“Smarter Taxes” Can Help Build our Ideal World

I have been reading Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist” and it is fantastic. She indicates more “Undoing” of what seemed correct is needed (see Undoing Needed because Mental Illusions Impact Us and To Improve: “Undoing” Needed to Create Better!).

This book has captured my attention and it is keeping it because there are so many wonderful detailed plans about how to do things in a better way. Instead of just saying why things are wrong, she provides an explanation about better ways and then how and why they are better…with examples. It appears her aim is more good, not just less bad. She provides multiple examples of #SelfishSelflessSynergy.

If you follow me, you know I have been suggesting we should “Create More Good, Not Just Less Bad”. I also suggest we can do this if we “Exceed Expectations” or what I call  +3. I detail this in my YouTube Video’s and my articles. I specifically address this in the “Exceed Expectations” video.

As noted in the title, she also explains how this can be true for taxes. While the idea of “Tax Relief” seems desirable, we need to remember that taxes are great because they enable us to fulfill the desires and needs of our society. Libraries, schools, parks, roads, green areas and all the things that make life better exist because of taxes. These government developed projects are public goods that enhance the well-being of everyone.

We also need to remember that those fantastic innovators at Google and Apple and others were only possible because of the public internet infrastructure built from taxes. From this perspective, taxes are a form of selfish, selfless, synergy or a way to practice paneugenesis and create all good. In other words, taxes can be a way to generate comprehensive benefits by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone an everything benefits. Well at least they could be, let me explain.

Kate Raworth’s book helped me see taxes from an even more beneficial perspective. As she explains, taxes change behaviors. By that she means what is taxed causes people to adjust what they do. For example, in the past when they taxed windows, people built houses without windows. Now, because they tax labor with payroll taxes, insurance, etc., corporations work to find ways to eliminate the expense of labor. These efforts have generated the wonderfully innovative invention of artificial intelligence (AI). AI, sometimes as robots, can now perform the actions of humans at a lower cost. In this way, taxes adjusted behaviors.

Behaviors demonstrate that taxes adjust behaviors so less use of what is taxed is substituted for things that are not taxed. Knowing this suggests we must update the tax code so we tax what we want less of and subsidize things we want to increase. Succinctly, she explains we should switch from taxing labor to taxing capital. Right now the taxing system encourages us to be creative to find ways for machines do the work instead of humans. For example:

main image

Autonomous Forklifts Replace Manned Forklifts, One Unit at a Time

The code will subsidize these forklifts, the capital, because their purchase costs will be used to decrease income and related taxes. However, if more employees were hired, this would increase costs and related taxes. To create more good we need to switch from focusing on increasing labor productivity to increasing resource productivity. Doing this means we will tax what we want to get rid of and subsidize what we want to increase and creativity will be used to create better working conditions for humans. The result of this should increase jobs and decrease resource use.

In a related example she discussed the traditional Corporate Response for requests to go green. The first group would do nothing wondering why they should change when their job is to make profits. The second group would only do what pays back, or do what is green if it can earn them more profits. The third group she identifies would only do their fair share. This concerned her because it seemed to subliminally suggest everyone has a right to pollute. The fourth group, with what seems to be good intentions, attempts to only  do no harm or mission zero. While this is good, she cited Will McDonough, of Cradle to Cradle and Upcycle fame (please see Concept: Create More Good, Not Just Less Bad)  who said that is only about being less bad, it is not being good.

Her recommendation is that organizations should focus on being generous. That is they should design their efforts to be regenerative by design. Studies also demonstrate this is a more profitable focus from many perspectives. This means their efforts give back and is what I describe as +3. These efforts aim to be regenerative so they provide biosphere stewardship and the result will be leaving the planet better than they found it.

I look forward to hearing about your generous efforts that will help benefit everyone and everything. Please share your efforts so we can learn from your selfish, selfless, synergistic actions. Thank you.

Be Well’r,

Please share your thoughts and questions below.

A New State of Energy Summit

Energy Summitt

This past week I attended the 2015 Appalachian Energy Summit for the UNC System. It was amazing, educational, inspiring and scary. Not only was it highly educational, it also had integrity because it practiced what it preached, it was a zero waste event. What was fantastic was that even without generating waste, it was an even higher quality event than most. At the summit Amory Lovins of Rocky Mountain Institute, environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr. of RiverKeeper and other organizations, and author and presenter David Orr of Oberlin College provided stunning and valuable information. The presentations from the conference supposedly will be available soon however even without those available I am providing a link to other presentations they gave and I encourage you to go these or search youtube and listen to some of the presentations by Amory Lovins, Robert Kennedy Jr. and David Orr.

To me the most important message I heard over and over was that the time is now, thus the title of the summit – “A New State of Energy”. What they were explaining by saying the time now was that it is time to decarbonize our economy, that is we are ready to stop using fossil fuels. The time is now because not only are renewables more cost effective than fossil fuels and the technology makes it more reliable when we consider our reliance on importation of oil from unstable countries. They also documented how decarbonizing our world would not be an economic detriment but an economic boon. When other countries such as Iceland, Sweden, and Portugal decarbonized innovation and their economy boomed.

The most stunning change they explained must happen relates to the democratization of energy. Right now we are dependent on utility companies for energy andwhen we all become energy generators with solar panels at our house – they lose that power. When we all have a reliable clean source of energy, everything changes. Most importantly we all get to live in a cleaner and healthier world that is not governed and controlled by what keeps us dependent on them.

I only had 2 sources of concern related to the conference.

1. Their continual referral to costs avoided or money saved through these efforts. As readers of my work know, if we are going to have an effective message it must be based  on what we get, not what may not happen. This understanding is supported by Risk Homeostasis that create compensatory behaviors and Feature Positive Effect. This means it is necessary for us to demonstrate how we make it better, not just less bad.

Briefly, the reasons I emphasize why we need to focus on more good, not just less bad are because saving money is possible by just not doing things. We can use less energy if we cut classes or attempt to read in the dark. Also because seeing these savings can be understood as simply correcting past mistakes, thus not justifying finding a better way. If past mistakes are corrected, the status quo can remain. Also, savings seems to infer we must give up things to save which is not true, actually we should be able to get and do more.

I outline some of these ideas in a short 17 minute presentation I gave to our Sustainability Committee that you can view here or below if you are interested.

My second concern was their lack of recognition of the impact made from animal agriculture. Unless all the information I have reviewed and are being presented by many researchers including Ornish, Robbins, Esseltyn, Campbell, Barnard and many others is wrong – this is an issue that needs to be addressed.

This important issue of the impact of animal agriculture is captured very effectively in the new documentary “Cowspiracy“. Below are a few clips from Cowspiracy and the movie trailer. These clips are related to the overwhelming environmental impact of animal agriculture. I encourage you to review this issue and decide for yourself. Data I see says that 50% of GHG emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture and this does not get into the terrible health consequences related to an animal based food system. As noted in these previous posts – I encourage you to see the movie.

Here are some summary’s of implications outlined in the movie:


Here is the trailer:


Make it a Great Weekend.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!