the story of stuff

This is a fun video: the story of stuff.

Our current tax structure is not helping anything: we tax income but leave consumption untaxed and pollution not taxed enough. It would certainly reflect my values more, and the values of this video, if we had a consumption tax like the fair tax.

Furthermore, I’m a big fan of hefty taxes for polluters. How else can we get the true cost of stuff to be realized? I’m not as worried about natural resources—they’ll start to cost more as they become scarcer (witness oil). But pollution is a cost that everyone’s paying in terms of health care and quality of life, and I can’t see how the market’s going to figure out the price tag for it. Currently, the market’s price tag is roughly zero as far as I can tell, and it’s because there’s no feasible way of enforcing personal property rights over air and water.

To be fair, I can’t see the government doing a great job with it either—they usually seem more concerned about tending to the symptoms than figuring out what the problem is (witness “stimulus package”, or “health care”). But maybe a stab in the dark in terms of the true price of pollution is better than nothing. If we charge too much, we’ll just have less stuff than we could have otherwise, but we’ll have clean air, and I could certainly live with that. Couldn’t you?

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