Public tranportation will make a bigger impact than carbon taxes.
Public tranportation will make a bigger impact than carbon taxes. Courtesy of Seattle Subway

Cliff Mass' enthusiasm and optimism for the revenue-neutral carbon tax initiative is a bit much. It's hard for a socialist like myself to believe that an effective solution to climate change can have supporters on all sides of mainstream politics. That sounds like a fantasy.

Climate change demands radical action and social transformation, and taxing carbon sounds too easy, too normal, too gradual. Indeed, it transforms a problem whose solution is inherently anti-capitalist into one whose solution makes complete sense to the market. Carbon taxing places a price on carbon, and once something has a price on it, it becomes a part of the market.

Once in this system, the tax and rules concerning carbon emissions will lead to capture and arbitrage. This is inevitable. We have history to teach us this lesson. (Read John Kay's Other People's Money to see how markets capture and arbitrage regulations and government departments.) Cliff Mass thinks there are pills we can take that will solve everything. But there are no such nice pills, nor are there bitter pills. At this point, we must take pills that kill whole organs in our social body.

But who does Mass blame with gusto for Seattle's public transportation backwardness? Liberals.

Uber liberal Seattle has completely inadequate bus service, does not maintain its bicycle paths, and expanding its rail at a pace that can only be called glacial.

Yes, Sound Transit's light rail extension is opening ahead of schedule, but it sure had lots of time to do so. Link began operating more than six years ago, and the next phase of the extension (to Northgate) will not happen until 2021. Meaning, it will have taken 12 years to complete a total of seven miles of track. Compare this with the Canada Line in Vancouver, BC, and you get a good idea of how slow this process has been. (The Canada Line line began in October 2005 and was completed in August 2009, and is nearly 12 miles of track.)

But is this slowness Sound Transit's fault? Not all. Those who blame Sound Transit are being completely dishonest. The political challenges they faced were (and are) much greater than the engineering problems of this project. We have the general public to blame for this slowness, and the general public gets its ideas from information sources that are dominated by those opposed to the interests of the poor, working-class, and middle-class.

Yes, the Let's Move Seattle levy passed in November, but it's still not nearly enough. We need to be fanatics about public transportation if the city is to really start moving and realistically dealing with climate change.

It's not simply about having a good transportation system, but a very good and fast one. A train can transport more people than cars, yes, but it also needs to be as reliable as cars. This point is often missed by people who think that just having trains or buses solves everything. There are even rural communities that have buses without density or frequency. This is madness.

But what did Cliff Mass' post express? His confusion. On the one hand, he really hates liberals, but he is also a scientist—meaning, he has to take into account what the CIA calls reality: "bean counting." He cannot reconcile the two: his hatred of the left, his support of the market, and his awareness of the facts. He sees carbon taxing as a way of uniting these irreconcilable elements.