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Murphy’s Logic: The carbon tax should be fairer


Benjamin Franklin said nothing is certain except death and taxes.

We can’t do much about the first but the second is a different matter. In a free society, through government, we have at least some say over what is taxed and at what rate.

The principal purpose of taxation is to raise money to pay for the provision of government services. But it’s also used as a blunt instrument to shape or modify behaviour.

Consistent tax increases helped curtail smoking by forcing people to quit for financial reasons. The same technique is now being employed to curb the consumption of carbon fuels.

Government claims many people will be effectively rebated the carbon taxes they pay -- but where’s the deterrent if there’s no penalty?

One way to make a carbon tax more effective and fairer is to target voluntary consumption. Until electric cars become the norm, and oil and coal are replaced as power sources, most people have no choice but to use carbon fuel for basic transportation and heating.

A choice to waste fuel is another matter.

Let’s start at the drive-thru. The convenience of staying in the car, needlessly burning gas or diesel instead of walking inside for a coffee or burger, should come with a non-refundable cost: 10 or 15 per cent seems right. That’s 25 or 30 cents on a typical drive-thru coffee. Double that for a burger. And while we’re at it, let’s charge a deposit on disposable cups and containers, with a refund for people who voluntarily pick them up from the side of the road.

The best part is the only people who pay, are those who choose to. Top Stories

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