Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Pigovian Slippery Slope

The French seem to buy into the idea of Pigovian taxes:

Disposable goods targeted by new French tax plan

PARIS - Plastic forks, disposable diapers, drafty houses - if it hurts the environment, make it cost more. That's the message France's government wants to send with a raft of proposed new taxes. France's ecology minister said Sunday the government is considering a "picnic tax" on disposable dishes to encourage people to use reusable plates and cups instead.

Speaking on Europe-1 radio, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the plan wouldn't stop at picnicware. For example, she said, "We could make it so that in all public maternity wards, you would be taught to use washable diapers."

She said a new carrot-and-stick plan already applied to cars is being spread to other environmentally damaging products such as paints and detergents.

The key question: Are there really significant externalities associated with all of these goods? I would like to see the evidence before I embrace these plans. But I can certainly appreciate the economic logic.