Your assumption that human nature is the cause of "the growthiness of our
economy" is rather culture bound, don't you think? Not all human cultures
have exhibited the same degree of acquisitiveness or accumulation. Although
one could argue that once urban industrialism, primarily in the form of
capitalism, unleashed the genie, it can't be put back.
Anyway, I agree that people and businesses certainly have this tendency,
that behavior therefore needs to be guided, and that taxation is a better
way to direct behavior than is regulation. My own preference would be to
extend the conversation beyond the goal of sustainable consumption without
pollution. Even more interesting is a conversation about how to direct
economic forces in such a way that a variety of "public goods" are rewarded,
public goods like beautiful countryside, opportunities for all people to
find rewarding work, lifetime education, and equity in all realms, including
health care. These "goods" are politically negotiable in a democracy, but
they are not automatically created by a market economy without considerable
I don't think you excerpted the more interesting things on the "Redefining
Progress" web site. There are lots of resources listed, and some deal with
the earlier topic in this thread, which concerned the progressivity or lack
thereof of consumption taxes.
Center for Sustainable Systems
433 Chestnut St., Berea KY 40403 USA
Phone: (606) 986-5336; Fax: (606) 986-1299
> -----Original Message-----
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]On
> Behalf Of Wilson, Dale
> Sent: Thursday, December 17, 1998 6:42 PM
> To: 'Hal Hamilton'; Harold Henderson; sanet-mg
> Subject: RE: consumption-based tax
> Thanks for returning to this thread. IMO, this is one of the key issues
> concerning the environmental impacts of agriculture.
> > RE the old discussions on taxation: for excellent materials
> > see the web site
> > of Redefining Progress:
> > http://www.rprogress.org/
> I looked up the site. Here are a few excerpts with my comments:
> > Redefining Progress seeks to shift the prevailing definition
> > of progress, from one based exclusively on a growing economy,
> > to one that resonates with people's sense of the quality of
> > their lives....
> > We believe real progress is possible--but first we have to
> > clear away the false notions about economic progress that
> > stand in the way.
> I don't believe that the driving force behind the growthiness of
> our economy
> is a "prevailing definition" or a "false notion". Most people would agree
> that genuine progress is NOT synonymous with economic growth.
> Yet, the net
> effect of actual behavior contradicts this.
> I believe that the reduction of "progress" to econometrics is one
> manifestation of the all-too-human (and semi-conscious) urge for self
> aggrandizement and keeping score. It comes from the "flesh" in the
> Christian model, or our chimpanzee-derived social heritage in the
> > We believe that, as it stands today, our society faces a troubling
> > future. By using traditional financial measures as our primary
> > compass, we steer society on a course that all too frequently
> > points us away from progress.
> The unspoken assumption at the site (and of the academic left in
> general) is
> that human nature is good, and is only fettered by aberrant
> cultural memes.
> In this case, the meme is seen as "financial measures." I
> disagree, and see
> financial measures as a manifestation of human nature.
> And that brings us back to taxation. Coercion (not just enlightenment) is
> needed to encourage environmentally responsible behavior. Taxation is a
> less intrusive and painful form of coercion than, say,
> reeducation camps or
> public humiliation.
> What about "progress"? What do they mean by the word? Doesn't the word
> "progress" imply the existence of some guiding ethical hand in history?
> Evolution toward a quasi-christian millenial kingdom? A final
> cause? IMO,
> the ideology of progressivism should be examined critically (See
> Lasch. 1991. "The True and only Heaven: Progress and its Critics"). It
> could be that the cultural meme is progressivism, and that its otherwise
> worthy goals are distorted and twisted into the banality of
> purely economic
> growth, by undesirable aspects of human nature.
> The power of progressive ideology lies in our tendency to place
> hope in the
> future. We need to temper that with practical short-term measures to
> protect the environment now, like taxation.
> Dale Wilson
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