Stahel states that in a sustainable economy, taxes on renewable resources including work—human labour—are wrong and should be abandoned. The resulting loss of state revenue could be compensated by taxing the consumption of non-renewable resources in the form of materials and energies, and taxing waste and emissions.
Not taxing renewable resources seems to be in the very logic of a sustainable society. Yet human labour—work—is a primary renewable resource which has never been recognised as such by politicians.
Public policy uses two incentives to discourage human labour: wages—the income from work—are taxed in most countries, but the waste of human labour—unemployment— is ‘subsidised’ through State welfare.
The result of not taxing work will be an acceleration of the transition to a circular economy, with its local low-carbon and low-resource business models, which are inherently more labour-intensive than manufacturing.
Stahel proposition to exempt all renewable resources from taxation enables synergies between the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainability.
Stahel will present this idea to a wider public at the World Resource Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 20 September 2011.