Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Climate Change and the French Protests

A lot of people in France have been unhappy with the government of Emmanuel Macron, but the issue that caused protests to finally erupt was a modest increase in the fuel tax intended to fight climate change.

In the US, anger over Obama's plan to effectively phase out coal use helped launched the Trump-ization of the Republican Party; denying climate change might be at the moment the core unifying value of the Republicans. The environmentalists and the economists agree that the most sensible way to fight CO2 emissions would be a carbon tax, but just try to pass one.

Meanwhile in Maryland the issue that did the most for the Republicans in the last governor's race was a modest tax on impermeable surfaces like asphalt parking lots, designed to protect the Chesapeake Bay and reduce the sort of storm runoff that keeps trashing Ellicott City. People hated it and called it the "rain tax."

The people, whatever they say, are not on board with environmentalism. It's easy to get a majority to blame big corporations for our environmental problems, but hard to find one for the problems that are the result of the million things we all do every day. It isn't just the Koch brothers or the oil industry or whatever villain you can dream up; it's that people hate being told how to live their lives, and they especially hate being hectored by environmental moralists.


G. Verloren said...

You're missing the key factor in the French protests, which is that the outrage centered on the fact that the proposed taxes disproportionately hurt the poor and middle class, leaving the wealthy almost untouched.

People want to support environmentalism, but they don't want to be driven to economic hardship or ruin because of it, and they will not tolerate being asked to make sacrifices while the rich are allowed to skip out on paying their fair share.

It's not so much that people hate being told how to live their lives.

It's that people HATE being told how to live their lives by the hypocritical and manipulative rich and powerful who are excused from having to play by the same rules.

The average person is actually remarkably willing to do what is necessary for the good of everyone, so long as they don't feel like there are people cheating the system and getting away with it.

For example, people will generally wait in long lines patiently so long as everyone else is playing by the rules - but the moment someone blatantly cuts in line, and they are allowed to get away with it, the mood of the crowd will sour, and people will feel cheated and suckered, and decide that if the rules aren't going to apply to everyone equally, then they're not worth following.

Injustice breeds injustice.

Unknown said...

I'd say that, these days, voters would reject a tax even its sole purpose was to buy nice things for mothers on Mother's Day.

On the other hand, moralistic hectoring is an awful lot of fun, and I bet we could get a tax to fly if it allowed the masses to engage in some moralistic hectoring of their own. Let's start with a tax on Elite Environmentalists. Followed by a tax on Anyone Who Can Say The Word "Tolerance" Without Irony. How about one on All Female Democrats? Also, a big one on Smarmy Gits Who Make Fun Of The Masses' Resentments.

Unknown said...

After looking up Poe's Law, I've decided to add: :-)

G. Verloren said...


A good and (sadly) necessary addendum.

Personally I'm a fan of practice of tossing "/s" on the end of a post, implying an HTML tag to toggle Sarcasm off.