Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Taxes are Ineffective in Problem Solving

I like to thank Susan for her letter responding to my plea to people of American Samoa to not support the Litter Control Bill in Samoa News. I agree with her on the intent of the bill, but the means in which the government seeks to meet this end is unacceptable.

First off, keeping the environment clean is a noble goal. So is keeping people from becoming overweight. So does that mean we should increase taxes on foods that contain too much fat? Currently, this is how the government functions. If it sees a problem, it taxes it to slow down the demand. The Litter Control Bill will also slow consumer desire to purchase these products somewhat depending on the elasticity of demand.

If demand does go down then the loser in this game would be G.H.C Reid, importers and everyone working for these companies. Someone may lose her or his job. Five cents is not a big deal so demand for these products may remain unchanged. However, what this does is send a message to politicians that they can get away with increasing the tax or redeemable fees. Judging from history, the ASG will not stop at demanding 5 cents to promote this recycling boondoggle.

It draws into question why government is keen on intervening into our problems. I think that the idea that it will get more of our money out the ordeal motivates it more than anything else does. The ASG does not want to fix the problem; it just wants to make money out of the problem. They taxed beer and cigarettes years ago and then called it the day. Alcohol abuse at all levels of society is still a problem today because taxation does not address the issue.

Can we address the litter problem without trying to force people to turn in their containers? The questions we must first ask are why and where is litter a problem. Litter is not likely a problem on private property. People keep their lands beautiful when it is theirs to enjoy and productive when they make money out of it. This says a lot about public lands. What belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair. The ASG should auction off public parks off to a company willing to invest in them and charge user fees. Lands surrounding roads should also meet some form of privatization.

I also disdain the implication that the Litter Control Bill will encourage the poor to become entrepreneurs. My idea of the poor, from what I saw growing up in Tutuila, is a family living in a small one bedroom broken down house on less than half of acre of land. People like this do not have the space, labor, time, transportation or the money to make a business out of this farce. However, they will still have to hand out 5 cents (possibly even more) extra for a container of their choice. Meanwhile, the well-to-do will collect the bottles for them and laugh all the way to the bank. The Litter Control Bill and its sister programs throughout the United States do nothing but transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. God did not intend this as an avenue for us.

Privatizing is the way to go to addressing the issue here. People take care of what is theirs to keep. At the same time, if Party A litters on Party B’s property, the courts should force Party A to compensate Party B, not the government, for the crime. Currently, if you are caught littering, you pay a fine to the ASG, which does what it wants with the money. If a litterbug were caught and forced to compensate the victims of their litter personally then that will be much more effective in creating responsibility and concern for the environment.


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