RANDOM THOUGHTS ON MILEAGE TAXES….The LA Times has a story today about proposals to begin taxing motorists by the number of miles they drive. There’s no telling if this will go anywhere, since the technology to accomplish this isn’t really ready for prime time yet and the policy arguments for and against it are sort of wonkish.

But there were two part of the article that just had me shaking my head, and I thought I’d share them with you. First this:

The idea has been circulating because more Californians are driving fuel-efficient cars….Revenue from the gas and diesel fuel tax ? about $3.3 billion ? will have declined 8% between 1998 and 2005, adjusted for inflation….Drivers of non-hybrid cars have said it’s unfair to pay the larger burden of gasoline taxes.

Let me get this straight. For years we’ve been trying desperately to get people to buy more efficient cars, and one way of doing it is to tax gas guzzlers at a higher rate than hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. It’s good for the environment and it helps reduce our need for imported oil. And it’s working!

So what happens? Now people are worried that it means lower gas tax revenues. Drivers of fuel hogs think it’s unfair that they should pay more than drivers of hybrids. So let’s think of a way of taxing fuel-efficient cars at higher levels. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

And then there’s another issue: privacy. One way of tracking mileage is to put a GPS receiver in everyone’s car and then track where they drive. Does it bother you that the government would be compiling this information on your movements? Apparently not:

“While some people are concerned about civil liberties, most people are not,” [policy expert Elizabeth] Deakin said. “One of the things we found from focus groups and surveys is that most people said if the government wanted to track you, they have other ways to do it.”

Is that the most depressing quote in the world, or what? While some people are concerned about civil liberties, most people are not.

And the worst part of it is that she’s probably right.