A number of the nation’s leading conservative economists, who as a rule do not like taxes, are touting some benefits to a federal carbon tax. That group includes Gregory Mankiw, a former Romney adviser and George W. Bush-era chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors; Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Sen. John McCain’s 2008 chief economic adviser; and Art Laffer, progenitor of Reagan’s treasured Laffer Curve.
Such a tax could raise an estimated $1.5 trillion over 10 years and help wean the country from carbon-intensive fuels. And with Congress set for a season of budget fights and a possible effort to overhaul the tax code, the carbon tax is likely to reenter the conversation about getting America’s fiscal house in order. ...
So, why do some conservative economists who normally oppose new taxation support a carbon tax? Because a carbon tax, like any Pigovian tax, taxes something we want less of. And when you tax something, you get less of it. Even for the remaining cohort of climate-change deniers, Mankiw lists a slew of other downsides to carbon emissions in his Pigovian manifesto.
... most taxes, especially at the federal level, tax things we want more of: labor, investment, business activity.
Depending on how broadly or narrowly you define economic growth, these taxes either arguably or definitely hurt growth.
But a Pigovian tax creates economic growth by allowing markets to allocate resources more efficiently. ...
Liberal economists tend to like a carbon tax, too, but usually differ with conservative economists over what to do with the revenue. They’re more likely to see the revenue as an opportunity to extend government services, subsidize alternative energy, or, in the current economic environment, pursue some other form of stimulus.
Conservative economists are more likely to advocate using the revenue to lower rates on other taxes, give everyone a tax rebate, or pay down the deficit. It’s these latter uses that are likely to dominate the discussion of a carbon tax in the coming months.
If I'd prefer revenue be used to pay down the deficit, relative to lowering other taxes or subsidizing alternative energy, does that mean I'm a conservative economist? Yikes.