Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tax what?

Cow farts heat up our planet:

Livestock contribute 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. The Danish Tax Commission estimates that a cow will emit four tonnes of methane a year in burps and flatulence, compared with 2.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide for an average car.

... so the well-meaning Euro types, afflicted as always with an advanced disease of societal over-engineering, would like to enact a tax:

A cow tax of €13 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as €80 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming.

This is brought to you by the same guys whose simply could not accept where the land stopped and the ocean started, and so decided to build an entire country of dikes.  Before that they tied themselves to the mast just to be able to safely hear a wicked concert.  These people are too clever by half.

Now, I like the planet as much as the next guy, but this cow tax thing just sounds perverse.  If what you really want is less cow fart floating around, tax cow farts, not cows.  In other words, use the freaking market already.  If you set it up correctly, a market can be much smarter than you are, Herr Dr. Bureaucrat.  The market, when faced with the entirely appropriate internalization of the previous externality of cow farts, may figure out how to suck the cow farts out of the air, or it may figure out how to get cows not to fart, or who knows.  So instead of taxing something related to the problem, which, yes, will result in fewer cows and hence less cow farting, why don't you just tax the problem itself, and see what kind of solutions people can come up with.  An appropriately regulated market is nothing more than a big evolving brain, an adaptive calculating machines for allocating scarce resources.  When are we going to be able to accept the second rule of evolution and realize that the solution to every problem is not to try and plan the whole thing out in advance?


adam said...

Shouldn't you disclose that you have a relative with a significant stake in zero methane emissions cow ranch?
Conflict of interest!

Clark said...

Probably true, but I'm not sure the blog has the kinda pull in Washington that would help him to flip it at a profit.