People Support Mandatory Carbon Emission Reduction Fee; Hate Carbon Tax


Brad Plumer and Julia Whitty bring us the results of a neat social psychology experiment which proves that people are dumb framing is really important. Brad’s summary:

Test subjects were broken up into two groups, and each group was allowed to pick between pricier and cheaper versions of various items like airline tickets. Group A was told that the more expensive items included the price of a “carbon tax,” whose proceeds would go toward clean-energy development. Group B was told that the costlier items included the price of a “carbon offset,” whose proceeds would go toward clean-energy development. Exact same policy, just different names for each.

You can guess what happened next. In the “offset” group, Democrats, Republicans, and independents all flocked toward the pricier item. They were perfectly happy to pay an extra surcharge to fund CO2 reduction—even Republicans gushed about the benefits of doing so. Not only that, but most of the group supported making the surcharge mandatory. In the “tax” group, however, Democrats were the only ones willing to pay for the costlier item. Republicans in this group were much more inclined to grumble about how much more expensive the tax made things.

I guess we can expect to hear a lot of proposals for different kinds of fees in the years to come, but never again a “tax.”