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.
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- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]
- 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. [↩]