance costs? I mean, in addition to all the current ones, businesses would need to check all of their purchases/activities/etc. for whether they would be exempt - granted, at the aggregate level, this would be outweighed by the money saved, but it seems to me a little silly to say that this would "free" businesses from compliance costs.

  4. This policy would get off the ground if you had the Greens design the boundaries for the businesses. Of course they would allow the companies they are currently invested in to qualify (despite the fact they are going broke....)
    would they include possum based industries as eco?
    what about organic foods, including beer?
    biomass thermal generation...
    aquaculture, especially native might also fit...

    I wonder will Robert Guyton will come along and critique this?

  5. actually probably better that he doesn't join the convo, the man's mind is a bit doolally

  6. Reducing the amount of dog shit in the yoghurt doesn't make dog-shit-yoghurt any more palatable. (H/T to James Dinglepole)

  7. THE Marxist Nanny state may well be dogshit flavoured yoghurt, but the choices you have are
    1) dilution is the solution to pollution
    2) a populace shackled and forcefed dogshit flavoured Nannystatism


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