University of Ljubljana Faculty of Architecture, Slovenia
As we live in a capitalistic society, money is the most powerful thing we know. We work like crazy to get it, spend it on the most stupid things, sometimes just to show others that we have it. Money is why wars start, it`s why we still use oil, why we are cutting down rainforests and why politics can rarely make a difference. We allow industries to pollute our environment, contaminate our waters and behave like there is no tomorrow. All that for money.
But it`s not all bad, because where there is money, there are taxes. The first known taxation dates to Ancient Egypt where pharaoh would collect corvee and tithe (a tenth of something). Corvee was forced labor provided by peasants too poor to pay other forms of taxation. Taxation is also described in the Bible, suggesting you give a fifth of your crops to the pharaoh. The Persian empire first regulated and sustainable taxes were introduced. Although the Empire was divided into many territories, each Satrapy provided it`s part. For instance, Babylon provided Silver and four months’ food supply for the army, Egypt had crops, India had gold… Tax was divided among Satrapys based on their land and productive capabilities. Since then taxes have been used to fund the government, they fund economic infrastructure (roads, public transportation, sanitation, …) military, scientific research, culture and the arts, schools… Taxes have the power to develop a city, Manaus has grown from 30000 to 70.000.000 people after abolishing import and export taxes, having foreign factories create millions of jobs. Taxes can start wars and riots, revolutions.
As we have stumbled on a problem we introduced a form of taxation to solve it. Lately the biggest problem we have is climate change. Some countries have already introduced a tax on carbon emissions, some have done much more than that. Denmark has enormous tax on non-electric cars, while providing financial support to buying an electric car, using that tax to fund research for alternative fuels. What Denmark policies are doing is creating habits. By penalizing a bad decision and rewarding the good deeds, they are creating a habit to become more sustainable. It is the same way as Singapore’s massive penalties for dropping gum or cigarettes on the ground. After a while people adapted and Singapore is now one of the cleanest cities on the planet. All of that is getting us in the right direction to save our planet, and it also shows us the way to do it. In order to make the process faster, what we need is bigger taxes for companies. Because of our obsession with money, taxes are our biggest enemy, we would do anything to avoid paying them, and if done correctly, we could use them to make the world sustainable, animal friendly, full of forests.
Taxes on carbon emissions should be so big, that there would be no other way but to lower them. That would allow the free market to do what it does best, develop, innovate and finally bring us to a sustainable world. Taxing the water pollution and forest degradation should be the next steps. On the other hand, doing good, lowering emissions and protecting the environment should be rewarded and acknowledged. We have come to the point where we either save our planet or destroy it, Benjamin Franklin said: “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” I agree, but right now it`s either death or taxes. I vote taxes.