Sin taxes, which states levy on things like cigarettes and booze and gambling, are popular with just about everyone. So why the fuck haven’t we established the single smartest sin tax of all?
Sin taxes do two good things: they raise money that can be used to fund useful things, and they discourage things that society wants to discourage. They are the platonic ideal of taxes! The Wall Street Journal today has a story on how states across the country are worried because their revenue from sin taxes on tobacco or gambling is declining—but in the grand scheme of things, they should be happy that their citizens are smoking less or drinking less or blowing less money at casinos. The great thing about sin taxes is you win (money) if your people are doing things that are bad for them, and you win (public health, welfare, and happiness) if they stop doing things that are bad for them, too.
Taxing smoking to reduce it is good. Taxing drinking to reduce it is good. Taxing gambling to reduce it is good. These sin taxes have both paid for a lot of useful things across America and made us all healthier. But as the revenue from these taxes declines, do you know what would be another great, great idea for a sin tax to bring revenue in once again?
Raise money. Cut carbon emissions. Save us before we’re all underwater.
We need a carbon tax. Let’s have a carbon tax. We need a carbon tax, now.