Benefits for the Environment

This site is all about replacing federal welfare programs and tax expenditures with unconditional free money. What does that have to do with the environment? Plenty!

In general, if you want people to consume less of a scarce resource, raise the price and the market will do the rest. By doing so, you can eliminate thousands upon thousands of nit-picking regulations and rapidly clean up the environment at the same time. The EPA should be a profit center for the government, just as the Interior Department is. The only rub is that such Pigovian taxes are often regressive, falling hard upon those unable to pay.

The easy solution: free money. Give every adult citizen a monthly check sufficient to pay these Pigovian taxes (and more) and the poor can afford to pay them. But unlike special exemptions, or even fuel subsidies to get through the winter, the poor get the money unconditionally. Those who do nothing break even. Those who ride the bus for transport, or wear a sweater in the winter end up with extra cash for other things.

And this is just a start.

What happens when you target welfare “for the children?” Answer, you pay welfare recipients to have more children. Last I checked, most environmentalists believe that more children isn’t all that good for the environment. Healing the planet is a lot easier with a stable, or even falling, population. Paying people to have more children is anti-environmental.

Then again, neglecting the children isn’t morally acceptable. We can get around this moral dilemma by providing adult citizens enough free money so that they can have a reasonable number of children if they live frugally or get a job. But those who would live a life of leisure would have more money for partying by not having children. Many in the welfare underclass would note the change in incentives and act accordingly.

Those who do want to have families might notice that marriage makes economic sense when the government money comes in unconditionally. No more breaking up in order to qualify for welfare benefits. Marriage is a profoundly civilizing influence. Married men behave better. (Unmarried men gave us the Wild West.) This would reduce inner city crime substantially. Lower crime in the city means less suburban sprawl, as middle class families return to the cities to reduce their commute time.

(Environmentalists could shrink the suburbs even faster by calling for school vouchers vouchers instead of public schools. Higher population density means more opportunity for school competition and specialization. With vouchers the best schools would be in the inner cities.)

Unconditional money also puts a floor on a feedback loop which destroys cities in economic decline. When the main local industry hits a speed bump, the tax base shrinks. With the smaller tax base, the city needs to raise tax rates – which causes many taxpayers to flee to the suburbs thereby shrinking the tax base further. Local economic decline magnifies to a fiscal death spiral. Free money for all ensures that cities always have enough tax base to maintain basic services – enough to attract new businesses and residents with cheap property values and light regulation.

So, if you want people to conserve scarce resources, if you want to stabilize the population, if you want to halt the spread of suburban sprawl, tell your friendly federal politicians you want to replace need-based welfare and tax breaks with unconditional government checks.