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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/4395/tax-by-the-mile/

Tax by the mile?

December 2, 2005 by

So says “The Uneasy Case for Higher Gasoline Taxes” by Ian Parry in the Milken Review. The idea is that taxes on gasoline as such only leads people to buy smaller cars with better gas mileage, whereas what we really need is far less driving as such. Less driving will reduce our foreign dependence on oil (implicit protectionism here), make wars less necessary (since war is for oil), make roads less crowded (more roads would do that too), reduce highway deaths, and reduce our insurance rates.

He proposes that the government tax you directly for how many miles you drive in a day, week, month, or year. Yes, it’s a cockamamie scheme, but imagine the enforcement burden, the effects on housing demographics, the impact on rural communities, and a thousand other considerations. While we are considering such ideas, what about a per household limit on cars or rationing by the day so that you can only drive on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, e.g..

It is remarkable how casually environmentalist disregard all considerations of human liberty.


Lisa Casanova December 2, 2005 at 3:42 pm

This makes me think of a commercial that’s been running where I live. It’s one of those campaigns to call attention to the “problem of affordable housing”, defined as people who cannot afford the housing prices in the community where they work, and therefore live elsewhere and commute to their jobs. I hear that this is often true of people who work in service industries in affluent tourist communities like Aspen where housing prices are high- they live in some other community and commute in to work. So wouldn’t such a tax fall most heavily on working people who live in communities where the price of housing is high?

Curt Howland December 2, 2005 at 4:25 pm

The “Taxed by the mile” idea has been floated in England, too.


Roger M December 2, 2005 at 4:35 pm

The tax on gasoline argument is just another manifestation of the old mercantile theory, or what I have called poker economics: Trade deficits are bad because we lose wealth to a foreigner. Instead, we should be glad other countries have oil. If we had to rely on our own supply, oil would cost $300/barrel and gasoline $50/gallon. By the way, I heard on the radio this morning that Canada is our biggest supplier.

Jim Bradley December 2, 2005 at 4:44 pm

Environmentalism: it’s all in the name. The environment … this is necessarily against man. At least it’s not “communism” which is less obviously false.

Vince Daliessio December 2, 2005 at 9:21 pm

“Environmentalists” are notoriously inconsistent on the transportation issue – they want people to drive less, but they often oppose toll roads, for example. Then they will criticize Wal-Mart because they take full advantage of “free” highways. And they are often the first to complain about high gas prices, again which tend to decrease driving. Their very inconsistency works against what they profess to believe!

Then again, I make my living cleaning up the environment, but I don’t call myself an “environmentalist”.

r. williams December 3, 2005 at 1:11 am

the idea of only being able to drive on certain days of the week already exists in Mexico City, where you may only drive your car six days a week. Only problem with this plan is that, due to corruption, most people have a special sticker that allows them to drive any day of the week, even though only government employees are supposed to have them.
If not, they must take taxis, which are old VW Beetles, and pollute almost 100 times that of a modern car. This effectively encourages more taxies that pollute even more than normal cars and works against their enviormental program.

Francisco Torres December 3, 2005 at 12:16 pm

The other problem in Mexico City, r. williams, is that people are driven (no pun intended) to buy an additional car in order to have it available for those days they are not allowed to drive the other one; this of course means that the number of cars in Mexico City has increased beyond the market regulated proportion. Besides, people usually buy some old clunker that will invariably pollute MORE than the other, but more likely newer, car. This ill-advised regulation obviously does not deliver the results intended.

BTW, not all VW Beetles circulating in Mexico are the older carburetor types (which pollute more), but newer with fuel-injection engines, although I have to say such engines are not as efficient as the liquid-cooled engines in other cars. Besides, they make lousy taxis, being limited in size and capacity. Nevertheless, the over reliance on them (as you correctly put it) creates more problems than intended.

The example above serves to indicate that government regulations intended to solve a particular problem simply spawns a big host of other, unintended problems.

John Reed December 3, 2005 at 2:59 pm

Sadly, we are already being taxed by the mile. A good portion of each dollar spent on gas goes to the tax man, so the more miles we drive the more taxes we pay.

Michael Wonrac December 3, 2005 at 3:39 pm

The Government should get rid of the gas tax all together and instead either find a way for the private sector to run all roads as tolls, or charge its own toll. They’ve done that in London to cut back on traffic in downtown areas.

George Gaskell December 3, 2005 at 10:32 pm

Someone (I can’t remember who) described “society” as “everyone, except you.”

Now that the collective hive of communist “society” has fallen out of fashion in some circles, the totalitarians in our midst have had to come up with a replacement.

Right now, it’s the “environment.” Which can safely be described as “every living thing on earth, except you.”

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