As an Economics instructor, I understand that what we teach at the principles level is based on a broad-based consensus. We know far too well the jokes we make at each others’ expense, when we have differing opinions. Therefore, when we do agree, the thing we agree upon should be taken seriously.
Every economist worth their salt knows the ECON 101 lesson that the answer to green house gas emissions is a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade permit market.
Negative externalities arise as a consequence of an entity’s hunt for maximum profit, while not needing to pay for resources like air, for example. They end up harming these resources, in many cases, inflicting further costs on everything else. Carbon taxes or cap-and-trade programs help mitigate this cost, somewhat.
Generally, economists argue that markets are efficient and that taxes cause inefficiency. However, they also believe that taxes that correct for negative externalities actually reduce inefficiency that is caused by markets in the first place.
As such, it’s unclear why politics trump the consensus of economists, who support carbon taxes.
No one likes paying taxes. But if Alberta is to put a dent in its budgetary woes, imposition of a sales tax is a necessity, for while income taxes distort incentives to work, sales taxes do no such thing. Indeed, both institutions on the left and the right, along with heavy weight economists like Jack Mintz, favour imposition of a sales tax.
On my part, I have introduced my students to the thinking of leading economists including Andrew Leach, who we affectionately refer to as the architect of the carbon tax, and both Trevor Tombe and Joseph Marchand on minimum wage.
Prior to the provincial and federal elections, I suggested to my students that they actually look at the education platform of the various political parties and encouraged them to vote based on their conscience and educated opinion.
Many of my students are laden with debt.
For such students, any debt relaxation is quite welcome, which is why cuts to the province’s education budget is most disconcerting.
Economists understand that the role of corporate taxes in stimulating jobs pales in significance to the role of pipelines and oil prices in Alberta. But who are these jobs for, if we end up dissuading our students from pursuing post-secondary education through higher tuition and larger class sizes?
Such pressures affect their academic achievement, as they must balance the workload of five classes with one or two part-time jobs. No wonder some of them can’t think critically and are only able to regurgitate information through rote learning. In the age of impending artificial intelligence, this spells disaster for our youth.
My students deserve better. They deserve to focus on their education without being burdened by expensive textbooks, student debt, and ‘McJobs’ that offer them peanuts in lieu of the labour of their youth.
I want them free of financial troubles to focus on critical thinking, a task that our government has failed them in.
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