Friday, 5 October 2018

What would 'Party X 'do about the environment? Policy #1: It's an Eco-Tax Jim, but not as we know it

So there's a gap in the market for a political party representing what I'm calling "ethical environmentalism" -- and even Simon Bridges will want a part of it come coalition time (Whether it would want him is a whole other story). 
By ethical I mean policies that remove some existing political coercion without introducing any new coercionBy environmentalism I mean today's fashionable environmental tropes. And by some innate cunning involving preternatural judo I propose a Party X that uses those tropes to kickstart both some real environmentalism and a true movement towards liberty. Let me explain how with today's example of a policy that such a party could promote... 

Today, Eco Taxes. Or to be more precise, un-taxes...

Ronald Reagan once observed that government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: "It it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidise it."  I'm going to suggest a way to use today's organic pork-barrel politics to try out the opposite view.

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.

Today's Green-Party-in-Coalition is all set to unleash what they laughingly call a Green Investment Fund on the land, the same sort of pork barrel as the Shane Jones slush fund only with fewer safeguards and more organic fertiliser.

But there could be a better and more principled way. (And by better and more principled I mean taking the long-suffering taxpayer off the hook some.)

You see, 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 very power that keeps all 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 James Shaw and Chloe Swarbrick insist are so scarce.

But what new business of any description gets a chance to turn a healthy and sustainable profit when they’re bullied by the grey ones and buried under tax and compliance costs? So why not let at least some companies in this over-burdened country be freed of the shackles 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 this:
  • that all eco industries, eco businesses and eco products be made totally tax free; 
  • 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 conforming to minimum wage laws (what’s wrong with volunteers who freely volunteer?); 
  • and that the terms "eco industries," "eco businesses" and "eco products" be defined clearly but also as liberally as humanly and politically possible.

Like I say, what's wrong with using those who are generally opposed to capitalism to promote businesses that demonstrate how well it can work when the shackles come off?

So how might it work? Let’s say you’re doing research and development on micro-power producers or wave turbines. Or you're trying to erect and bring on small and economically viable 'neighbourhood' sewage treatment systems or domestic-scale wind turbines. (You see, we're literally thinking small and affordable here.) 

All of these could be potentially viable and small alternatives to the Big Thinking state-owned/state-controlled power and waste industries (the state always Things Big, doesn’t it), but not when burdened by the Kafka-esque problems with resource consents (for which the large producers maintain a large staff to make opposing submissions), nor by the compliance costs that weigh down every business, by the taxes on research and development and production, and on any profits that might be made down the line.

And all of them would be invaluable products to have developed! (Just think how many subdivisions of affordable homes you could build, for example, if both waste and power could be done 0n site instead of piped in and out!)

So I say let’s help out these smart small potential producers—but not by laying out James Shaw's fatted calf. I say help them instead simply by not goring them with the state’s lumpen big bullocks. Let’s help out every business we can, and let's starting with these ones that have some political traction.

In short, let's introduce some un-taxes. (If "sin taxes" are recognised to discourage certain activities, then un-taxes will assuredly do the opposite.)

In other words, let’s free up these liberally-defined “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 (and to the least easily convinced) the power to produce when the shackles of statism are removed; and we also lay down a serious challenge to the prophets of sustainability that requires them to objectively define what they do mean by sustainability so that investors and the grey ones too know clearly and in advance what an eco industry actually looks like.

Sure, this don’t give every business a break. And on the face of it there's a new bureaucracy there considering who and isn't inside this particular tent (but the Greens Investment Fund means that particular horse has already bolted). But with these eco un-taxes at least there’ll be a little bit 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.


An Environmental Party X

INTRO: 'The Time is Ripe for a Party X for the Environment'THE SERIES IS BASED ON THE PRINCIPLE DEVELOPED HERE: 'Transitions to Freedom: Shall We Kill Them in Their Beds?'

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

1 comment:

  1. This seems sensible to me to incentivise investment in this area. Sure, it's a case of governments "picking winners", but if you're going to do that better to do it simply and in a way that doesn't require a lot of knowledge government doesn't have and risk it doesn't need to take. The guarantee of zero tax once successful helps offset what are likely to be slow and loss making startups in complex areas. With existing businesses - let's say Ecostore - it gives them a competitive advantage, and incentivises multinationals to move more closely to whatever the zero tax product criteria are in order to benefit too.


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