But Reynolds then offers a bizarre solution — even more so since Cato is a libertarian think tank.
As a matter of practical politics, rescuing GM from strangulation by CAFE will require offering economically literate environmentalists a greener alternative, i.e., one that works. Luckily, the government has two policy tools that, with minor modifications, really could discourage people from buying the least fuel-efficient vehicles.
Where in the Constitution does it say that the government has the power to discourage legally made and sold transportation choices?
Cato supports your right to use recreational drugs but not your right to purchase the sort of car or truck you want without government interference?
… One [policy tool] is the federal excise tax on “gas guzzlers,” which could take some fun out of the horsepower race except that it applies only to cars, not to SUVS, vans and trucks. Why not apply this tax to all types of gas guzzling vehicles? Owners of trucks used for business could deduct the tax in proportion to miles used for business, as they do with other vehicular expenses. Phase it in after 2011 to encourage buyers to snap up the unsold inventory of gas guzzling trucks quickly — a timely “stimulus plan.”
Last I checked, libertarians were for simple low, flat income taxes as opposed to punitive excise taxes that could be avoided by tax code shenanigans.
Second, the federal fuel tax is highest on the most efficient fuel (diesel) and below zero on the least efficient fuel (ethanol). Cars get about 30% better mileage on diesel than on gasoline, and cars running mainly on gasoline get about 30% better mileage than they would using 85% ethanol.
To stop distorting consumer choices, simply apply the same 24-cent-a-gallon federal tax to gasoline and ethanol as we do to diesel. This would add funds to the depleted federal highway trust.
Yes, what could be more fair than punitive excise taxes on all fuels? Where is this concept in the Constitution?
As I understand libertarianism, it stands for individual liberty and limited government — not centrally-planned energy and transportation policy.
Reynolds is not the first or the most prominent libertarian to be confused by the green zeitgeist, but his article demonstrates how insidious it is — even the brightest, most well-intentioned among us are easily swept up and away by it.
Today’s “environmentalism” is entirely inconsistent with individual liberty and limited government. An irony is that, even if you forget about those two core principles, the green policies being advocated today — as they are based on junk science and worse economics — don’t even make for reasonable utilitarianism.