Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tax Ads

The linked article on consumption has a fantastic suggestion:
Kasser has more ideas: Limit – and tax – advertising, he says. To promote consumption, ads foster insecurity, he says. That hinders self-acceptance, which is another predictor of lasting well-being.

This has valid economic justification. Human attention can be considered a natural resource, if for no other reason that the supply of it is finite: there is nothing we can do create more time to devote our attention to things. This would mean that, like the supply of land or oil in the ground, the supply curve would be represented by a straight vertical line. The market for human attention (the advertising market) only gets inflated as the population increases, and as demand for our attention increases, which makes advertising a fantastically profitable industry: enough to fund tv, print, and online media outlets.

Only in a sense does the right person get paid for their attention: the community gets to experience the media for (nearly) free. Otherwise, the payment for our attention is being delivered to media companies. This too is parallel to the other common resources mentioned above: e.g., The value of an urban area is created by the community, though the rent for land is collected by those who own it, just as the value of media advertising is created by the community viewing it, despite the rent of our attention being collected by those who own the media. And likewise, not collecting that rent for the community has allowed ownership of both urban land and mass media to be consolidated.

So, under this system, how will media be made, news be reported, etc? One possible solution: in recognition of every citizen's creative impulse, give everyone a tax rebate. Depending on your tax bracket, this could be enough to be a dividend check. Given that technology has driven overhead for media outlets to become almost negligible, citizen driven media and entertainment could become more likely as well.

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