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Catalog of Stupid Arguments (and their answers) #4091
Back To Discussion List Written: 2013.10.25 by: Robin Tivy

This is an ongoing editorial, the type you read in the newspaper, where the tyrants in control tell the people what to think. (help you with your analysis). Except here you get to post your reply. I'm writing this editorial to improve the level of discussions that I keep running into in mountain cabins, restaurants, or at Tim Hortons. There are certain stupid arguments that I keep hearing, and I thought if I made a list and assign each a number, then you could more quickly answer them, or at least tag them. So instead of getting depressed about hearing the same old argument again, you can quickly quote the Id number. For example, "That's an interesting argument, Mr Smith, it is #5 in the catalog of stupid arguments". Here is the answer to it."

That way you can hopefully get the argument out of the way quickly and thus have a more intelligent conversation. We're not talking about people, we are talking about the argument. I've made lots of stupid arguments myself, and it has been useful to have others point out the flaws. So here's a couple of the weak arguments I've heard several times in the past week.

Stupid Argument #1 - can't have a tax on carbon because its a tax on everything.

The basic argument is that because oil costs are a component of many prices, therefore a tax on carbon is a tax on everything. Any tax would raise the price of everything, causing inflation, recession and unemployment.

So how do you deal with that argument? One answer is that taxes and subsidies are just the same thing in opposite directions. They both shift the price of certain items. So if a tax is BAD on a given item, then it is logical that a subsidy must be GOOD. Right? So given that we can't put a price on gas is bad for everything, then if we can lower the price of gas that is good for everything. So why not increase the present oil and gas subsidies so the price goes down. Down=Good. So where do you stop: down to a dollar a litre, or 50 cents?

No tax or subsidy exists in isolation. The money comes from or goes somewhere else in the economy. If you raise taxes in one place, you can lower them elsewhere. If you lower them somewhere, you need to raise them elsewhere. If you subsidize one thing less, you can subsidize something else more. For example, you could use carbon tax revenue to reduce the GST or the PST. It's easy to see they are just as much a "tax on everything" as oil. So all the recession and havoc caused by a higher oil price can be offset by lower prices on everything else. Might even help with the cross border shopping problem, since our retailers would be in a better position to compete with the USA.

Another antidote to #1 is to give examples of other economies. Start with western Europe, where the price of gas is double that in USA. Have their economies melted down? Higher oil prices are not the end of the world. People substitute one thing for another, they do things differently. And some would argue that the higher oil prices actually made things more healthy.

Stupid Argument #2 - Back to the Caves
 About this time, you'll hear stupid argument #2 which I call "Back to the caves" or "you are a hypocrite unless you live in a cave". This argument comes in many flavors: How can you be in favor of conservation, since you drive a car? Another variation was when John Clarke used to give forest conservation presentations to school kids, the forest industry sent in these guys to give the other side of the story. They used to hold up a roll of toilet paper and say "you use toilet paper, and it comes from trees, so you are a hypocrite." Or "Look at all the jet fuel that Al Gore or David Suzuki use going to conferences!" Or "Look at the steel in your bicycle, where do you think that came from?"

The basic idea is that only people living in caves can be in favor of conservation. Until you are living in a cave, you are a hypocrite. The flaw is that first of all it fails to recognize that what most conservation arguments are talking about is an incremental change, not some drastic, radical change to life on this planet. Second of all, there's no value in attacking someone's personal decisions in the current environment just because they think a change should be made. Of course as long as there are huge subsidized highways I'm going to use them. So don't bother pointing out that I don't live in a cave.

Stupid Argument #3 - Prices don't make any difference
 An argument I've heard over and over again is that putting a tax on something doesn't make any difference in peoples consumption. The argument is that demand for oil is inelastic. People still consume just as much when the price goes up. I even heard Pierre Trudeau make that stupid argument in the 1980's.

There are lots of examples that show how false that argument is, but some of it just relies on your basic thinking power to visualize and understand people's decision making. Sure, people don't all change overnight. But in the long run people change. When the price of fuel first went up a couple of years ago, the sales of big gas guzzling vehicles like Ford F150 trucks plummeted. Prices affected peoples plans. They don't all stop driving immediately, but they do make a thousand little adjustments in their lifestyle that reflect the new prices. They might buy a new furnace. They might buy more fuel efficient cars.


Comments

#1867 - 2017.01.09 Steve Grant - Carbon tax is revenue neutral
BC's carbon tax is "revenue neutral". Whatever amount is collected, an equal amount is removed from provincial income taxes. This is why, when you did your 2015 income taxes the multiplier for the provincial taxes was such an odd number.

No doubt BC's carbon tax has a lot wrong with it. Yet BC's per capita carbon output has gone down by 18% since the tax started. In the meantime the per capita carbon emissions for other Canadians increased 3%. And BC's economy is doing better than most or all other provinces.

While this configuration may not directly benefit some of the worthy measures you mentioned, it clearly achieves the over-arching goal of shifting capital to lower emissions. It clearly is a success.

The concept of "shifting capital" is central to these issues, but usually ignored. For example, critics of environmentalists say the environmentalists are mistaken in opposing pipelines because crude will be moved and pipelines are the best way to move it. Well, that's exactly why pipelines are the best crude transport system to oppose. Because hamstringing the best way makes it more difficult and expensive to move the stuff. The environmentalists also oppose moving crude by truck and rail. To whatever extent you make it more expensive to move crude by pipeline or any means, you make alternatives such as renewables more cost competitive. That's how shifting capital works. And it's an unfortunate failing of the environmental groups that they do not frame their efforts in terms of shifting capital. The omission makes them vulnerable to charges that they are stupid or misguided.

Since going from a carbon tax of zero to $30 per ton has had almost entirely positive results, there is no real support for a claim that further raising the amount would be politically damaging.

That's because in the longer run a carbon intensive economy is certain to be a financial and social disaster. The BC Liberals can only for so long maintain the fraud that expanding bridges and highways, Site C, LNG projects and pipelines for Alberta crude are good ideas.

#1866 - 2017.01.09 Sean Eaton - The carbon tax is flawed...
As I understand it, the carbon tax is supposed to incentivize companies into using less energy-intensive manufacturing practices, or switch over to cleaner technology. But, what if they don't? What if they just accept the added cost, and then proceed as they always have? We know, and companies do, as well, that the threat to continually raise the carbon tax is just that, a threat. No government is going to enact policies they know will result in their defeat in the next election. So, where does that leave us? I believe the carbon tax is flawed. We all know the money raised goes into the black hole of general revenue. Instead of what happens now, I would like to see every penny of the tax to be exclusively used for green projects that would benefit all of B.C. Imagine if, instead of constantly extolling the virtues of LNG or the Site C dam, our Premier was showing everybody the giant wind farm (paid for by the carbon tax) in the Hecate Strait, that just removed Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert from BC Hydro's grid. Or, announcing that the money raised will be used to help subsidize anyone who wants to install solar panels on their roof. These things, of course, are not happening, nor do they seem likely to happen in the near future. Our leaders proclaim B.C.'s green future in front of every camera while doing virtually nothing to get the ball rolling on the green present. There are a myriad of different things the carbon tax could be doing instead of the way it is currently "exploited."

#1865 - 2017.01.08 Robin Tivy - Protestors are paid by foreign interests
You often hear the argument that anti pipeline protestors are paid by foreign interests. Specifically, you hear they are supported by US oil companies. The conclusion put forward is that therefore you shouldn't listen to what they have to say. This stupid argument has been constructed to deflect the real issue in any discussion. Instead of thinking about the issue, you are supposed to fixate on those evil foreign interests, or rich Hollywood movie stars, trying to undermine our hard working Canadians.

There are many flaws in this argument.

(1) The amount of funding coming from US oil companies is either null, or a very small fraction. Organizations like Greenpeace are almost entirely funded by individuals who will not financially gain from blocking pipelines.

(2) the same foreign environmental groups such as TIDES also oppose US oil projects.

(3) USA does not currently export oil.

(4) The proponents of these oil export projects stand to directly benefit considerably from the outcome. But most of the people supporting environmental groups won't see any direct personal payback.

#1779 - 2014.03.15 Erik Poole - Distance and no regret policy
I'm late to this thread but I thought I would throw in a few more comments.

Some people claim that high excise taxes on dirty fuel do not make sense in North America, because, compared to Europe, distances are long. That fallacy overlooks the full opportunity cost of longer commutes, more driving and the idle sitting that results.

A number of economists and other policy analysts have proposed that stiffer carbon taxes be viewed as a no-regret policy decision. Even if the negative impacts of climate change failed to materialize, people would be better off in so many other ways: less particulate matter emissions and less deadly smog, reduced vulnerability to oil price shock-driven recessions, less sprawl, nicer communities, healthier people.

High excise taxes on dirty fossil enjoy broad, across the spectrum support from large numbers of economists and other policy specialists.

For Canadians, the challenge would be convincing Americans to increase their federal excise taxes on dirty transportation fuels. There is only so much Canadians can do before driving larger numbers of fuel consumers across the border.

#1751 - 2013.12.12 Steve Grant - Collection of Bogus Climate Change Denial Arguments
The best collection I've come across. Here is a link that includes 174 arguments, certainly including all the standard ones.

SkepticalScience.com.

#1747 - 2013.11.19 Robin Tivy - Avoid Environmental Protection to help the Poor
I was pleased the other evening to be talking to someone who brought another stupid argument forth which is worthy of this catalog. We were talking about the "New Prosperity" mine near Williams lake, owned by Taseko Resources. He argued that the project should go ahead, regardless of what the natives think because copper is really important, and if projects like this are blocked, the price of things that are using copper such as cell phones will go up in price, and the poor won't be able to afford them.

Fortunately the mining guy I was talking to could see that this argument was just a variation on the old argument that you had to keep the price of gas low, because the poor have the gas guzzlers. Or the argument Carole James (NDP) made 2 elections ago that BC can't have a carbon tax because it will affect the poor people up north.

The general form of the argument is: you can't do anything that will raise the price of "xxx" because that will raise prices for the poor. Such an argument could be applied to just about any environmental concern.

The answer to this argument is that income disparity is a separate problem, and has to be addressed separately.

#1746 - 2013.11.11 Scott Nelson - The problem with oil prices
Is that the cost of polluting the world is not included in the price of oil. Economists call this an externality - the cost of polluting the world has been externalized from the person burning the oil and placed on others. Externalities are a form of subsidy that leads to overproduction and overconsumption. If we implement carbon taxes, etc. to balance the externalized costs then the free market should find the optimum balance between industrial output and environmental conservation that gives us the greatest benefit.

Unfortunately calculating the correct dollar value for the externalized costs of burning oil is rather difficult.

#1745 - 2013.11.08 Robin Tivy - Discussion of oil price not off topic - reply to David Henry
Actually I thought that David Henry's discussion about who owns the tar sands is relevant and a good thing to bring up. What he says is true. Large parts of the Canadian tar sands have been sold to foreign investors. The most recent example was the sale of Nexen Inc to China National Oil Company for 15 billion dollars. Many Canadians were against allowing this sale, but the Harper administration allowed it, along with several other large resource sellouts.

That brings us to standard argument #6 which I have heard many times.

#6 - Canada MUST sell off its resource companies and land, because otherwise "where does the money come from?".

The assumption in this argument is that the money to develop our resources can't come from Canadian investors or Canadian oil companies. Or Canadian pension funds. The arguments I've heard are that we are only a country of 30 million people or "we don't control the markets".

Yet Canada is one of very few countries in the world that is selling its oil industry to foreign companies. Most other countries in the world have retained control of their oil industry. So we've got to question the assumption that there is no other way to develop our resources than to sell them to foreign interests. Such sales are good for the shareholders of the companies being sold. They get to sell off part of Canada for their own return.

A related issue is the FIPA agreement which could be ratified any day now. Many Canadians, including some conservatives, are urging Harper to not ratify the Canada-China FIPA because it will further result in our loss of control. See here Open letter to Conservatives about the Canada China FIPA.

If you don't know the details of the FIPA agreement, you are not alone. It is hard for the average person to research these things independently. The way intelligent democracy works is that we rely on advocacy organizations and opposition political parties to have the funds to do the research and lay out the facts for us. For example, Elizabeth May (leader of the Green party) has done quite a bit of work on researching these facts for us. But there is only so much she can do with limited funding.

Now you can see what is wrong with Harper's attack on under funded opposition parties. All political parties in Canada used to get $1.98 funding for every person that voted for them. It was part of the public funding of democracy. (But the spin doctors managed to attach the word "subsidy" to this funding of democracy and called it a "per vote subsidy"). Once the terminology was in place, it was easy for them to put forth stupid argument #7 which is that "the government shouldn't subsidize political parties". (Note the word "subsidy" which tells you what to think about public funding of democracy).

To argue with Argument #7, one approach is to first of all question the word "subsidy". Opposition parties are just an important part of democracy. So what we are talking about is "subsidizing" democracy. In British Columbia the problem is even worse, where our political parties are financed by resource companies and unions. In the last election, when the NDP proposed a change, Mary Polak, the current environment minister said the following: "We disagree with the use of taxpayer money to fund political parties, it's not the way to control spending and make sure that we're growing the economy," Polak said in a release."

Here's the full article: Vancouver Sun April 15.

When dealing with someone making that kind of argument, the most you can do is see if they think things would be EVEN BETTER if we went one step further, and eliminated the public funding of the government itself. Why not let corporations and unions directly pay the salaries of MP's and cabinet ministers, and really "grow the economy?". Why waste public funds on paying for a government?

But apart from tackling the word "subsidy", another answer to stupid argument #7 is to bring up the fact that if you want to talk about the "per vote subsidy" of $1.98 per person, you must also talk about the much larger amount of $300.00 per person that the federal government still allows as a tax credit for any political contribution. You pay $400 and you get back $300 if your income is high enough. In other words, a $300 subsidy. Unfortunately, lower income people don't have the ability to cause government funds to flow into things important to them, because they are not paying enough tax. In 2009 this subsidy was only used by less than 2% of the voters. See in wikipedia.

The way it works is you give the political party of your choice $400 and you get back $300 as long as your income is high enough to be paying enough taxes. Last election, I donated to the Green party but got back nothing because I didn't have enough income. Most of my friends didn't even know about this deduction. Did you?

#1744 - 2013.11.08 David Henry - To Chris
Yes, that was a rude comment to assume that you are a teacher or government employee. Sorry! Yes, oil is going to get a lot more expensive, and yes the economy is going to change. I think it will be the kicking and screaming method however. I probably won't see this in my lifetime, and I am in my 30's. My first job in oil and gas was at the Zama Lake production complex in NW Alberta in 1998. Oil was $10 per barrel, lifting costs were $7 per barrel (that doesn't include drilling wells or building infrastructure, just operating what is there). Now oil is $80-$120 per barrel, with lifting costs for most areas above $60. It is getting more expensive, and gasoline is getting more expensive. What most people discount is what technology can do. The recovery rate on most of these old oilfields is relatively low, well below 50%. Fracking, water flood, chemicals, and other recent innovations can significantly increase these recovery rates. Therefore it isn't necessarily about the next big find, it is about exploiting the existing finds to a greater degree. The Pembina field in Alberta is a great example of this. It was developed in the 1950's and largely abandoned in the 1990's, but now is seeing a revival due to these new technologies. Who knows how efficient we can become at achieving this. Therefore any prediction on peak oil is just a shot in the dark at this point. If you are looking at supply to force a change, I just can't see this happening. It will have to be due to more efficient forms of energy that are a lower cost. As time goes on and oil keeps getting more expensive, I could see this maybe happening. Natural gas is probably the front runner right now, as both the US and Canada are self sufficient in this resource and have huge reserves. Also, most of the technology already exists to utilize this fuel. What I would like to see is the government doing more to fund our schools and research institutions to develop better technologies in the energy industry. However, it would seem the current administration does not have a good relationship with these institutions. Lastly, sorry Robin, I have now really taken your discussion off topic!

#1743 - 2013.11.08 Chris Ludwig - Reply to David, your position is solid if...
Hello David. Assuming relatively cheap oil is limitless, then your argument is absolutely sound. In my opinion, we will pay $5.00 per litre for gas before I retire. This is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. At such time, our economy as you say will need to be completely retooled whether we like it or not. We can either conserve now, or be forced to kicking and screaming in the near future. Globalism will completely collapse under such circumstances as manufacturing and transporting goods from overseas will not be economically viable. Do you really think cheap oil will last more than 25 years? That seems like a stupid argument from my point of view. Incidentally, I am a small business owner (no association with government) with 25 years until retirement. I also rely on gas for my business to run.

#1742 - 2013.11.08 David Henry - Reply to Robin
I don't disagree with all that you say, however I can't agree with your idea that business can evolve in a high taxation environment, especially a resource economy like ours, they will just leave. It would involve retooling our entire economy and very immediate and large amounts of job loss. No elected official is going to do this, as all they can think about is the next 4 years. Regarding the oil sands, they are private businesses that have bought the right to exploit the resource. They have owned these leases for sometimes more than 30 years. If it was not for oil being worth $94 per barrel, it would not be developed. We live in a free market economy and that is how it works. We sold the right to the resource and now they are exploiting it. If you want to take all these back into state control, how do you think we are going to pay for it? I love hearing about the oil sands industry and all its subsidies and troubles as I travel through Canada and the US. I always marvel at how the media has shaped peoples opinions, however half of them don't know the first thing about the process, environmental impacts, or financial implications. I just ignore it, as it is just too painful to address the stupid arguments.

#1741 - 2013.11.08 David Henry - $5 per litre, now there is a supid argument.
You can't honestly think charging $5 per litre is a good idea. Oil and gas is not heavily subsidized business, maybe start with farming, especially dairy, now those are subsidies. You are either retired or a government employee to have these kind of economic ideas.

#1734 - 2013.11.04 Chris Ludwig - Humans aren't stupid, we just find change difficult
Oil is cheaper than bottled water, yet oil is a much more finite resource. There are currently no real impediments to large RV's and boats from roaming the planet at will. Gas should be $5.00 per litre, simply for the sake of conserving this resource. We could transport goods much more efficiently by rail rather than by truck. Rail uses only a fraction of the energy but currently there is no motivation to do so, and as such, the trucking industry is heavily subsidized while rail is not.

Stupid Argument: There is plenty of oil in the ground and improvements in technology will allow us to find new sources of oil to keep up with future demand.

Stupid Argument: Increasing the price of gas through taxation will destroy our quality of life and cost jobs.

Now what will happen to our quality of life (and jobs) if we start running out of oil, or pollution makes us sick and raises sea levels. Change is difficult for people, but usually, we can be much better off after the initial discomfort has passed. It may be hard for people to switch to smaller vehicles at first, but they might find that the savings allow them to afford to drive more. This is a point of view often hard to see though when you are used to your F350 and cheap consumer goods.

#1733 - 2013.11.03 Robin Tivy - Sandra misses the point
Sandra, the article is not about stupid people, it is about weak and stupid arguments. I make stupid arguments all the time, but count on others to point out the flaws. And then eventually I don't use that argument any more. So the catalog is a service to prevent us from wasting time on those same old arguments over and over. Instead, we catalog an answer to the argument, and then just refer to it by saying "oh that's the back to the caves argument".

#1732 - 2013.11.03 Sandra McGuinness - human stupidity
Perhaps this could all be explained by the immutable laws of human stupidity documented by Carlo Cipolla: here

#1731 - 2013.10.30 Robin Tivy - Answer to Dave Henry's studies in Ecology
Thanks for participating in this project to raise our collective intelligence and to flush out more stupid arguments. You've raised a few more standard arguments that are worth addressing. I expect you basically have the same view as I do, and are helping by bringing to light a few more arguments that need to be answered. So here are the ones I think you have found:

Standard Argument #4 - You can't change the world
 The argument is that we can't do anything because of the nature of the world. Attempts to do so are just "head banging".

The answer to this is to point out that in the development of civilization, "the herd" has ultimately made a lot of good decisions, and will ultimately make more. But the herd do not come to their conclusions in a vacuum. We are all influenced by what other people say, and that's why discussion is worthwhile. It facilitates sorting out the weak arguments. So that is why we're doing this "head banging". The idea is to blow out some of the stupid arguments, so the herd (and all of us) can concentrate on better arguments and more intelligent analysis. Unfortunately the regular newspapers face decreasing resources to facilitate good discussion, and at the same time, the resource liquidators have increasing resources. So that's why it's worth doing something outside the media they control. That is the purpose of this "catalog".

Standard Argument #5 - You raise taxes and business leaves...
 The argument is that "we raise taxes and business leaves, it's a competitive world..." This is an argument often heard. There are two answers that can be raised for this argument: (1) We're talking about SHIFTING taxes, not raising taxes. Many businesses will become even more competitive if we substitute carbon taxes for things like sales taxes. A shift just means the objectives focus on different objectives. I might point out that the reason that US designed automobiles have become increasingly not competitive in the rest of the world is because of the low price of gas in the USA has lead to the development of high fuel consumption vehicles which increasingly can't be sold in more progressive environments. So we're not just "raising taxes so business leaves". We're talking about making the tax structure better recognize costs such as the cost of using the atmosphere for dumping greenhouse gases.

Standard Argument #6 - Must sell everything Now!
 The argument you read over and over is that any tax shift will permanently decrease our standard of living. Schools, hospitals, and social programs will all have to be drastically reduced unless we immediately sell everything in sight. The current plan is to TRIPLE the output of the tar sands in the next few years. Not just keep exporting the huge amount we are now, but we must triple it. It's a "one time window" in which we must sell everything. In BC, we must sell as much of our natural gas as possible immediately. We can't wait till it is needed here, instead we are willing to waste a good portion of the energy just cooling and compressing the rest of it.

To answer this argument, we need to point out that resources such as oil and gas have PERMANENT VALUE, and we aren't obligated to sell them all off in a giant emergency sale. They talk about how we need jobs, but then they talk about how there aren't anywhere enough people here to do all the jobs it will take for the giant resource fire sale. We must immediately bring thousands more people in, adding a huge number more people who will be dependent on more and more resource extraction projects.

Standard Argument #7 - Quality of life is measured by material goods
 The arguments about "standard of living" usually boil down to measuring income, and the assumption is that more income= more quality. We must constantly grow the economy, otherwise we might FALL BEHIND. So it's a consumption contest, and the winner is the country or person who consumes the most.

The answer here is that there are lots of people in the world that think that "quality of life" is not entirely measured by "income and standard of living". For example, is it really true that true happiness of a society is measured by how much stuff they can consume? How many trucks, snowmobiles, and jet trips you can consume? Are these the measures of collective "quality of life"? Or perhaps "standard of living" is measured by size of our sickness care system, while we cut back on activities like walking to school, or easy access to the outdoors.

#1730 - 2013.10.30 David Henry - Bang your head here
Your arguments remind me of my studies in Ecology. There was an idea once that individuals may take actions for the betterment of the group, called group behaviour. This theory was trying to explain actions of certain animals that live in herds. Studies have largely disproven this idea, as it has been shown that individuals will only help the group if it helps their goals, which in nature is to increase fecundity. This may be through food security, increased mating opportunities, decreased risk of predation, etc. How you may ask does this apply to your argument, it does in the sense that the idea of people making changes in their lives for the betterment of society can occur on a large enough scale to cause a societal shift. Good luck with this idea, I am proven daily that people are largely incapable of these acts. Most people will screw over the person beside them to get ahead in traffic, pay less tax, get the promotion at work, scope a new route on a mountain, etc. It just seems like we are pre programmed to wipe ourselves out. On a larger scale, our governments are no different. Competition between companies, cities, provinces and countries is a largely destructive process in the end. Just look at the headline today in the Calgary Herald, we are now going to spend 2.5 billion in Alberta to further develop our natural areas to compete more vigorously for those ever important vacation dollars that we think we are missing out on. You think this is worse than drilling a few wells in the boreal foresta€¦.. yeah sure! In the case of taxes, we raise our taxes and business leaves, it is a competitive world. If you think otherwise, I really can't help you. I am not saying we shouldn't do it, just be prepared for the change in our quality of life (measured of course on income and standard of living compared to other nations). I work in the oil and gas industry in Alberta and I know how fast things change with only small modifications to environmental regulations and taxes.

#1726 - 2013.10.25 Dean Richards - Land Value Taxation
I think almost every proposed change to the way governments tax is a band-aid solution. The whole thing has to be rebuilt from the ground up.

Taxes are meant to raise money and be disincentives, therefore you tax what is undesirable. The two main categories of this are pollution (carbon) and monopolistic activities. Regarding the latter, land is a classic, but underused example. There's a limited amount of land, so when land is taken out of the commons, there ought to be a price paid to everyone for that, hence what is called a land value tax. By using this idea towards taxation, you're able to remove almost every existing tax like income tax and value-added taxes that aren't philosophically justifiable, unless we think income in and of itself is bad. Taxing income might have good intentions, but it's not particularly just and by taxing profits derived from monopolistic behavior, you build justice into the tax code.

This is an excellent article giving an intro to this radical, but longstanding concept. The beauty is that it truly appeals to wide variety of people. http://workandwealth.com/economic-reform-worth-talking/

Stupid Argument #1 - can't have a tax on carbon because its a tax on everything.

We already have a tax on almost everything, but a carbon tax at least gives us a direction and incentivizes innovation and environmentally friendly behavior.

Stupid Argument #2 - Back to the Caves

The answer I always give to this one is to point out that what we're protesting is the fact that the system doesn't provide for viable alternatives, despite their existence. Rather than 'Being the Change', I choose to fight for change. Given a decent income, being the change isn't that hard really. But it's ultimately an individualistic solution. Fighting for change on the other hand means not getting caught up in the trivial things, but rather trying to strike a balance between living a healthy life and doing everything you can to fight the system. Spend my money on toilet paper or on gas to get to a blockade? Easy choice.

Stupid Argument #3 - Prices don't make any difference

If taxes didn't make a difference, there wouldn't be tax loopholes, expert accountants, and lobbyists. I think it's more important to affect the upstream part of the system, i.e. the producers, rather than place that burden on the consumer, who often doesn't have the disposable income necessary to make the choices we'd like them to make.