Tag: the yellow vests

The Yellow Vests Invade May Day in Paris

Ryan Lau | @RyanLau71R

For nearly six months now, protest movement “the yellow vests” (les gilets jaunes) has been taking to the streets in Paris, throughout France, and into other European countries. Through both peaceful and violent means, they have rallied against the unpopular regime of French president Emmanuel Macron.

The government has retaliated, killing at least 15 total civilians (12 in France, three in Belgium). They also have arrested and injured thousands. However, the protest group has gotten the French government to make a number of concessions. After peaking at a 72% approval rate, twice that of Macron, they have pressured the government to remove an infamous gas tax hike and promise an increase to the minimum wage. But the yellow vests have not stopped, finding new allies on Wednesday.

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The Red Scarves Rise in Response to the Yellow Vests

Ivan Misiura | United States

A new player has emerged on the field of Paris and threatens the legitimacy of the so-called “Yellow Vests” group. The roughly 10,000 protestors dub themselves the “Red Scarves”, taking a page out of the book of the Vests’ branding strategies. They are rising up in opposition to the Yellow Vests’ movement. However, they share a lot of ideas, and the Red Scarves instead are opposing the methodology.

Who Are the Red Scarves?

The Red Scarves are comprised primarily of the same demographics as the Yellow Vests; many of them are part of a discontented middle-class citizenry, but also have a commitment to non-violence. The Local France reports that the group is shouting various slogans and chants. These include words such as “yes to democracy, no to revolution”, “stop the violence”, and surprisingly, “merci la police” (thank you police).

European correspondent John Litchfield tweeted on the demonstrations: “A crowd of militant moderates is quite a thing. They are singing the Marseillaise as Gilets Jaunes do. But mood is chatty and humorous rather than angry and aggressive”.

Goals of the Movement

An interview of one of the protesters seems to sum up the general milieu of the new movement. “[The Yellow Vests] have every reason to grumble, but this verbal and physical violence must stop”.  This protest took place in Paris on Sunday, January 27th and according to the New York Times “remained peaceful to the end”.  Interested in a general sense of well-being, the Red Scarves made the statement to The Local France: “There are other places to discuss this than the street. You cannot block the country and economy because you consider the president to be illegitimate.”

They hope that these demonstrations do not convey that they are anti-Yellow Vest principles, but rather that people are hearing the Vests’ demands. The number of protesters that Sunday was double that of the figure the Yellow Vests brought to their demonstration a day prior. One cannot ignore that the Red Scarves are certainly a voice of the people and indeed are the people.


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Libertarians Need to Embrace Bitcoin to Succeed

By Mason Mohon | @mohonofficial

Libertarianism is clearly a pipe dream. The state co-opts libertarianism with seeming ease. The bastions of libertarianism in American politics now are seemingly willingly ignorant of some of the most important issues facing society: an economy that is clearly a facade and wars that will not end any time soon. And the only way out is Bitcoin – but more on that later.

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British Columbia’s Carbon Tax Is Working

Craig Axford | Canada

If we’re ever going to get to a carbon neutral or carbon negative economy, placing a price on carbon is going to be a necessary part of that effort. With new U.S. Government and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports coming out this year warning of extremely expensive and environmentally significant consequences if we fail to act quickly, minor public policy adjustments here and there are no longer an option.

But just because strong action is needed that can be implemented both rapidly and at large scales, it doesn’t follow that the consequences of these actions on people either can or should be ignored. That’s particularly true when it comes to the working poor and middle class. As we’ve seen in France over the past few weeks, taxes targeting fossil fuels won’t receive the kind of public support they’re going to need if States implement them without sufficient regard for the people paying them.

Fortunately, there is a proven solution that facilitates the CO² emission reductions carbon taxes are intended to achieve while also taking into account the burden these taxes impose upon society; simply make the carbon tax revenue-neutral, taking special care to use the money it generates to prioritize tax reductions for the poor, middle class and rural residents that the tax affects most.

This is precisely what the Canadian province of British Columbia did when it implemented North America’s first carbon tax in 2008. This tax survived the financial crisis that reached its zenith just two months after its implementation. That alone is a testament to the fact that even during the worst of times, it is possible to persuade a skeptical and insecure public to support a policy if it truly reconciles environmental protection with equity and fairness.

As in the French countryside, residents of rural British Columbia often have no choice but to drive long distances on a regular basis. Unlike their fellow citizens in cities like Vancouver and Victoria, public transportation opportunities frequently don’t exist or are insufficient to completely replace the automobile.

When the carbon tax was first imposed in July of 2008, it started small. It began at $10 per tonne with incremental annual increases of $5 per tonne scheduled through 2012 until it reached $30. That meant that by July of 2012, the cost of gasoline would rise by 6.67 cents per liter. For American readers, that amounts to approximately 27 cents per gallon. To put that in perspective, the gas tax the French government had been planning to impose next month amounted to roughly 25 cents per gallon.

But unlike British Columbia, France was moving to implement its tax in one fell swoop. It also had no plans to offset the gasoline tax increase with middle and low-income tax cuts or use the revenue to provide other significant tangible benefits. As the British Columbia experiment with carbon taxes shows, phasing in the tax and making it revenue-neutral is crucial to winning public support for any carbon tax that’s going to be significant enough to make a difference.

One study into the effectiveness of the BC carbon tax described the steps the then Liberal government took to achieve revenue neutrality this way:

First, the BC government lowered the tax rate on the bottom two personal income tax brackets. For a household earning a nominal income of $100,000…the average provincial tax rate was reduced from 8.74% in 2007 to 8.02% in 2008. Two lump-sum transfers were also included to protect low-income and rural households. Low-income households receive quarterly rebates, which, for a family of four, equal approximately $300 per year, and beginning in 2011, northern and rural homeowners received a further benefit of up to $200. Finally, taxes on corporations and small businesses were reduced…Since residents’ tax burden did not increase, the government was able to promote the policy as a “tax shift” rather than a tax increase.

President Macron eliminated France’s wealth tax in 2017 in advance of his proposed gas tax increase, not in concert with it, so it proved impossible to claim that ending that tax was part of an effort to implement some sort of revenue-neutral carbon tax “shift”. More importantly, however, by putting the wealth tax repeal first and failing to offer low-income and rural households additional tax breaks to offset the impact of the gas tax, Macron signaled his willingness to let the poor and middle class carry most of the burden when it came to taxes on carbon. Had the BC Liberal government followed a similar approach in 2008, I don’t know if cars would have been burning in downtown Vancouver. But they almost certainly would have been trounced in the following year’s election.

Now, just when we need carbon taxes the most, the ‘yellow vests’ movement threatens to render them a political third rail few politicians will want to touch. Sadly, most environmentalists cheered Macron’s gas tax proposal when they should have jeered, costing them valuable credibility with working-class voters that they’re going to need for any successful campaign against climate change.

The phrase “carbon tax” too often triggers a kind of Pavlovian response in the environmental community, regardless of the impact they will have on those paying them. If the environmental policies these times demand are ever going to exist on a global scale, then we must abandon the view that sustainability and social justice exist in separate policy silos. People don’t like being treated as a means to an environmental end any more than they appreciate being treated as a means to any other end, nor should they.

Carbon taxes, whether they are revenue-neutral or not, will, unfortunately, usually face stiff opposition in the beginning. In British Columbia, the major opposition party had been in favor of taxing carbon, but it flip-flopped when the opportunity to tag the Liberal Party with the initially unpopular policy presented itself just prior to an election year.

That said, the Liberal Party (rather confusingly, BC’s most conservative major party) was able to retain control of the BC government in 2009 in spite of everything. In a March 2016 article on BC’s experience with taxing carbon, the New York Times reported that public opposition to the tax had dropped from 47% in 2009 right after implementation to 32% by 2015.

The left-of-center New Democratic Party (NDP) has since flip-flopped back to its original support for the carbon tax. With the help of Green Party members elected to the province’s legislative assembly, the NDP took control of the provincial government in May of 2017. BC’s carbon tax not only again enjoys support across the political spectrum, but is in the process of increasing by $5 a year through 2021. It is scheduled to hit $50 a tonne one year ahead of the federal government’s proposed carbon tax.

. . .

That just leaves the question of whether a revenue-neutral approach to carbon taxation can actually reduce carbon emissions. After all, if all the money raised through the tax is ultimately returned to taxpayers in one form or another, where’s the incentive to reduce spending on gasoline, the largest source of CO² in BC?

Source: BC Government, sustainability page

Well, it has worked. A 2015 review of the existing research on the tax’s efficacy found that up to that point, all the studies indicated a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of around 9%. Furthermore, that gasoline sales had dropped anywhere between 7% and 17%. One study found that commercial demand for natural gas had plunged a whopping 67% since the initiation of the tax (coal is not used to any significant degree in BC). These decreases occurred in spite of the fact that the province saw slightly higher annual economic growth than Canada as a whole in the years immediately following the 2008 financial crisis, as well as steady population growth.

It’s important to remember that even a revenue-neutral carbon tax can still function as a tax increase for a significant emitter of CO². The government hasn’t committed to making sure no one pays more in taxes, only that all the money the tax generates goes back to the public in one way or another.

Under a revenue-neutral carbon tax program, those inclined to use cleaner technologies can reduce their taxes considerably below what others in roughly the same financial boat are paying. A low-income person who decides to purchase a car instead of riding his bike or using mass transit still gets to pocket the quarterly refund payments. But unlike his friends who choose cleaner alternative modes of transportation, his refund payments will go entirely toward offsetting the additional cost of gasoline instead of groceries, rent, or other necessities.

It’s difficult to imagine citizens from the French countryside invading Paris to protest quarterly tax credits or reductions in their income taxes intended to offset a 25¢ per gallon gasoline tax. Even if polls indicated opposition to the new tax, as they did initially in BC, it’s hard to work yourself up into a lather about it when the government can demonstrate that your overall tax burden hasn’t really changed. And, in all likelihood, what was at first mild opposition or ambivalence would eventually become support once people began to realize the benefits.

The inescapable reality we now face is that whether we tax carbon or not, the cost of emitting so much of it will only be going up from this point forward. Whether it’s coastal buildings washing into the sea or houses built near the edge of a forest burning to the ground, there’s no avoiding climate change’s toll. A carbon tax that disincentivizes the use of fossil fuels ultimately benefits both the environment and people. Hopefully, from now on national, regional, and local governments will learn from British Columbia’s example as well as France’s mistakes.

Follow Craig on Twitter or read him at Medium.com

What Americans Should Learn From the Yellow Vests

Josh Hughes | United States

Over the past few days, many French citizens have staged a countrywide protest over the heightened taxes that plague many of the country’s poor, as well as the national government’s disinterest in the lower and middle class. Over the course of three weeks, they have gotten the new gas tax suspended and have captured the attention of not only their own leaders and countrymen but of the world. That’s right: the movement has gone international, earning the name “European Spring”.

The protest has reached the ears and hearts of libertarians around the world. As of now, the future of the movement is uncertain, but their actions, solidarity, and results have been impressive, to say the least. If Americans were to follow their lead (just as the French followed the American Revolution with one of their own), many productive changes could occur.

Starting Like the Yellow Vests

One of the perks of the French protest is there were hundreds of thousands of reformists in one area with one common goal: to be seen and heard. The liberty movement in America is a mess with no clear goals or direction.

The Libertarian Party, from the local chapters up to the national organization, need to unite under one banner: change. Whether the change is social or fiscal does not matter; what’s important is that all levels are consistent. A federal legalization of marijuana, prison reform, and lowering of taxes are many popular places to begin, however.

How to Make the State Listen

The Yellow Vests found a great way for those in power to listen: refusal to be ignored. While the destruction of the property of others isn’t ideal (nor in line with libertarian beliefs), marching in large numbers is a good start. Marches on Washington and other state capitals demanding prison reform or drug legalization could do a lot in terms of encouraging change in America.

One major weakness among Americans is their lack of involvement in politics. Many that are knowledgeable neglect to put hands-on effort into the movement. Beginning the protests is the hardest part. Once there is momentum, more people will join in.

Why We Must Strike Now

The Yellow Vests have inspired a resistance in the world, against tyranny and oppression. Now is the time to take action. Now is the time for those who think they can extort us to hear our voices. The country and the world are moving towards authoritarianism at an alarming rate. If we cannot completely stop the government, it is the duty of the people to contain it. This occurs by holding them accountable and making sure they hear the voice of the people.

When all that’s in the media and culture is socialism or neoconservatism, that’s what we get. Libertarians, minarchists, anarcho-capitalists, and all those involved in the liberty movement need to be a part of this. In order to have results, there must be solidarity and unity.

If the people of the United States don’t make changes soon, the country is destined to fall even deeper into authoritarian tyranny. The Yellow Vests are leading the way by standing up for their individual needs and rights, refusing to let the government take advantage of them. It’s in the best interest of all liberty-loving Americans to fight for their rights. Do something today. Make a difference for good.


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