Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Elon Musk's 'libertarian' argument for carbon tax

Elon Musk makes a libertarian argument for carbon tax - Benjamin Spillman,  Reno Gazette-Journal:

July 29, 2016 - "Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk made a libertarian argument in favor of a carbon tax during a recent visit to Nevada. Musk, who spoke with reporters for about an hour during a visit to the company's battery factory in Storey County on Tuesday, answered a question about tax breaks the company got for moving to Nevada. He also addressed tax incentives for sustainable energy products such as solar panels and electric vehicles (EVs). Here's a transcript of the portion of the conversation in which Musk made a libertarian argument in favor of a carbon tax....

"Reporter: You are building this factory with more than a billion dollars in state incentives. Solar panels get big tax subsidies, cars get by with a lot of subsidies as well. Will these businesses ever be sustainable without these kind of subsidies?

"Elon Musk: With respect to some of the other elements for solar panels and EVs, the big issue we have is that in reality if you accept the scientific consensus every oil burning activity is subsidized, dramatically. If you believe there is a value to the CO2 capacity of the atmosphere and oceans and that CO2 capacity is not being paid for by the price at the gas pump or the coal that is being burned for electricity generation or whatever its use may be then every single fossil fuel burning activity is massively subsidized. This has become sort of an ideological issue because there are people who think that global warming is not true. So if you believe it is not true then it is a subsidy for sustainable energy. If you believe it is true then all we are doing is trying to match the inherent subsidy for fossil fuels....

"The real right way to correct it would be to establish a carbon tax. If you ask any economist they will tell you that is the obvious thing to do, put the correct price on carbon because we currently have an error in the economy which misprices carbon at zero or something closer to zero. It is a fundamental economic error. For people that have a sort of libertarian bent they get a little confused because they need to appreciate the high level principle of why they are opposed to government intervention. They are actually opposed to government intervention because it causes false pricing. If the government says we are going to massively incent the production of corn, so that effectively corn gets mispriced and we make too much corn, that actually then does not benefit the country if you make too much of something because of a government driven pricing error....

"However if you have something where you have an unpriced externality so that you have the case of the CO2 capacity of the oceans and atmosphere priced very close to zero then any government action to increase the price above zero reduces the error in the economy.... So pricing carbon, if you believe in global warming, does not increase the price of the error it decreases the price of the error."

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  1. What a mess this so-called argument, or justification is. There is no such thing as a libertarian argument for any tax. That is because there is no such thing as a libertarian argument for taking other people's stuff and having them beaten up or killed if they resist - which they have every right to do.
    The idea that if one tax is wrong, instituting another tax in the opposite direction corrects anything, is ridiculous. Can you say "non sequitur"? And his argument from (unnamed) authority just tells you he has no clue. What economist has told anybody that? A kept government economist, maybe. An Austrian school economist? Not likely. Of course, it's equally not likely Mr. Musk has ever heard of the Austrian school...
    The right way to correct it is to stop stealing other people's money for your projects. (And now that I know how much money he has had stolen from the members of the productive class to finance his pet project, I think he's got a lot of goddamn nerve pricing the things at $150,000.00!)
    A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under ANY circumstances, to initiate force (which tax collectors certainly do) against another human being FOR ANY REASON WHATEVER. And it doesn't become libertarian – you don't become libertarian - because you get someone else do it for you. (It doesn't keep your hands the slightest bit clean.) People who act consistently with this principle are libertarians. Mr. Musk, who thinks he has come up with a good reason to justify stealing other people's stuff, is clearly NOT a libertarian, and I would say that I think maybe you need to re-evaluate your opinion of him, George, except that I'm pretty sure you know he's not and you're just exposing him for the fraud he is.

    Rob Gillespie

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