The Case for Taxing Emails

Everybody's talking about making people pay for what they use online, and the New York Times has a short piece about making you pay for what you use the most: taxing all your emails.

Why would governments do such a thing? To kill spam, save bandwidth, and make a ton of money.

As this Prospect article explains, between 70 and 90 percent of the world's 210 billion daily emails is spam. If we levied a 3 cent tax a day -- assuming you send an average of 100 messages a day -- you would pay $3 a day. So, more than a Starbucks coffee, and less than a Starbucks anything else. On the bright side for us, as Tom Kuntz writes, $150,000-a-week tax could finally end that wacky spam poetry from male enhancement spammers. One the bright side for governments, a three-cent tax on 200 billion emails would net 6 billion dollars.

Like other excise taxes, the Edward Gosseman points out, this would be regressive (not to mention ungoldly unpopular!), but the savings could be recouped by the falling price of broadband. At the very least, they would carve out more space for our increasing demand for broadband as we use more video streaming and data transfer.

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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. Especially since Google keeps a searchable "record" of Gchats, it wouldn't be an awful transition. People would think of emails more like texts -- transfers of information that they know cost money. The government could even price emails like phone plans, where you can charge by the email or pay a lump sum for a cap. A cap and trade for email! Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Finally, on the subject of spam killing, I ask you to consider the entirely unserious implications for the spam-based economy of Koy4Goff.

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