Taxing Email is Useless

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic blog writes about a NY Times piece on taxing email. He’s not advocating it, or arguing against it but looking at the supposed benefits and negatives, and how it would likely increase instant messaging.

What would be the effects of an email tax? I’m not sure it would make such a big difference. To save my daily pennies, I know I would lean more on Gchat or other instant message programs, and I’m sure everybody else would too.

Would that be taxed next? If email can be taxed, why not aim? However one of the key benefits touted by both the Times article and Thompson is that it would curtail the deluge of spam that we all recieve. You know, hey spammers send a lot of email, let’s just tax email, then we not only get less spam, but make money too! Anyone see any holes? I do. How do you keep track of emails and then send the tax bill?

Such a tax is feasible, he says, since e-mail addresses are easily identifiable by Internet service providers and they could pass on the levy in their monthly bills to users.

The problem with this? This isn’t how spam works. Spam is sent from “zombie pc’s“, meaning unknowing grandparents and non-netsavvy people are going to get a huge bill come due for the spam sent. Furthermore, the government will always be behind in technology, there’s just no way spammers and people wouldn’t be able to get around the tax through forged email headers, botnets, tor networks, ect. This will end up costing the unfortunately honest people and not the dishonest ones it’s targeted to.

Let’s also not overlook the liberal arrogance of the Times piece:

You might gulp at the $3-a-day cost for 100 e-mails, but don’t forget you pay more to gulp your daily large caramel macchiato.

For one thing, $3 a day is a lot of money in a year ($1095), for another, I have no idea what a caramel macchiato is.

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