The robot tax.

Given that there’s no wall in the world that can keep out the invading robot hordes that tookurrjurbs, I have a simple solution for the destitute masses of the world and their hamstrung political heroes : the robot tax.

Yes, it’s true that robots aren’t legally people and can’t yet vote, but manufacturing automation is so much more of a threat to the middle class than Mexican strawberry pickers or Syrian taxi drivers could ever hope to be that it’s really to robots that sights should be raised. Forget the walls and the travel bans. Those can never MAGA even though we’re biologically programmed to shun “the other” in spite of the constraining economic consequences of protectionism. It’s rather unfortunate that we’re not instead programmed to be shun of the effects of easier, safer, more reliable, and more efficient robots. Call it a blind spot, but your average Joe would no more wage war against a forklift than his XBox. He simply wouldn’t know where to draw the line if he started down the rabbit hole of villainising any and all effort-conserving technologies.

Given that nationally and globally competitive manufacturers have every financial incentive to streamline and de-humanisei their processes, inevitably encouraging the replacement of 8h/d meat-robots with 24h/d digi-robots to the extent that credit is available for the initial capital outlay necessary to make this transition, the economicsii always justify meat-robot layoffs. And increasingly so for the last 180 years. So while I’ve little sympathy for government theft in general and income tax in particular, there’s little a factory owner can do to dodge this reality save build a castle, build a moat around it, and shoot tax collectors on-sight. Not only is this approach painfully expensive in the short-term, if no doubt cost-effective in the long-term, but it also makes scaling up production all the more challenging as the walls of the castle have to be moved and rebuilt to accommodate growing facilities within.

In any event, to the extent that full employmentiii is the obvious political objective of the times, and therefore the obvious policy objective of the times, adding a layer of taxes to robots will certainly discourage owners from hiring quite so many of them. If robot owners / leasers are taxed based on the incremental contribution to the factory’s productivity of each robot, and at fully twice that projected marginal rate so as to undeniably disincentivise robots without actually banning them while also buffering against willful underestimations of productivity enhancement by wily owners, then a more equitable calculus can begin to advance, one that tips the scales back towards meat-robots.

That being said, we obviously can’t just add regulations if we want to make a social impact, so we’ll have to remove a few as well starting with the minimum wage and child labour laws, in addition to any regulation regarding mandatory overtime pay, anything prohibiting “inappropriate” workplace behaviour, health insurance scammery, and “wrongful dismissal” shenanigans. These pieces of legislation do much to increase the bitching and complaining that gloomifies a workplace and manifestly little to improve productivity and employment. So they’re out.

What we’ll then be left with is a more level playing field between the analog and the digital. Yes, it’ll mean that all factories will have to start out at the same baseline level – sans robots – but then we’ll really see who wants to be Great.

___ ___ ___

  1. The essence of factories is de-humanisation. This is the ugly truth that MAGA would have you forget : that the engine of any productive and growing economy is the muscle, bone, sinew, and sacrificed soul of the working class. As many as it takes for as long as it takes, whether in Middle Ages China, Stalinist Russia or in Imperial America. The working class was never Great to begin with, nor could they ever be in any practical way. Menial work and dignity are mutually exclusive. Not even the fraudulent “scientists” of this last generation could, for all their billions of dollars and millions of lives wasted, pull off this bit of existential magic. Sucks, huh.
  2. Which is to say, the business case, or the #1 priority of all business owners. Only the government can make uneconomic decisions for extended periods of time. Perhaps TBTF idem but even they still have to pick the right horse lest their priviledged status become more trouble than it’s worth. Hey, no one said rent-seeking was risk-free.
  3. And none of the “but Pete we’re only at 5% unemployment” crap or having huge swathes of the population spending 30 years in retirement bullshit either. Full employment means that 90%+ of able-bodied individuals work at least 40 hours per week. Full stop. You can quit when you die or when you’re too physically worn down to continue working much less live another five years. Only then you can be Great. Not before. Not a solitary day before.

13 thoughts on “The robot tax.

  1. spyked says:

    > to the extent that full employment is the obvious political objective of the times

    And since we’re at it, it’s worth observing that this is a pretty poor political objective. Communists gave it a shot, and the results were laughable… at best.

    • Pete D. says:

      Any political objective other than “unto the best, the best” could be charitably described as pretty poor. It’s not just that everything else is the road to perdition, it’s that there are a million and one such desolate dead ends and such achingly short periods of respite in between them. The pendulum of fate never seems to swing back enough for long enough, at least for those lovers of creativity and excellence.

      Moderate fan of your blog btw. A comments section couldn’t hurt though.

  2. spyked says:

    > Moderate fan of your blog btw.

    Thank you for reading!

    > A comments section couldn’t hurt though.

    This has been on the back of my mind for more than two years now. I’m actually planning to have a very early version of that ready in the near future, and hopefully transition it towards a solution that removes the need for e.g. e-mail addresses.

    (A commenting system seems like a big deal after giving up WordPress.)

  3. spyked says:

    Yeah, that’s a good point. My concern is purely technical. WordPress uses name-email pairs internally to keep track of users who have commented before, so that it can decide whether it puts comments from previously-unseen emails in the moderation queue. This is somewhat of a first line against spam, among others, but the requirement is kinda ad-hoc (or arbitrary, at least).

    Making a blog from scratch gives me the opportunity to give these design decisions a second thought. For example I’m playing with the idea of allowing GPG-signed comments, although at the moment I’m wondering whether it’s worth the trouble — for the commenters more than myself. I’ll just have to try and see.

    • Pete D. says:

      Hash: SHA512

      GPG-signed comments work just fine in WP. Not much value in reinventing the wheel. Next you’re going to tell me you’re starting an altcoin :)

      But regardless of which way you go, it’d be worth publishing whatever code you’re happy with in the end. Given how bloated WP has become, a simple and sane alternative would certainly find a niche.


  4. spyked says:

    That’s a good point, they do work fine (and I’d never think of replacing GPG with anything). :D But what if the blogging software could let a comment skip moderation based on whether it was signed with a key it knows? It certainly beats today’s spam filters, though granted, MP’s anti-spam is pretty nifty. The only question is whether this GPG-based solution isn’t too much bloat for a blog and too much of a hassle for commenters.

    I’m planning to publish some really ugly code soon, along with a running prototype on my blog. This discussion helped me figure out that I need a place for comments before making an actual RFC. :)

    • Pete D. says:

      The biggest issue I can see with a blog knowing keys is that they have to be fed in manually, not to mention that with the recent death of SHA1 and GPG Fingerprints along with it, you’re really only left with cumbersome pubkey blocks as a viable input mechanism, which the presence of alone in a comments section would be exceptionally untidy, even if it would only have to happen once.

      Anyways, always happy to hash out ideas. Cheers.

  5. […] his campaign promises (unlike *ahem*). So it is that a border wall and taxes of all manner and all description are coming soon to a pocketbook near you. It’s the American […]

  6. […] scenario. Maybe you think that timeline too hopeful – that you’ll be replaced with robots or culled in a pogrom long before then – but I’m either naively optimistic or just […]

  7. […] The robots tookurjerbs!!! Hats off to lobbes for the fine work. Let the bots do the drudgery, even if it was kinda fun drudgery. [↩] […]

  8. Pete D. says:

    Three years later and none less than Mark Cuban is reading from this exact “robot-tax-to-reduce-unemployment-and-bring-back-manufacturing-to-uhmerica” playbook. What a time to be alive.

  9. […] the American “glory days” of the 1950s since these new 21st century facilities will be largely automated, human labour and ingenuity will still be required to design and build all these new factories and […]

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