Yes, we need to amend capitalism. You hit the nail on the head when you write,

But capitalism rewards those consumers’ behavior because profitability undermines the narrative.

That also gives us the clue as to why capitalism is so harmful to the environment and what to do about it. The problem is that pollution is profitable. Companies can “use” the environment as a place to dump their wastes without paying for doing so, so the more waste they dump, the more profit they get.

We have to change that by making polluters pay for their dumping. That goes for dumping sewage, mercury, plastics, and all that but most of all for dumping CO2 and other greenhouse gasses like the methane from burping cattle. That is why we need a carbon tax. To take the profit out of polluting.

You may think, “we need to do something fast, so first, let’s get rid of capitalism, and then we’ll get down to business.” Sorry, if you think that you’ve got a long wait ahead of you. Capitalism isn’t going anywhere soon . Even if you want to get rid of capitalism someday, the environment needs something that will work while capitalism is still in place. Something like a carbon tax to make pollution unprofitable.

Oh, and that other thing you say — another nail hit right on the head:

The people buying those magical products never learned restraint.

They never learned self-restraint because it never cost them anything to eat those burgers and take those unnecessary flights. Hit them in the pocketbook! A carbon tax will raise the price of beef, raise the price of airline tickets, make them think twice.

One last thing: Even if you think a carbon tax by itself is not enough, that we need to do other things to save the planet as well, the choice isn’t between a carbon tax or doing other things. The choice is between a carbon tax AND doing those other things, on the one hand, or doing those other things by themselves and having everything you do thwarted by profit-seeking capitalists and consumers with no self-constraint.

Read more about this here: “Why a Green New Deal Must Include a Carbon Tax.

Written by

Economist, Senior Fellow at Niskanen Center, Yale Ph.D. Interests include environment, health care policy, social safety net, economic freedom.

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