On Taxing Robots

February 20, 2017 :: Reading time: 3 minutes, 49 seconds

Bill Gates says the robot who takes your job should pay taxes. Go ahead and read it if you have time, and I'll address some of the points below.

Robots paying taxes?

Robots cannot be defined

Here's my take on it: robots should not be paying taxes because it's not easy to define a robot. It wouldn't be a robot paying anyway, but the owner, as the robot isn't getting a salary.

A robot is not a machine in the shape of a human. It's not a pair of mechanic hands on a production line. It's not a single auto-driving truck or a fleet of them. A robot, in the business sense, cannot be defined because every business requires a different "robot". The gas crank in a locomotive is, for all intents and purposes of a modern discussion about robots taking jobs, a "robot which took jobs", because no more coal shovelers are needed to feed the engine fire.

"But Bruno, where will the tax come from?"

Will many people lose their jobs? Yes. Are taxes from salaries funding public services? Yes. Do we fund pensions, disabled, welfare, etc. with these taxes? Absolutely. Should we care about any of this? Absolutely not.

Companies already pay taxes. Those that don't, need to be fined (this includes the most profitable company in the world and all its subsidiaries - organized religion). Company tax evasion is the real problem that needs to be solved, because all the extra profit a company makes when fully automated, if taxed properly, will be identical (if not more because of a higher bracket of tax) to the tax lost via people's disappearing salaries.

"But Bruno, what about all the unemployment?"

They should upgrade themselves, we simply must apply some evolution to real life. Yes, I know most people have an age limit after which they can't learn new things, and not everyone can keep upgrading themselves forever. But that time in life is called "retirement", and if you haven't set yourself up financially by then, you've failed at life.

"But Bruno, that's racist/fascist/selectivist/elitist/supremacist/[insert trendy anti-word here]"

a) I don't care.

and...

b) The owner should be able to replace ALL of their workforce and still pay NO extra tax purely because this is what everyone wanted - capitalism. It boggles the mind that everyone complains about inequality, the 1%, the rich getting richer etc, when all people ever do is spew nonsense like "socialism is bad" or "filthy commies". By definition, socialism is exactly what you seem to want - a government dictated potential for profit and business, and nation-wide dispersal of profit and goods so everyone gets a fair share. It is literally the opposite of capitalism - the thing you all seem to be defending but hating at the same time.

Capitalism, as defined by the free market, is the ability and incentive to maximize profit while minimizing expenses - and a robotized workforce does exactly that. Nothing else matters. It doesn't matter that a teller worker has spent her last 20 years of free time after work watching soap operas and reality shows and failed to upgrade herself. It doesn't matter if Mary spent every day since she finished college partying. It doesn't matter that Bobby the vet lost his arm in 'Nam and has been "making an effort" on the milling machine since. It doesn't matter that your mother is sick and you depend on the paycheck to pay for her meds. It's sad, but it doesn't matter.

If I want to sell thing X and a legion of people in China will make it for me at 5% of the cost, then I will have them build it. If it's cheaper for me to import enchiladas frozen than to make them at home and sales still remain the same, I will import them. And perhaps most importantly - if I don't like someone, I have the right not to sell to them. This is the definition of a free market everyone seems to be praising and adoring, and yet everyone seems to be complaining about every single aspect of it. The hypocrisy if off the charts, really.

Guys... you voted for this, just like you voted for Trump. And if all this still isn't proof that democracy doesn't work, I don't know what will ever be able to convince you.

So either vote capitalism out of existence, or learn to live with it by educating yourselves and staying relevant. Okay, there is a third option, too: Universal Basic Income. But more on that in a future post.

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