Author Topic: Taxation of Robots  (Read 14052 times)

Seriati

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Taxation of Robots
« on: February 24, 2017, 10:10:51 AM »
I was reading an article the other day and came across a quote from Bill Gates advocating that robots that replace human workers should be subject to taxation.  Has anyone else seen this or something similar?  The simple logic of it makes sense, replacing a human worker lowers the tax base, taxing the replacement robot recovers some of that difference.  Effectively, its premised on the same idea as environmental regulation, forcing a producer to internalize what would otherwise be externalized costs of their decision.  In this case, forcing them to make whole the community with respect to tax revenue lost by replacing the human. 

It's not perfect of course, it's only a partial economic mitigation as there is no replacement for the income being spent in the community and the accumulating additional taxes that generates.  It would definitely slow the rate of replacement and innovation and may in fringe cases delay what would otherwise be a cost effective replacement (with both good and bad follow on effects).  Still it seemed to me to be a new potential solution the problem.  Any thoughts?

stilesbn

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2017, 10:33:47 AM »
My first question is, what defines a robot?

I'm guessing a burger machine will qualify. But what about a conveyor belt? Or the already existing robotic arms in car assembly (Or am I just making that up in my mind from futuristic commercials?)

cherrypoptart

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2017, 10:42:04 AM »
It would be against everything we stand for as Americans to tax robots.

Unless they are given the right to vote first.

NobleHunter

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 11:05:57 AM »
Seems like it might be like a property tax. It'd help encourage effective use of robots and discourage complacency.

TheDrake

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2017, 11:37:00 AM »
I'm guessing Bill doesn't feel the same about AI and information workers, unless he's volunteered to tax Azure.

It would be a great plan if you want to see even automated manufacture move offshore.

Second, robots and the companies who provide them are being taxed, both corporate income tax and sales tax in some states. The electricity they are using is taxed.

Finally, this premise assumes that workers losing their jobs aren't retraining and getting other kinds of jobs AND that other workers aren't getting higher paying jobs (like robot design and maintenance), nor are you looking at lowered prices for goods created by automation.

Imagine if this had been in place during Amazons expansion into automated warehouses, and if the US would have had higher or lower tax revenue overall had it been curtailed. Let alone improvements in quality of life for the average American.

NobleHunter

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2017, 11:43:06 AM »
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Finally, this premise assumes that workers losing their jobs aren't retraining and getting other kinds of jobs AND that other workers aren't getting higher paying jobs (like robot design and maintenance), nor are you looking at lowered prices for goods created by automation.
Eventually, there will be nothing to be retrained for.

And AI constructs would eventually be included in this kind of tax as well. They'd be like robots for more abstract work.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2017, 11:50:23 AM »
Easier solution is just move to a VAT rather than a sales or income tax if you're going down that path. Then you don't need to go through the gymnastics of working out how to tax a robot over jobs lost vs jobs created.

Besides, it is the employee who needs/uses government services, not the robot.

Other related infrastructure is covered by other means in general.

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2017, 12:24:42 PM »
I'm guessing Bill doesn't feel the same about AI and information workers, unless he's volunteered to tax Azure.

Good point, that'd be an all time backfire, lol.

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It would be a great plan if you want to see even automated manufacture move offshore.

I think you'd need to be proactive about taxing those imports as well.  I feel like we're at (or past) a cross roads where we have to decide what we are going to expect people to actually do in a post-labor world. 

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Second, robots and the companies who provide them are being taxed, both corporate income tax and sales tax in some states. The electricity they are using is taxed.

Of course they are.  The point of this though is that by eliminating human labor they are eliminating substantial amounts of income tax that would otherwise accrue to governments in that area, not to mention all the knock on local taxes. 

The taxes you list apply to all companies, the ones we're discussing only apply to human worker companies.  If you think about it, what's the point in having an income tax?  It's not to punish workers, its to pay for certain governmental services, so if a company finds a way to eliminate payments to worker and hence that tax payment, does it mean the governmental services disappear?  The same logic that let you tax the workers to pay for the services, implies that you would find a new tax to generate the revenue to continue the services, does it not?  All this solution does is attempt to wed that tax directly to the parties that caused the original elimination of revenue.

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Finally, this premise assumes that workers losing their jobs aren't retraining and getting other kinds of jobs AND that other workers aren't getting higher paying jobs (like robot design and maintenance), nor are you looking at lowered prices for goods created by automation.

I'm not looking at lowered prices - agreed - that's the economics argument for eliminating all tariffs and allowing for the complete offshoring of production, and it makes sense, at least until you realize its little more than the classic prisoners dilemma and ends up with all production moving out and all workers replaced by robots, who then buys the cheaper products and where do they get the money to do so?  Maybe we should consider whether we want it to be an obligation of business to generate both jobs and products.  Should there be a tax incentive for a positive Delta in job creation and average worker salary increases?   

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Imagine if this had been in place during Amazons expansion into automated warehouses, and if the US would have had higher or lower tax revenue overall had it been curtailed. Let alone improvements in quality of life for the average American.

Yep, Amazon led to lower prices and all it cost us is a dramatic decline in big box retailers, which in turn eliminated what millions of jobs?  But we got cheaper prices (not dramatically so mind you, just 5-10% less) in turn for that.  Was that really a good trade?  Hard to really gauge all the knock on effects and impacts objectively.

Pete at Home

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2017, 01:38:24 PM »
Given that the primary undisputed role of the federal government is to secure our borders from foreign aggression, and given that the fed has taken on the responsibility of linking up the country with freeways, etc., creating access, a federal real estate tax would seem proper.

Pete at Home

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #9 on: February 24, 2017, 01:40:09 PM »
My first question is, what defines a robot?

I'm guessing a burger machine will qualify. But what about a conveyor belt? Or the already existing robotic arms in car assembly (Or am I just making that up in my mind from futuristic commercials?)

What about flush toilets?  Think of all the chamber-pot carrying maids that could be employed carrying our poop!

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2017, 02:04:27 PM »
My first question is, what defines a robot?

I'm guessing a burger machine will qualify. But what about a conveyor belt? Or the already existing robotic arms in car assembly (Or am I just making that up in my mind from futuristic commercials?)

What about flush toilets?  Think of all the chamber-pot carrying maids that could be employed carrying our poop!

Don't forget forklifts, just think how many dockworkers were let go because 1 guy in a forklift could do in 30 seconds what would have taken 6 guys several minutes, at best, to achieve.

Which also leads into front end loaders, bulldozers, dump trucks, and other assorted equipment. That one guy with a Cat D-10 is performing more work in an hour than 20 men would have been able to do in a day.

Trains put a lot of teamsters out work in the 19th Century, and continue to keep Truck Drivers(the Teamsters modern day incarnation) out of a lot of work. Of course, that Truck Driver also put a number of teamsters out of work, time to bring back the horse drawn carriage. Then we can have several wagon teams employed to perform the same work it currently take 1 guy behind the wheel of an 18 wheeler to do.

Also think of the knock-on impact it would have, those horse teams would need to eat, they'll need harnesses, horseshoes, and someone is going to have to clean up their "leavings" on the public roadways. Of course, the fact that a horse team is also much slower than that guy in an 18 wheeler means we need even more people employed just because of the whole time aspect of things. So instead of 1 guy making a daily trip, you're now dealing with several sets of wagon teams making trips which span several days.

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #11 on: February 24, 2017, 02:58:12 PM »
You guys say that facetiously, but in a future where no one actually needs to work, is there any reason we couldn't bring back defunct occupations for personal enjoyment?  If someone really wanted to deliver products by horse drawn carriage could we not back out a few loads from the auto drone deliveries for them?

Now, if you automate all physical labor and all easy mental labor, what exactly do people who don't have the brain power to do high end design or programming do for a living? 

We're approaching a potential event horizon, in the past the elimination of an industry usually spawned new opportunities for employees sometimes with a little retraining cost, but it hasn't always been the case.  Out of work coal miners and production line employees can almost never find an equivalent or better job, they don't exist for people with that skill set.  The "replacement" jobs that they have available are steep discounts to their prior work.  What happens when all industries are modernized to the point where they do not create sufficient new opportunities? 

Who's hiring high school grads for wages that put them in the middle class?  Sounds crazy to even ask yet it's been the rule for most of our history.

NobleHunter

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2017, 03:07:27 PM »
Think of how many accountants excel drove out of the business.

TheDrake

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2017, 04:04:02 PM »
The "replacement" jobs that they have available are steep discounts to their prior work.  What happens when all industries are modernized to the point where they do not create sufficient new opportunities? 

It is possible. Even my own job in machine learning and acceleration could disappear if the algorithms get better than me at training themselves. But I daresay I'm on pretty safe ground.

IF that happens, there's no need to obfuscate things with a specific tax favoring one industry over another and creating an army of lawyers prepared to fight over "Robot? Not a robot." You just go ahead and say, "ROBOTS! Take care of us." Money ceases to have meaning, the end.

DJQuag

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #14 on: February 24, 2017, 05:29:15 PM »
It'll probably look like a minimum guaranteed income for everyone, enough to live comfortably, but not in luxury. A housing benefit system like they have in the UK would also be necessary. Anyone who wanted luxuries or a fancy house or car could put in the work and/or training to try and get that.

At the point that only true geniuses can do enough to earn those extras, we're probably at the point where money is meaningless and we're living in a Star Trek economy.

I agree with others here. The day where there really aren't enough jobs for everyone is coming fast. Faster then a lot would assume. We may in fact be in the earliest days of it.

The major hurdle will be getting people to drop the conservative ideal that "he's getting a free lunch," is a horrible thing.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #15 on: February 24, 2017, 06:00:33 PM »
Taxing robots is ludicrous, and I wonder whether Gates knows it when he says that. Taxing any implement of production would be no different logically than taxing a more sophisticated implement called a "robot". By saying a robot should be taxed Gates is (perhaps inadvertently) really just announcing that there is no good solution to human obsolescence.. Maybe he even realizes the irony that making such a suggestion about how to save it is really a funny way of saying it can't be saved; at least,not without a complete restructuring, including something like a basic income.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #16 on: February 24, 2017, 06:27:43 PM »
The "problem" right now is that "baseline services" are the hardest ones to automate. But yeah, in principle, once they're able to nearly fully automate the food production/harvesting process, we're going to be making a huge step in that direction.

But until we can automate the harvesting of practically all fruits and vegetables from the plant itself, we're not at the point of a UBI. Once that bar clears, the game changes considerably, and we're getting closer to that particular tipping point every day.

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2017, 11:24:05 AM »
It'll probably look like a minimum guaranteed income for everyone, enough to live comfortably, but not in luxury.

Except there's a massive transition problem.  Specifically, we're separated into haves and have nots, with those who own the companies and install the robots ending up with all the wealth.  How do you get the wealth to everyone else?  Minimum income will actually make the problem worse not better, because it will all flow from the recipients right back to the haves through the purchase of their robot produced products.  In order for it to do otherwise there would have to be a reason for the have nots to trade with the have nots.

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The major hurdle will be getting people to drop the conservative ideal that "he's getting a free lunch," is a horrible thing.

I don't think morality will be the "major hurdle" that's a bit of a leftist meme.  The major hurdle is going to be the out right theft it would take to create such a system (ie the government nationalizing the means of production), and the follow on social engineering that it will lead to.  When the government controls all the resources and issues you everything according to your "needs," oppressive fascism is the natural result.

TheDrake

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2017, 11:45:40 AM »
Realizing the alternative is massive social unrest, death, destruction of property, and their own overthrow, I suspect the power elite will find a way to give enough of "their stuff" back to avoid that catastrophe. Much like that was done after the depression under FDR.

Then there's voluntary transfer of wealth. Just check out the list on givingpledge.org. Even Ayn Rand couldn't argue with billionaires giving away their money because that was what they most wanted to do.

A couple hundred billionaires could fuel a whole lot of basic income, and single-handedly change the nature of humanity's economics.

FYI - Trump isn't on the list. Not sure if that's because he doesn't qualify. :P

There wouldn't be any trade with the people lacking and unable to acquire marketable skills in the new economic order. It would be straight up charity for the health and stability of the society.

I suspect it is far more likely that we would follow the ruinous luddite path of "restricting" jobs for humans. Especially in vehicles. It will be very soon that the AI can drive more safely than the average human, but you can already see the bar being set at "flawless and even then requiring human oversight".

Conceptually, that isn't much different from basic income (paying somebody and not receiving value in return). It just makes people feel better about it, just like the "robot tax".



Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2017, 01:46:45 PM »
Conceptually, that isn't much different from basic income (paying somebody and not receiving value in return). It just makes people feel better about it, just like the "robot tax".

I actually contest the 'accepted wisdom' that people feel better if they 'earn' their money doing useless work. Keynes said that economically it makes far more sense to cut a check than to employ people to dig ditches, and in my experience people experience a very depressed result from doing work that they feel has no value or where what they do is of no importance. In contrast, people seem to be quite happy doing nothing if they can actually get by. There are no doubt some workaholics who would want to do some kind of work no matter what, but overall pretending to employ people when their labor is truly not needed is, in my opinion, a needless cruelty.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2017, 02:22:19 PM »
Realizing the alternative is massive social unrest, death, destruction of property, and their own overthrow, I suspect the power elite will find a way to give enough of "their stuff" back to avoid that catastrophe. Much like that was done after the depression under FDR.

Agreed. Enough of them are smart enough that they'll find ways to offset things, and as automation options improve, they're going to become increasingly capable of doing more at less cost to themselves.

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Then there's voluntary transfer of wealth. Just check out the list on givingpledge.org. Even Ayn Rand couldn't argue with billionaires giving away their money because that was what they most wanted to do.

This is another big factor in play, and hardly new, as well. They set aside enough to allow their posterity to "live comfortably" but most of the fortune they personally created will ultimately end up being distributed through various charities. (That their posterity may be able to get very comfortable paid positions working for)

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A couple hundred billionaires could fuel a whole lot of basic income, and single-handedly change the nature of humanity's economics.

Not quite yet, Warren Buffet couldn't single handedly fund the Federal Food Stamp program for a year even if he wanted to. The total annual federal budget would wipe out most of the top 1%, and keep in mind, the 1% threshold isn't in the millions of dollars.

But with automation becoming increasingly comprehensive, cheaper, and more pervasive, it is becoming possible that they could structure programs and initiatives such that they could set things in motion which eventually results in a UBI being the end result through a combined government/charitable process. But that also means the charities themselves would likely need to be "vertically integrated" so I guess this becomes a case where people looking at pursuing such a path need to look at the model the LDS Church pursues with its welfare program.

Depending on just how efficient the automation processes are, they may still need to divert some resources towards a profit motive--to fund expansions, and what little human labor continues to be needed. But otherwise I could certainly see some largely self-sufficient and self-sustaining "Feed the masses" efforts gaining traction within the next 20 to 50 years, thanks to robots.

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There wouldn't be any trade with the people lacking and unable to acquire marketable skills in the new economic order. It would be straight up charity for the health and stability of the society.

The only real issues with few good solutions I see in this department is going to be housing. Both the construction, and the maintenance thereof. Entertainment is also something of a concern, but less of one than some would think, so long as they don't try to repeat the mistakes of HUD back in the 1950's and 60's, "green space" so they have somewhere to go is going to be important.

Electricity(power) is another concern, but that one runs down so many different potential "future paths" its hard to call what will happen there. From breakthroughs in battery technologies changing how we view(and use) the power grid, to Fusion Power becoming more than a pie in the sky(and we're much closer now, although it's probably still another $200-ish Billion of smart spending on research on that front before it gets anywhere near commercial use, and the current spending isn't very smart in some respect, the current (and under construction) projects, are still using (super-)Conduction technologies from the 1960's. They're not using the newer stuff developed in the past 10 to 15 years.

Solar power still has a lot of potential, it is more of a supplemental/efficiency item than anything else. Wind power has other more exotic options that are being pursued to varying degrees which may impact things in big way. And depending on how well the newer (future) iterations of those technologies progress, it is possible that they'll help considerably in addressing any potential future energy crisis.

Of course, then there is Nuclear Power, be it U-238, U-235, Thorium, or "Breeder"(Plutonium) Reactors. But with what happened in Japan, I think it's going to be another 15 to 30 years before many parts of the world start to view it seriously again, by which time we might have Fusion Power "solved."

But where the "have nots" are concerned, unless the energy situation goes downhill rapidly and unexpectedly, which is something I seriously doubt at this point. I think they'll likely end up being subsidized by the rate payers(and government programs/charities) that can afford to do so, whether those rate payers want to or not.

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I suspect it is far more likely that we would follow the ruinous luddite path of "restricting" jobs for humans. Especially in vehicles. It will be very soon that the AI can drive more safely than the average human, but you can already see the bar being set at "flawless and even then requiring human oversight".

Of course, we've more or less had a comparable thing going on in the Airline industry for years now. most of the newer commercial jets are "Fly by wire" the cockpit is fully virtual, unlike most cars. The computer is fully capable of flying that airplane, and often does. The pilot is simply there as a "just in case" thing, or to otherwise handle airports that aren't setup for Instrument Landing.

Of course, the taxiways in airports are their own ball of wax..

As someone currently working as a Truck Driver, I can tell you that when it comes to self-driving cars, that is something I'd love to see sooner, rather than later. Particularly so every time I have someone cut me off on the freeway. Of course, being aware that the self-driving car means they're that much closer to the self-driving big-rig makes it a luke-warm proposition all the same.

As that truck driver, and someone who uses a lot of the underlying tech that would serve as a foundation for that self-driving vehicle. I can also attest to the matter that the self-driving vehicles are going to have a lot more ground to cover on the infamous "last mile" part of the trip. Big rigs add other complicating factors, as you're dealing with multiple vehicles in ever changing combinations. The on board computer is going to have a hard time visually inspecting, and physically connecting things at present. (Although small flying Drones can address the visual inspection)

And even en-route, the underlying tech can, and often does have issues. Even the maps for commercial use often contain mapping data that is several years out of date.

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Conceptually, that isn't much different from basic income (paying somebody and not receiving value in return). It just makes people feel better about it, just like the "robot tax".

The human operator/supervisor overseeing operation of an otherwise automated system isn't without precedent. Power plants of all types have had them for decades, computers may have reduced the number of people needed, but they still have people manning consoles. As already mentioned, the airlines have other examples with the pilots. What that human oversight provides is the "oh s---" contingency when things start to happen which fall outside the scope of what the automated system(s) are prepared to handle. Of course, it also provides a handy excuse of providing someone that is much easier to blame for what went wrong as well.

TheDrake

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2017, 02:43:44 PM »
Conceptually, that isn't much different from basic income (paying somebody and not receiving value in return). It just makes people feel better about it, just like the "robot tax".

I actually contest the 'accepted wisdom' that people feel better if they 'earn' their money doing useless work.... pretending to employ people when their labor is truly not needed is, in my opinion, a needless cruelty.

I meant that it makes the other people feel better, not the ones getting dollars.


TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2017, 02:44:13 PM »
Keynes said that economically it makes far more sense to cut a check than to employ people to dig ditches, and in my experience people experience a very depressed result from doing work that they feel has no value or where what they do is of no importance.


Personal experience would testify very strongly of that. Salaried people in particular can get very testy when they're placed in a "make work" scenario that they know is what's going on. Even the hourly people are not immune to doing so, although they're more likely to be happy about the larger paycheck so they'll tolerate a lot more of it.

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In contrast, people seem to be quite happy doing nothing if they can actually get by.

There are limits to that, I spent a little over a year essentially as "The Maytag Repairman" sitting around at a desk waiting for "something to happen." It was its own very unique form of hell. Probably more so because I was restricted as to what I could do while "at work" as it was.

Of course, this gets to what the person is having to do in order to get the check. If they're free to go and do whatever they please, the calculus changes a fair bit.

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There are no doubt some workaholics who would want to do some kind of work no matter what, but overall pretending to employ people when their labor is truly not needed is, in my opinion, a needless cruelty.

There are a few different tiers to that in my experience, and I know full well where I sit on that spectrum. I know I'm not "a workaholic" in many senses of the term. But I've known many people who are, but they're not most people. Those are the ones that the economists would readily point to as a demonstration of "labor seeking work where work is available" because they'll pursue that work as an end unto itself.

Then there are the ones where the work they happen to be doing also happens to overlap with "their passion"/hobby interests, so while they're hard at work, they don't truly view it as work. For them it might as well be viewed as either entertainment or therapeutic. I've also known more than a few people in that group, on occasion, I've even been in that group myself, sadly only for brief periods of time.

In a full fledged and sustainable UBI scenario, most (new) economic activity would be happening at the hands of the people who are either simply driven to work, or the people who have the means and opportunity to work at things that interest them. Which could result in some truly amazing things happening, depending on just how much access "the average person" has to various things. When/if we manage to work that transition well, we'll be looking at the potentially seeing millions of Neo-Renaissance People(men?) going about doing their own little respective things which could prove to be highly disruptive and transformative in other unanticipated ways.

But UBI is not sustainable at this time.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2017, 02:49:55 PM »
But UBI is not sustainable at this time.

I agree with the rest of your post except this bit. Not that I'm 100% saying it is sustainable, but I don't think the proper calculus has been done in good faith to see whether it really would be. A considerable part of the nation economy is simply squandered in my opinion, and having monies tied up in arguably corrupted sectors doesn't strike me as being equivalent to saying that it's 'not available.' I would have no problem tearing those sectors to shreds rather than face a slow build-up of discontent and non-functionality. I personally believe in preemptive action, even though in reality nothing will probably change unless it's too late for it not to. Entrenched interests will keeping fighting to maintain the status quo until it's no longer profitable for them to do so, and then suddenly everything will switch in a flurry to the new way, probably done improperly because of the need to expedite the process and because by then the vested interests will have found a way to hook the system up to fit their needs.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2017, 03:07:50 PM »
1) UBI is non-sustainable at this time because there is a lot of things automation cannot yet address.

2) It is not sustainable because nobody has worked out a viable "housing solution" that doesn't result in slums.

3) It is not sustainable because there is a "scope" issue in regards to the "edge case" professions.

Until and unless Universal is just that, Universal, meaning everyone(that's legal at least), it is going to create further problems.

#1 is the big problem, although addressing #3 would likely take a lot of "the sting" out.

Really we're talking about reforms to many baseline-aspects of the welfare-state, which is actually something I'd be agreeable to. Ironically, this could help employ more people in some ways.

The perverse dis-incentive to work that many government programs generate really needs to be seriously looked at and retooled. So I guess I do support a form of UBI being implemented now, but I guess I'm looking more at it as a "supplemental income" at this point rather than an outright income by itself. Fully subsidized living on the government dime(or anyone else) isn't sustainable for any significant portion of the population at this time. It just creates a different kind of "have and have not."

The other concern is the inflationary pressures such changes would likely induce. As people's standard of living improves, the range of things they consume increases, which in turn increases demand for more resource intensive goods, which will typically lead to increased costs at least until supply improves to match the new level of demand.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2017, 04:09:11 PM »
2) It is not sustainable because nobody has worked out a viable "housing solution" that doesn't result in slums.

I think listing this as a problem is jumping ahead to what UBI suggests about the future, which is a Star Trek society where all mundane labor is irrelevant and somehow goods and property must be rationed out in some arbitrary manner. But in the here and now a UBI would simply be funds going into people's pockets, and where they live is still up to them and the market to determine. There would be no 'rationing' issue with housing any more than there is now, other than that prices would likely inflate slightly in some areas accounting for slightly higher income levels, whereas in other areas it might actually depress in order to try to squeeze into the niche where poorer people who previously couldn't afford might now be able to. But either way it wouldn't be an issue requiring central solutions.

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Fully subsidized living on the government dime(or anyone else) isn't sustainable for any significant portion of the population at this time. It just creates a different kind of "have and have not."

The problem is that the previous method of 'determining' who would end up a has or a has-not is going to be less and less logistically relevant. In fact there was no method at all if we want to look at it purely as an economic system; some people 'got to be' the haves through all sorts of ways, and it was never decided in any conscious sense. This is slightly untrue, but only insofar as the haves consistently try to bend legislation and the functioning of government to favor them, and so there is a conscious will at work going in their favor, just a decentralized one. In the future, though, as production capabilities continue to increase and robots can do many jobs, there will neither be an historical reason nor a practical reason for those people to actually be 'haves' at all, other than they already are. Someone is an owner because they're an owner; something like that. I've been looking at the real estate market around where I live lately looking for a house, and it's amazing how many rental properties (including duplexes) are ready-made money machines, and all that's required to get the 'free money' is to own them, plus a little bit of maintenance work. This was a bit of a sidetrack, but my main point is there's no technological reason anymore why there must actually be 'have-nots'. There only are because of systemic inertia and other levers that keep them there to an extent. There is enough food and place for everyone at present. They don't have it purely because there is no way for them to get it. Now, as to whether certain parties should have more than the basic amount, that's an open question - both philosophically and systemically.

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The other concern is the inflationary pressures such changes would likely induce. As people's standard of living improves, the range of things they consume increases, which in turn increases demand for more resource intensive goods, which will typically lead to increased costs at least until supply improves to match the new level of demand.

In theory injecting raw cash into the system ought to make conditions excellent for vendors, and it's not necessarily true that prices across the board would inflate as a result. It depends on what's being consumed. Currently the demand for goods is exceeding low in retail for instance, but it's not really the case that the price of goods has fluctuated to directly match the low demand. Likewise, I don't think the consumer would accept a significant price hike if they all started to receive a basic income. I suspect the market would put a lot of that money into foodstuffs and paying rent, and for the middle class and above, it might increase the market for luxury goods (which is suffering right now), but I don't know that the price will magically inflate for things like that either.

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #26 on: February 27, 2017, 05:10:22 PM »
I agree with the rest of your post except this bit. Not that I'm 100% saying it is sustainable, but I don't think the proper calculus has been done in good faith to see whether it really would be.

Why do you guys keep asserting this argument?  Communism hasn't worked anywhere its been tried.  While we're heading towards a labor reduction if not an all out collapse, we're definitely not to the place where no jobs need doing.  Trying to inject freeform communism into a capitalistic economy creates arbuably the worst combination of incentives possible.  You get runaway inflation and devalued capital (with real goods moving only on the black market and not being willing transferred for the compromised currency), you get price controls which absolutely undermines the entire point of giving people capital (which is supposed to allow for the best utilities to arise), it preserves and in fact accelerates all the same mechanisms that caused capital to flow to the haves in the first place.

Not to mention it's never functioned without a real source of capital injection from outside the closed system, otherwise there's no real value generated and the trades end up being fake at best.

2) It is not sustainable because nobody has worked out a viable "housing solution" that doesn't result in slums.

I think listing this as a problem is jumping ahead to what UBI suggests about the future, which is a Star Trek society where all mundane labor is irrelevant and somehow goods and property must be rationed out in some arbitrary manner. But in the here and now a UBI would simply be funds going into people's pockets, and where they live is still up to them and the market to determine. There would be no 'rationing' issue with housing any more than there is now, other than that prices would likely inflate slightly in some areas accounting for slightly higher income levels, whereas in other areas it might actually depress in order to try to squeeze into the niche where poorer people who previously couldn't afford might now be able to. But either way it wouldn't be an issue requiring central solutions.

Fenring, slums are the inevitable result of this.  Builders will design specifically to eat up the basic income you make available.  If you want to see it in real time, take a look at college tuitions and how they've increased faster than inflation - but in close symmetry to federal guarantees of financial aid.  Giving everyone a million bucks, will not give everyone the economic power of a millionaire, it'll just make millionaires the new poverty line.  The more you give the faster the currency becomes worthless.

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The problem is that the previous method of 'determining' who would end up a has or a has-not is going to be less and less logistically relevant.

The real problem is you live in a society with property rights, and the only way you achieve your goals is to nationalize property.  How do you encourage anyone to work, or do more, when they face the very real risk of having the benefits nationalized?

The idea that most people are only rich by random luck, is purely a liberal fantasy.  It's never been the case.  Systems that provide for the most social mobility are the best way to "correct" the relative wealth of the people in them.  If you can make a fortune, then its on you to do so.  On the other hand UBI based systems and the Star Trek economy provide for almost no ability to change your social class.  When everyone is on the dole, we're all just dolists.  When you kill every power base but the government, then the government is the only game in town.  It's no accident that in communist countries, membership in the party is the primary determinant of your lot in life.

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In theory injecting raw cash into the system ought to make conditions excellent for vendors, and it's not necessarily true that prices across the board would inflate as a result.

That's a misunderstanding of theory.  Injections are only worthwhile if they don't deflate the currency, full stop.  The idea that vendors come out ahead by having their assets converted into worthless currency, and their cash reserves devalued is not rational.

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Likewise, I don't think the consumer would accept a significant price hike if they all started to receive a basic income. I suspect the market would put a lot of that money into foodstuffs and paying rent, and for the middle class and above, it might increase the market for luxury goods (which is suffering right now), but I don't know that the price will magically inflate for things like that either.

You don't have a free market in communism, because you don't end up with a worthwhile currency those transactions end up not doing what you want them to do (ie move goods to efficient uses).  Prices in the fake currency do rise dramatically and the government acts to put in price controls then you end up with a black market.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 05:12:35 PM by Seriati »

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #27 on: February 27, 2017, 07:13:57 PM »
Strawman, Seriati. What is being proposed has zero to do with communism, communal property, nationalizing assets, or eliminating the free market. More later when I have time.

yossarian22c

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #28 on: February 27, 2017, 08:31:25 PM »
I am for a UBI currently.  However with the current demand and need for labor I would set it at about $7,500 per year per adult.  A married couple with no kids could survive pretty easily in an area with low cost of living however they could afford few luxuries and probably couldn't have fancy phones, data plans, and cable.  However most people aren't going to opt for the minimalist existence and will continue working with the UBI providing a nice supplement.  The only people I really see quitting jobs/working less for a UBI of $7,500 per year are: parents who want to transition from a two worker to a one worker household to raise their own kids, people who want to move to the country and have a large garden/grow their own food, people who work multiple jobs at minimum wage may drop down to just one job, and a few people who really hate working and don't mind being poor.  The majority of society would keep working. 

With a UBI I would phase out most other federal support, section 8, food stamps, and other non health care related aid. 

A UBI that did this would satisfy one of the very valid, if sometimes deliberately implemented, criticism that the right has of many federal assistance programs in that they make people dependent and discourage hard work.  Currently the programs are set up to either phase out or have a cliff where if people earn too much they may actually lose more in benefits than their additional earnings which sets up all kinds of negative incentives and feedbacks.  A UBI still rewards those who work with an improving life but provides a baseline that should keep people (at least those without mental health or substance abuse problems) off the streets.  A UBI would also encourage two-parent and multi generational homes (which many current programs discourage due to the cut off levels).  Homelessness should be all but eliminated, local charities, cities and states should be able to provide enough services and people with a minimal UBI that no one would be living off the streets and begging.  Forced prostitution, low level drug dealers (who make little money for high risk standing on street corners), and some other crimes for income would be reduced with a UBI.

I would index the UBI to increase with the unemployment rate, if the unemployment rate is high the UBI would increase at a greater percentage if the unemployment rate is low (near "full employment") the UBI would increase at or below inflation. 

I also see a UBI as a way to prop up and sustain rural communities.  Every community has to export (in goods and services) as much as they import.  It is difficult for small communities to have many competitive advantages but a UBI particularly rewards those who live in low cost of living areas.  A poor person in the mountains of West Virginia is going to be better off than a poor person in NYC.  The UBI is a way to put cash back into the rural areas and give entrepreneurial members of those communities the ability to start businesses that can provide services to others in the community who now have a bit more income to spend.

Getting the level right on a UBI is a bit tough, but starting relatively small and increasing as needed (as robots/AI displace more workers) is the only way I see to prevent society from decaying into a technological feudalism.

Gaoics79

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #29 on: February 27, 2017, 09:09:03 PM »
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Fenring, slums are the inevitable result of this.  Builders will design specifically to eat up the basic income you make available.  If you want to see it in real time, take a look at college tuitions and how they've increased faster than inflation - but in close symmetry to federal guarantees of financial aid.  Giving everyone a million bucks, will not give everyone the economic power of a millionaire, it'll just make millionaires the new poverty line.  The more you give the faster the currency becomes worthless.

This is always the thought in the back of my mind when we're talking about universal basic income. I don't pretend to know much about economics, but I always wonder: if everyone has got that extra cash in their pockets, don't prices just increase to vacuum up the excess?

NobleHunter

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #30 on: February 27, 2017, 09:36:44 PM »
This is always the thought in the back of my mind when we're talking about universal basic income. I don't pretend to know much about economics, but I always wonder: if everyone has got that extra cash in their pockets, don't prices just increase to vacuum up the excess?
The argument is that production would increase before prices do. If one stores doubles their prices and another store doubles its products, they'd both be selling the same value in terms of cash but one would be markedly more successful than the other. Prices would only tend to go up if sellers couldn't get more product to sell.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #31 on: February 27, 2017, 10:02:12 PM »
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Fenring, slums are the inevitable result of this.  Builders will design specifically to eat up the basic income you make available.  If you want to see it in real time, take a look at college tuitions and how they've increased faster than inflation - but in close symmetry to federal guarantees of financial aid.  Giving everyone a million bucks, will not give everyone the economic power of a millionaire, it'll just make millionaires the new poverty line.  The more you give the faster the currency becomes worthless.

This is always the thought in the back of my mind when we're talking about universal basic income. I don't pretend to know much about economics, but I always wonder: if everyone has got that extra cash in their pockets, don't prices just increase to vacuum up the excess?

The example given is valid, but also partly invalid. If you gave everyone a Million dollars per interval, be yet every 10 years, year, or monthly, then it does become a new poverty line.

If it was "a one time deal" it doesn't necessarily become a new poverty line, although it would be (short term) inflationary all the same. However, it also would fail at correcting the problem as most of those who received the $1mil would quickly expend it(at greatly reduced purchasing power), and quickly find themselves back in roughly the same place they started in, just with more things. However, a lot of other people would be able to hold that money, and build from there. A not insignificant number of people would be able to cash in big time during a potential "seller's market" as would happen in such a situation. The people who could hold out the longest on buying anything during that time frame would be the ones who gained the most(as they're able to start buying after the crash that would follow).

If it is a recurring deal, then it becomes the "new normal," and while some people might make out in the intial distribution splurges that follow, after that, mobility becomes static once more and things "normalize" with $1million being the new baseline.

Which is part of that balancing act. A Basic Income at this point is premature for a number of reasons, but a supplement isn't necessarily disruptive in any meaningful destructive manner.

Food stamps would probably be a big example of this, for all real intents, everybody is able to buy(or otherwise obtain) food in the United States. As such, it wouldn't be entirely outside the realm of reason to basically put practically the entire United States Population on food stamps and essentially remove the "means testing" part from the equation.

We could reduce administrative costs, as people would no longer need to apply for them, we'd no longer need to worry about many forms of fraud associated with it(including but not limited "off the books" earnings), and a number of other things. Mind, it wouldn't fully eliminate all administrative and abuse detection/prevention aspects, but it would deal with a number of them quite handily.

It also creates that follow on effect of allowing more families in the lower income brackets to either increase the quality/quantity of the food they buy because of the extra money they now have(as they were barely ineligible for food stamps previously), or they can instead choose to use their earned income on other things. Maybe a better home, or repairs to the family car, maybe a new(used) family car, so on and so forth. Of course, that also is an example of how one change can have a "follow on" impact. Albeit, that would be a dispersed one.

Some families will improve the quality/quantity of the food they buy, which will slightly inflate things on the food supply side. Other families/households will instead spend that money on "other things" which could range from durable household goods, to Playstations and Xboxes to Cars, Boats, ATV's, and Snowmobiles.

The issue there is the amount of money that is distributed, checking with the USDA:
https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/CostofFoodJan2017.pdf
Men evidently cost more to feed, not surprising, as they're generally larger physically. Somehow, the USDA thinks it costs more to feed a couple than it does to feed a single person? That runs against most of the finance and economics stuff I'm aware of. But they do agree that once we're dealing with multiple children plus a 2 parent household, food costs per person generally decreases.

Which creates the first stumbling block. So we decide to implement "Universal Food Stamps" as step 1 of an eventual long-term phase in for a comprehensive UBI. How do you address the issue of not creating a twisted "profit motive" for growing your household by whatever means to get an ever larger food subsidy?

The Foster-care system actually presents an indirect comparison in this regard, and would likely be one such avenue pursued. But on the plus side for them, as one of their biggest expenses is the reimbursements of the foster parents for the Child's food, a change toward "Universal Food Stamps" would actually reduce costs for foster care in general.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #32 on: February 27, 2017, 10:18:05 PM »
This is always the thought in the back of my mind when we're talking about universal basic income. I don't pretend to know much about economics, but I always wonder: if everyone has got that extra cash in their pockets, don't prices just increase to vacuum up the excess?
The argument is that production would increase before prices do. If one stores doubles their prices and another store doubles its products, they'd both be selling the same value in terms of cash but one would be markedly more successful than the other. Prices would only tend to go up if sellers couldn't get more product to sell.

The problem there is there are multiple fronts.

In the "Million Dollar giveaway" scenario, you're talking about a "price shock" scenario. Supply has no way of responding to demand in anything approaching a reasonable manner or time frame. So you're then left with the option when dealing with limited supply and high demand + ability to pay for it: Prices rise.

The increase in supply only happens in a sustained and "non-shock" scenario. The thing that usually prevents a run-away price scenario from happening is that while demand may be high for a product, the ability/inclination to pay for the product is limited. So thus the price a retailer can charge is rather inelastic. They can raise the price, but they'll then price many of their customers out of the market, and thus be unable to sell.

However, if you have a outside factor subsidizing people's ability to match the asking price, the price just became highly elastic, and prices can rise quickly as a result. This is basically what happened with the housing bubble during the Bush(43) Admin after they made home loans trivially easy to obtain due to rule changes that happened at the tail end of the Clinton Administration which opened the door to unscrupulous speculators from Wall Street being able to flood the home equity market with all kinds of cash.

The home market went from being rather price inelastic and fairly stable on a national level(not to be confused with local events where some communities were experiencing "booms" for various reasons related to local circumstances), due to the cash supply being limited and rules preventing certain behaviors. To a highly price elastic scenario where many rules no longer applied, and money was coming in almost as fast as it was being asked for.... Which resulted in a Housing Market where demand for New construction/newly renovated homes outstripped the ability of builders and developers alike to fulfill demand(because people could "Afford" to pay for it). So we wound up with a large supply of money directed to a market that had a limited supply of goods(homes). Which in turn resulted in a steep increase in the price of said homes nationally.

And that was in a credit market, which at least claims to have some constraints. A government provisioned UBI doesn't even pretend to have such constraints. So it has all kinds of potential to create one hell of bubble if not handled like it's a bottle of nitroglycerin.

Edit to add: And we didn't even get into the whole matter of whether or not "the market" actually has the physical capability of meeting the particular demand that is placed upon it. Such as: Affordable real estate in the City of San Francisco or on Manhattan Island. Yes, they can build up, but that brings its own set of challenges.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2017, 10:25:59 PM by TheDeamon »

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #33 on: February 28, 2017, 09:36:23 AM »
While we're heading towards a labor reduction if not an all out collapse, we're definitely not to the place where no jobs need doing.  Trying to inject freeform communism into a capitalistic economy creates arbuably the worst combination of incentives possible.

A UBI will not eliminate jobs, but will mostly likely effect a necessary reform on the job landscape. There are presently certain kinds of jobs that people do because either they must do so to live, thus giving most or all bargaining power to the employer, or that they might otherwise want but have no leeway in seeking education or looking for other work because they can't afford to lose a shift if they want to pay the rent. For such people, a UBI wouldn't magically make them want to stop working because they'd not be prepared to live with that little money, but it would enable them to take certain days off to do things like vote or go to the doctor without being unable to pay their bills, and it will also force wage negotiation between the employer and worker since the worker no longer has a clear and present danger to themselves if they don't take the job. This kind of buffer will create a natural wage hike without the need for government minimum wages, since if people have a baseline income they won't be so quick to accept the minimum wage for a difficult job. Like it or not, the UBI would also help the financial sector, since more aggregate cash means much more investing potential. For retail businesses it would likewise be a boon, since many people currently spending most of their money on rent would now be able to spend some of the UBI on commercial goods and even luxuries. So rather than eliminating the market and jobs, as you suggest, it will only boost sales and if anything create new jobs. What does't work in creating jobs is trickle-down - giving money to corporations. What does work is giving it directly to the consumer to get that full multiplier effect.


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Fenring, slums are the inevitable result of this.  Builders will design specifically to eat up the basic income you make available.  If you want to see it in real time, take a look at college tuitions and how they've increased faster than inflation - but in close symmetry to federal guarantees of financial aid.  Giving everyone a million bucks, will not give everyone the economic power of a millionaire, it'll just make millionaires the new poverty line.  The more you give the faster the currency becomes worthless.

Bad analogy. For college tuition it was clear that they could jack the price since the loans were only for them. And there were other factors feeding into the price hike, including the notorious practice of collecting undergrad tuition and using it to bolster grad programs, which is an entirely separate problem to do with how universities build their reputation (hint: often not from their undergrad classes). Giving a blank check to regular citizens would not enable any particular business to jack up prices because they'd not know whether the consumers will even have much of an increased demand for their goods anyhow. I think there might be a marginal % increase across the board, but not the kind of thing where the populace would effectively have no more spending power than before. That's early 20th century thinking and isn't how business works any more. No more randomly raises prices because they think they can get away with it; competition would bury them if they tried. Unless there was a price-fixing cartel in some sector, each business would have to keep prices low to avoid being swept away by a more effective competitor. This is how it's been for the last 25 years, when even back when the economy was great prices were hitting rock bottom due to outsourcing labor and cheaper manufacturing. The impetus to create low prices (exemplified by Walmart) was a means of competing, not due to low demand (or high supply) as beginner-course economics would instruct. Those factors are largely irrelevant in the real world; at least they are by this time. High demand for goods does not increase prices; rather, it just gives the retailers better turnover and the product moves fast. That's how it works now. Some retailers would probably get uppity and raise prices when the UBI was introduced, and they would subsequently be wiped out by the companies that don't. The only time prices go up is with limited-supply situations, and in most manufacturing areas the supply is nigh-infinite. When I was a kid and someone wanted a new NES or Sega game, there was a good chance they'd be sold out quickly and you'd have to wait a good while to get one. Under such circumstances prices can go up. Nowadays that's almost unheard of, although it does still occur with a few electronics products sometimes.

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The real problem is you live in a society with property rights, and the only way you achieve your goals is to nationalize property.  How do you encourage anyone to work, or do more, when they face the very real risk of having the benefits nationalized?

You seem to have pulled this idea out of the air. What have you read that made you think this has anything to do with a UBI?

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The idea that most people are only rich by random luck, is purely a liberal fantasy.  It's never been the case.  Systems that provide for the most social mobility are the best way to "correct" the relative wealth of the people in them.  If you can make a fortune, then its on you to do so.

I guess you don't believe in the adage "the rich get richer"? Because it's true. Sometimes an entrepreneur in a new field (like computing) can make a killing and end up a tycoon, but by and large social mobility isn't what you seem to be claiming it is; and the rates of social mobility have been trending downwards. Being able to leverage money to generate more money is not merely an advantage, but is effectively the only way to snowball a 'good' income into being real wealth. This can come from investments, ownership, etc etc, but you don't get rich by "working hard". This is only true within certain very narrow parameters.

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You don't have a free market in communism, because you don't end up with a worthwhile currency those transactions end up not doing what you want them to do (ie move goods to efficient uses).  Prices in the fake currency do rise dramatically and the government acts to put in price controls then you end up with a black market.

What would happen to the value of the currency is an open question, but I suspect your belief that the deflation would be significant wouldn't end up being the case. This is less a theoretical thing to debate rather than something that would have to be observed experimentally because - let's face it - experts in the field of economics know approximately zero about anything and there's no way to tell what would happen.

Gaoics79

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #34 on: February 28, 2017, 10:09:45 AM »
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but you don't get rich by "working hard". This is only true within certain very narrow parameters

You seem to be mischaracterizing Seriati's point. He never said "working hard" is the key to social mobility, like the equivalent of Conan pushing a wheel for 20 years and transforming into a supreme barbarian warrior. (Yes I am standing by that analogy)

Incidentally, I encounter rich people all the time who are not "tycoons" or people who started with extraordinary wealth. You can become wealthy just plowing snow or selling glasses - the x-factor is not "hard work" per say (although that is a component) but entrepreneurial spirit and good business sense.

This is a hard thing to teach. Arguably it may be even a matter of temperment and perhaps cannot be taught. This is probably why many conclude that social mobility and creating wealth without extraordiry wealth / connections is impossible. Maybe it is impossible - for some people. But that's a factor of individual personalities and not opportunity. The opportunity is absolutely, without a doubt, present. And it's not just Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #35 on: February 28, 2017, 10:29:17 AM »
jasonr, I agree with those points, but in each case you either have to be an owner or entrepreneur to do what you just described. And many times people do exactly that and fail anyhow, which is frequently to do with random forces and not simply inefficiency. So there is risk involved, which is understood to be normal, except that many people are not in a position to risk their savings on a business plan that can fail. You already need to have a buffer when starting a new business such that even if it fails you aren't living in the streets. As always, money leverages making more money.

But more to the core of this particular chimera - that anyone can start a business and 'get rich' - this is true only because it's not true. The people who do start businesses and get rich do so precisely because it's the case that most people don't. The economy at present requires primarily employees, not employers. It is factually false that 'everyone' can go ahead and do this; there are few niches in the current ecosystem for entrepreneurship. It only takes so many businesses to serve the market and supply what it needs, and if there are too many they overcompete and all suffer. Saying that anyone can just open a business and that therefore there is social mobility is like me throwing one chicken bone into a pit with 10 men saying that "any of you can have the chicken bone!" Except I would appear to be anything but a savior in that scenario since it is a fact that only one person will actually get the bone, even though technically any of them 'could have' gotten it. To then go ahead and tell the other nine they simply failed to make use of the system is rubbish; there was really only ever one bone to be had, even if the winner of it wasn't predetermined. It may even well be the case that the one who got the bone was actually the strongest or most determined of the lot; but this truism doesn't particularly speak to the fairness of the system, nor does it in any way imply that everyone present always had a chance to be fed if only they tried a little harder. At best one of the others might have gotten the bone by rising to a certain level and it would have gone to him instead of the other guy.

The 'anyone can get rich' adage strikes me as incredibly odious, because it's true for any particular person, but not true systemically for all people. Only a few can get rich, even though they're not pre-selected in all cases. More often than not they are, though, since having a baseline amount of wealth is going to weigh heavily in your ability to get more.

Gaoics79

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2017, 10:45:21 AM »
Well Fenring I think the statement was quite accurate - anyone can certainly get rich (or at least somewhat wealthy). I did not say *everyone* can get rich, which I agree is impossible, not just for the reason you stated but for the simple reason that if everyone was rich, no one would be "rich" by definition (see Seriati's comment about millionaires becoming the new poverty line.)

And yes many small businesses fail - but keep in mind our economy doesn't necessarily make failure a catastrophic thing, especially when many are starting with nothing anyway. Most entrepreneurs will fail several times before they succeed.

I am refuting the implication that our economy is a skid row where no one but a few radical geniuses or very lucky people in the right place at the right time can build wealth without wealth to begin with.

As an additional point, I'd argue that the most essential component to building success is not wealth in the form of money, but a kind of cultural wealth - both a personal drive and a culture that can be passed on from families or within communities. It's why some people you know are going to succeed, even when their bank account is zero, just as other people you know are goijg to fail - even if they have money in the bank.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2017, 10:48:22 AM by jasonr »

TheDrake

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #37 on: February 28, 2017, 12:23:05 PM »
Jason, et al, I think a key point is in age and ability to transform.

There were a lot of motivated hard workers who were comfortably well off as machinists. Enter automation, and now you have 500,000 people in their 40s and 50s who find themselves faced with rapidly reduced opportunity. They now lack the geographical mobility they once did, the good health, the educational options, and financial flexibility to do what someone in their 20s can do - and that they did back then.

It is myopic to think that as long as someone has "drive" they can survive any economic conditions without a severe hardship.

Meanwhile you also have people who have incredible advantages - they essentially get their basic income from a trust fund that had nothing to do with their drive. They get internships because of people that know people at their private schools. They never really have to do better than the next guy, and would be completely baffled by the hard choices that base on other people.

Social security is, at its heart, universal basic income for the old. And yet we find many and more seniors supplementing that income with home businesses and menial jobs. Then there are others who spend time volunteering their time at churches, non-profits, and other things worthy of value and drive.

As for entrepreneurship as a solution, well 96% of businesses fail within 10 years

I'm not sure that UBI is a good solution. I'm not sure it is a necessary solution. I'm not sure of the conditions under which it could be done, if it could be voluntary rather than forced, or what standard of living could be maintained. To dismiss it out of hand as never being necessary, being evil, or being impossible demonstrates a total lack of imagination and open mindedness.

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #38 on: February 28, 2017, 05:22:01 PM »
While we're heading towards a labor reduction if not an all out collapse, we're definitely not to the place where no jobs need doing.  Trying to inject freeform communism into a capitalistic economy creates arbuably the worst combination of incentives possible.

A UBI will not eliminate jobs, but will mostly likely effect a necessary reform on the job landscape.

A UBI will eliminate some portion of people willing to do jobs.  The higher the UBI the higher the proportion.  If that proportion gets too high, then we will have a different kind of labor collapse as needed labor goes undone.

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There are presently certain kinds of jobs that people do because either they must do so to live, thus giving most or all bargaining power to the employer, or that they might otherwise want but have no leeway in seeking education or looking for other work because they can't afford to lose a shift if they want to pay the rent.

Most people work because they need money to live.  That's not a revelation or a mistake of the system.  It's a design feature that we force the exchange of goods for services, because we both need certain tasks completed and a reason for people to trade.  It's necessary consequence of believing in private property that you have legitimate methods to encourage it to transfer.  It's also a liberal delusion to translate that into a mandatory wage serfdom that doesn't reflect the reality that motivated people can and do find their way out of such jobs with regularity.  That doesn't reflect the generally free basic education system that becomes more free the less resources one actually has, and that easily allows someone to move out of wage peonage.

There's virtually no circumstance that is inescapable, even living below minimum wage can be exited.  Hard to imagine the person who could not live with a roommate to save capital, who could not work a second job to do the same or for whom they would live at such a level and not be entitled to any services or benefits.   

To me, if you hang your theory on this faulty premise you've just assumed your conclusion.  Because you believe at some level its impossible for people on the bottom to improve their own lot, you have no choice but to conclude the only solution is to provide help from above.   However, if you're wrong, and I think you are, then you need to justify why that method provides the best solution since there are any number of other possibilities.

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For such people, a UBI wouldn't magically make them want to stop working because they'd not be prepared to live with that little money, but it would enable them to take certain days off to do things like vote or go to the doctor without being unable to pay their bills, and it will also force wage negotiation between the employer and worker since the worker no longer has a clear and present danger to themselves if they don't take the job.

Would it?  Would a worker gain a new ability to negotiate with an employer to maintain a job they still need to stay alive simply because they have a back up source of income on which you posit they still can not live?  Particularly for people at such a marginal level of existence the inflationary pressure you undersell is going to wipe out any gains they get for a UBI.  I'll flat out say, my prediction is that real income will be largely stagnant, possibly increase slightly, but just likely decrease slightly,for the poorest families after you put in UBI.

Implicit in your assumptions is that wages are not fairly compensating people for their labor, notwithstanding that offering and accepting wages for specific tasks has been the fairest system for determining how people value their labor over time.  Minimum wage laws invariably eliminate from the compensatable universe whole categories of jobs and uniformly those losses are born by the least skilled and least employable people in the country.

Putting your thumb on the scales in wage negotiations is very unlikely to result in fairer wages.  If you have evidence of a slave wage, prosecute the slaver.

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This kind of buffer will create a natural wage hike without the need for government minimum wages, since if people have a baseline income they won't be so quick to accept the minimum wage for a difficult job.

There's nothing "natural" about that.  There's lots of reasons to believe that the end result will be that certain jobs are left undone, or will get done by marginalized populations.  We see that today.  Infrastructure projects that were trivially easy to complete 40-50 years ago are so expensive today that they don't get done.  Illegal immigrants are employed in massive numbers to work for the wages that certain industries will support, which don't line up with the mandatory wages, and literally everyone turns their eyes away because its the only way to get it to work.

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Like it or not, the UBI would also help the financial sector, since more aggregate cash means much more investing potential.

This is based on an actual false premise.  For this to be true the value of the units of cash needs to hold steady.  However, what will actually happen (and you can see this in multiple countries around the world as they have destroyed their own currencies) is that inflation will devalue the currency you create to the point that only a sucker will take it.

You should consider that this is not an unintended effect by people who support UBI.  They want to redistribute wealth because they don't believe in personal property and believe a difference in current situations is a wrong that has to be corrected.  Devaluing all current savings pushes the middle class down much faster than it raises up the lower class. 

So in short, devalued currency does not create new investment potential.  Besides which, you'd be replacing the existing way we inject ridiculous amounts of capital into the system (through fractional reserve lending), which in most cases directly supports financial growth (again at a hidden cost) with an indirect method that at best may have a knock on effect.

If you really believe this is a good idea, do it openly and seize the cash and property of the wealthy and redistribute it.  If you don't find that palatable, ask yourself why you've signed on to do it with a prettier gloss.

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For retail businesses it would likewise be a boon, since many people currently spending most of their money on rent would now be able to spend some of the UBI on commercial goods and even luxuries.

With the inherent inflation in your proposal any short term boon would be wiped out when the retailers have to pay higher prices to replace their depleted stocks.  Effectively you cleared out their inventories at a net loss, when you consider replacement.

Communism (ie UBI) does not cause retail success, it leads directly to shortage and black markets (and not just because of the central planning aspects though that makes it worse, and UBI is intended to mitigate that part of it).

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So rather than eliminating the market and jobs, as you suggest, it will only boost sales and if anything create new jobs.

So show us the examples of where communism did as you suggest? 

I'll say it again.  No UBI system has shown success unless its based on capital injections from outside the closed system (ie, a federal government running a local level test) or exploiting a non-renewable resource (like Oil or mineral wealth). 

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What does't work in creating jobs is trickle-down - giving money to corporations. What does work is giving it directly to the consumer to get that full multiplier effect.

You both correct and not correct.  Adding money to any system, if you hold the value of money relatively constant, will create jobs.  This is true even in a trickle-down system, we've gone a bit off the rails on that because a big chunk of our investing is being directed into financial products and not hitting actual operating companies, but it would work if the incentives were on investing in operating companies.

There is literally zero evidence that handing people money causes them to work more.  In fact, it's pretty settled that the opposite occurs, that the more you hand to people they less of them work or are willing to work.  There's certainly a line, we already give people refundable tax credits (ie really basic income), but to do what you're saying you have to get a heck a lot closer to the line where people can actually live on the hand out.  When you do, some of them are going to stop working.

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Bad analogy.

Not a bad analogy, it's directly related to the point I made.  It's not a complete analogy and it was never intended to be one.

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Giving a blank check to regular citizens would not enable any particular business to jack up prices because they'd not know whether the consumers will even have much of an increased demand for their goods anyhow.

Even if I posited that no business will actively exploit people and their new found wealth (which is a fundamentally ridiculous postulate), it's the inevitable consequence that all businesses will increase their costs.  You've already noted that you believe this will force wages up (and even if you discount what I said about also shrinking the labor pool) that's a simple cost that has to be absorbed.  Physical resources are not unlimited, this will redirect and call on them and increase the competition for them, which will be particularly bad short term but also bad long term.  When every product sold can only be replaced by the vendor with a 25% or 50% markup there's no way not to pass that cost onto the consumer.

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I think there might be a marginal % increase across the board, but not the kind of thing where the populace would effectively have no more spending power than before.

That's the question isn't it.  I have seen nothing that makes me believe forced redistribution of wealth will create net positives.

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That's early 20th century thinking and isn't how business works any more. No more randomly raises prices because they think they can get away with it; competition would bury them if they tried.

Honestly the part I find most frustrating is when you try to explain how communism is really free market capitalism.  Businesses only work because they trade value for value, if you kill the currency, that's going to mean black market currency or barter.  Has any communistic system not had to impose price controls?  Heck, even in the US our health care system has rigid price controls because the government ruthlessly requires that certain services must be provided but isn't willing to let the actual cost hit the consumer.

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Unless there was a price-fixing cartel in some sector, each business would have to keep prices low to avoid being swept away by a more effective competitor. This is how it's been for the last 25 years, when even back when the economy was great prices were hitting rock bottom due to outsourcing labor and cheaper manufacturing.

So because in a free market competition leads to lower prices, you think you can claim that post communist revolution the same will apply?  Why didn't it work in the communistic countries?

Explain to me the magic that causes lower prices where you have higher wages and increased resource competition.  This is basic econ.

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The only time prices go up is with limited-supply situations, and in most manufacturing areas the supply is nigh-infinite.

This is really the other implausible assumption that you hang your hat on.  The belief that but for some inherent and unfair built in inefficiency everyone would have more stuff because there are no real constraints on resources.  Again, all you're advocating is redistribution under a different name.  The market we already have has filled people's homes with consumer merchandise and multiple cars, why exactly do you think we need to prop that up even more?  Is it really the best use of resources and the resulting environment harms to put two PS4's in every house?  Why should we be subsidizing that? 

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The real problem is you live in a society with property rights, and the only way you achieve your goals is to nationalize property.  How do you encourage anyone to work, or do more, when they face the very real risk of having the benefits nationalized?

You seem to have pulled this idea out of the air. What have you read that made you think this has anything to do with a UBI?

What do you think UBI is other than a "soft" way of nationalizing wealth and redistributing it?  You devalue the savings of the wealthy and hand new cash to the poor.  How is it any different than seizing a portion of their accounts and doing the same?  Of course its not a true full solution, because it has an arbitrary and  disproportionate impact on capital and savings, and leaves wealth tied up in real property and commodities largely untouched, so it'll also have the "fun" effect of bringing back the landed gentry and ensuring that property is never sold to the common man only rented at usurious rates (Sharing cropping!  Yay!).

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The idea that most people are only rich by random luck, is purely a liberal fantasy.  It's never been the case.  Systems that provide for the most social mobility are the best way to "correct" the relative wealth of the people in them.  If you can make a fortune, then its on you to do so.

I guess you don't believe in the adage "the rich get richer"? Because it's true.

I don't believe only the rich can get richer, which is most certainly not true.  But after UBI it'll be closer to reality.

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Sometimes an entrepreneur in a new field (like computing) can make a killing and end up a tycoon, but by and large social mobility isn't what you seem to be claiming it is; and the rates of social mobility have been trending downwards.

Social mobility trending downwards is a direct result of policies that disfavor self reliance and the importance of education.  We literally have made it more possible than ever before for people of modest means to get the educations that make it a virtual certainty their lot in life will improve. 

If you want to find places where social mobility is trending down most sharply, just look for the same places that have implemented the policies of the left to the greatest degree.   The places where people don't believe that they can improve their lives and most strongly believe they are entitled to have the government take care of them.  The places where while everyone graduates from the union run schools no one can pass a basic proficiency test when they do so, but any attempt to make a change is "harming our kids."

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Being able to leverage money to generate more money is not merely an advantage, but is effectively the only way to snowball a 'good' income into being real wealth. This can come from investments, ownership, etc etc, but you don't get rich by "working hard". This is only true within certain very narrow parameters.

There's a nugget of truth there, but only a nugget.  Most leverage literally comes from leverage these days.  Essentially free money from banks for favored policies of the political elite.  It's not just the rich who have access to essentially free capital.

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What would happen to the value of the currency is an open question, but I suspect your belief that the deflation would be significant wouldn't end up being the case.

Inflation, not deflation.  Currency becomes worthless not more valuable.  Feel free to "suspect" all you want, but it's occurred left and right in communistic societies and places that have given in to the urge to print themselves out of debt, so it's not like you don't have real world cases you can look at.

Money literally only has value because we believe it has value.  When you make it obvious to the common man that you'll print more if they need it or want it, then that belief gets degraded and starts to disappear.

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This is less a theoretical thing to debate rather than something that would have to be observed experimentally because - let's face it - experts in the field of economics know approximately zero about anything and there's no way to tell what would happen.

Or again, you could just look at the places communism has already failed.

cherrypoptart

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #39 on: February 28, 2017, 07:18:19 PM »
What if the government owned the robots doing the labor?

The savings could go back to the taxpayers since it is the taxpayers who own the robots.

They are working on robots now that can build a house either mechanically or by 3D printing one. If the government bought that technology or developed it out of the military it could put many people in the construction industry out of business but with the profits it made some people, maybe eventually every one after this is done in multiple industries, could be provided a universal basic income.

It would be like the Alaska permanent fund dividend where residents get a check based on oil revenues except that this would be Americans getting a check based on the work the robots we collectively owned performed, not just in America but around the world.

Gaoics79

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #40 on: March 01, 2017, 07:47:03 AM »
So Cherry you propose that automation (robots, AI?) be nationalized industries?

cherrypoptart

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #41 on: March 01, 2017, 08:44:07 AM »

I don't think the government should step on or interfere in any way with anyone who is working on it right now. Let the free market do it's thing, but as an investment the government can buy into it and use the technology, maybe even help develop some of it, just like we probably do in other areas. Then as it develops the taxpayers will own a piece of the action. Robots in the military, for instance, is an obvious example of where they could be very helpful, building things and providing transportation. I wonder if they could be trained to climb up on wind turbines to do the regular maintenance and serve as divers for remote maintenance on underwater turbines, if not autonomously right away then even by remote operation for safety and efficiency. I'm guess I'm advocating for the taxpayer to be a partner in the development and use of the new technologies that come out of all this, like with NASA which would be another great example for where the use of robots could come in very handy. NASA shouldn't interfere with private space exploration efforts but actually complement them by sharing the technology developed. One concern though is national security, but I would hope that to the maximum extent possible much of the technology developed that is taxpayer funded could be in the public domain for companies and organizations in America and around the world to use freely, for example maybe in farming in third world countries. A weeding robot may reduce the need for chemical sprays and an amazing use might be to program robots that can search for and get rid of unwanted bugs instead of using pesticides so much, and then there are little flying drone robots that kill mosquitoes. We shouldn't stop private companies from developing the tech and patenting it and profiting from it if they come up with great advancements first, but our government having a hand in the game and making some of the developments we help fund and come up with available for all, perhaps in some cases licensed by our own government to foreign governments when they can afford to pay, seems like a good bet too. I'm looking for the best of both worlds between private development with the profit incentive but also some public ownership where it won't slow things down.


Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #42 on: March 01, 2017, 09:03:25 AM »
What if the government owned the robots doing the labor?

If the government owns the means of production and the results of that are produced, you end up with the government owning you as well.   Not to mention, the only saving grace of the UBI versus Communism is the hope, and its largely a false hope, that the choices it allows don't lead to central planning.  If the government owns the plants you bring back central plan in full.

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The savings could go back to the taxpayers since it is the taxpayers who own the robots

What savings?  No part of government is concerned with profit and no part is answerable to efficiency.

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It would be like the Alaska permanent fund dividend where residents get a check based on oil revenues except that this would be Americans getting a check based on the work the robots we collectively owned performed, not just in America but around the world.

Exploitation of a diminishing resource is one way that a communist system can be propped up and made to appear to function.  It glosses over the lack of income generated by productive work by supplementing it with income from the sales.

TheDeamon

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #43 on: March 01, 2017, 10:49:25 AM »
What if the government owned the robots doing the labor?

If the government owns the means of production and the results of that are produced, you end up with the government owning you as well.   Not to mention, the only saving grace of the UBI versus Communism is the hope, and its largely a false hope, that the choices it allows don't lead to central planning.  If the government owns the plants you bring back central plan in full.

There is a middle ground on this one, and in the "robot" context it is fairly straight forward. Just because the government owns a means of production doesn't necessarily mean the Government holds a monopoly on production. So in that context, government owned robots being employed towards providing "baseline sustenance" while leaving anything above and beyond that line for free enterprise/individual initiative is one such option that could be pursued.

That isn't to say there aren't other challenges to be had in that context, but it is an option. There also is one heck of a gap between "basic sustenance" and "comfortable living" when you start working on the scale of hundreds of million or even billions of people. Sure, in it probably wouldn't be enough to be a meaningful(viable, commercial) difference when talking about a population of say, 20,000 people, but once you start dealing in larger populations that dynamic shifts.

The LDS Church Welfare program once again becomes an example of this to some degree, as most of the food it distributes via the Bishop's Storehouse is internally sourced within the LDS Church. Albeit, that system is subsidized by members at present in both financial support and volunteer labor/expertise in many cases. But it still stands as an example of a largely stand-alone avenue of "feeding the people."

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #44 on: March 01, 2017, 11:12:11 AM »
There is a middle ground on this one, and in the "robot" context it is fairly straight forward. Just because the government owns a means of production doesn't necessarily mean the Government holds a monopoly on production.

If a government competes with a private industry it will win if it chooses to do so.  Governments are not bound to be profitable to continue, they can choose to sell goods below the cost of production either maliciously or because they view those goods as creating a social good.  For an example of the "good" version of this you can look at the price of vaccines, which is kept artificially low in pursuit of the public good (of course there are unintended consequences to this). 

Lack of profitability pressure means the inevitable result of "competition" will always result in government industry replacing the private, unless they give up.  When this happens it ushers in a tremendous amount of waste and inefficiency, and usually a generous helping of corruption and the entire result is a net social loss.  You also are forgetting or discounting the interest in those that control government to expand their power.  They will have every incentive to increase the amount of industry under their control if you open the door.

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So in that context, government owned robots being employed towards providing "baseline sustenance" while leaving anything above and beyond that line for free enterprise/individual initiative is one such option that could be pursued.

Basic sustenance = what?  The slums that Fenring said wouldn't result?  Gruel and simple foods?

Once you buy into the idea that it's the government's duty to take resources (because that's what they have to do to feed the system) and redistribute them as a parent to the citizens, it becomes hard to justify allowing differences to arise.

If you give people money to keep them from starving, do you really allow the people who waste the money to starve?  How do you justify not increasing the dole to more and more luxury goods when the vast majority of the voters are on the dole?  Even if you could, they will elect people who promise ever more to replace you.  In the end, jealously alone will cause you to drag down those who have it better, because the prevailing thought will not be that it was earned but rather that it was stolen from the people, or the result of "unfair" advantages.  That's the risk of replacing the concept of individual property rights, with collective ones.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #45 on: March 01, 2017, 11:39:04 AM »
Seriati, most of your arguments on this topic seem entirely focused on a zero-sum system, which is functionally not the case. But even more important than functionally, is that reality itself is not zero sum for human beings! There is a such a thing as net improvement or increase in 'wealth' (meaning quality of life and resources afforded to each person) without anyone having to lose anything or be robbed. You are aware that with increasing technology we can simply...make more stuff, right? The 'extra stuff' as compared to a time prior to industrialization didn't come at anyone's expense; it was simply extra. There was just more to be had. As production capabilities improve and wages and/or standard of living don't improve in proportion we can automatically tell that something in the system is malfunctioning. On the face of it your position seems almost predicated on the premise that it's wrong for people to get free stuff, in that it's borderline immoral to get what you haven't earned on basic principle. In the [false] dilemma between earning what you get versus stealing what you get, then of course one should emphasize earning. But if it's possible to get things while neither earning nor stealing it, but simply because it's available, then that calculus becomes defunct. Imagine a person in ancient times finding a fruit tree in the wild and taking an apple from it to eat - is that immoral? It seems pretty good to me. In its basic sense all natural resources are simply there to be had, and there is nothing immoral about taking them. Similarly, if we can use technology to produce resources and then withhold them arbitrarily in order to maintain an obsolete system we are just being dullards.

Communism is forced redistribution, but it's other things too, none of which would be in evidence with a UBI. In point of fact, there never has been communism, not that I want to see it either. I largely agree with your point of view in general regarding liberties and people's lives not being controlled, but a discussion about liberties is different from one of systemic controls in an economic system. Even choosing to not enforce any particular system is itself a systemic choice, just like not helping someone in danger is a definite choice to let them suffer their fate. Creating a system that functions along particular lines and guides the structure of human interaction is different from the notion that the people are vassals to the government (as is the case in the communism strawman you keep bringing up). Even in 'pure free market capitalism' (which also has never existed) there will be systemic decisions made; it's just they'll be made by unelected forces that can leverage their own power in concert and to their benefit. It happens repeatedly through history and is one of the truly tested and confirmed aspects of economics.

I will remind you of one of the key features of the inception of Soviet rule (which I assume is your benchmark of assessing 'communism'), which is that the Soviets immediately seized not only power, but also all material goods they could get their hands on, and additionally even pillaged all means of production that they could, rendering even farmers unable to continue farming. Their version of 'redistribution' was roughly equivalent to a raze and burn campaign and it left the USSR unable to continue productive efforts, no less benefit anyone. Since it was a fascist dictatorship there was never any legitimate attempt to help anyone IMO, but in any case the chief problem in the USSR wasn't lack of cash but lack of goods produced. You can go read countless stories (or speak to people who lived there) about having money and there being literally nothing to spend it on. There was just nothing in stores because no one was producing anything - both because they couldn't and because they weren't allowed. It was a deliberate and forced halting of production at the point of a gun, probably designed to crush the spirits of the people so they couldn't rise up against the government. Contrast that with now, when production capabilities far outstrip anyone's ability to buy it all, and retailers across the board have to reduce stock levels and order carefully so as not to oversupply themselves in order to match the low consumer demand for most goods (electronics being an exception). The problem here is the reverse of what it was in the USSR: lack of money in the system to buy what already exists (or easily can exist). It's a money supply problem rather than a production problem. Your concerns about the inflation of the currency by increasing the money supply are legitimate, but your concerns about reproducing 'communism' are not.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2017, 11:43:30 AM by Fenring »

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #46 on: March 01, 2017, 12:22:45 PM »
Seriati, most of your arguments on this topic seem entirely focused on a zero-sum system, which is functionally not the case. But even more important than functionally, is that reality itself is not zero sum for human beings! There is a such a thing as net improvement or increase in 'wealth' (meaning quality of life and resources afforded to each person) without anyone having to lose anything or be robbed.

I find it disturbing that you think I'm making zero sum arguments.  My arguments are about the value of currency and the impact your changes will have, and yes, there is a legitimate argument that printing money does not magically create value to go with that currency.

As an exercise, explain how your position is fundamentally different from declaring that we will change to leaves as the official US currency starting tomorrow.  Would vendors really accept leaves in exchange for commodities, when they can see the endless source outside, would they really not be subject to inflation when they realize how easy it is to collect as many leaves as one asks for as an exchange?

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You are aware that with increasing technology we can simply...make more stuff, right? The 'extra stuff' as compared to a time prior to industrialization didn't come at anyone's expense; it was simply extra. There was just more to be had. As production capabilities improve and wages and/or standard of living don't improve in proportion we can automatically tell that something in the system is malfunctioning.

You understand that all commodities come from somewhere?  Nothing is made without the input of resources.  I think your argument is trying to reference the old CD's only cost pennies to make therefore Albums should only cost a quarter argument.  Even for electronic goods to incentivize them being made you have to treat them as if every instance has a value.  But when you (and you have) extend that to housing, food and consumer goods, you're not talking about commodities that are free to produce and you are talking about a massive consumption of resources - which have to be acquired from their owners - to get there.

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On the face of it your position seems almost predicated on the premise that it's wrong for people to get free stuff, in that it's borderline immoral to get what you haven't earned on basic principle.

Okay.  Explain the morality of you taking a commodity from someone else in exchange for nothing of value?

If we choose to provide a social safety net because we deem that a moral good, that doesn't automatically implied that anyone is entitled to live off of society without regard to whether they make any contribution to that society.  You seem to believe that being a "consumer" is a net good to society - when it's really not, though you can show plenty of knock-on benefits of the consumption of goods it falls apart when nothing was contributed or created to get the currency in the first place.  It's literally an exploitation of leverage nothing more.

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In the [false] dilemma between earning what you get versus stealing what you get, then of course one should emphasize earning. But if it's possible to get things while neither earning nor stealing it, but simply because it's available, then that calculus becomes defunct.

What's simply available?  Is it housing - that people used resources and time to create?  Is it food - that people used resources and time to create?  Is it entertainment - which people use time and resources to create?  Is it water, which can be found all across earth but needs people using time and resources to ensure its clean and safe to drink?

Seriously, there is no good that is just "available".  That's a just a slight of hand to pretend that you are not taking it from someone else, no matter how justifiable you think the taking is.

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Imagine a person in ancient times finding a fruit tree in the wild and taking an apple from it to eat - is that immoral? It seems pretty good to me. In its basic sense all natural resources are simply there to be had, and there is nothing immoral about taking them. Similarly, if we can use technology to produce resources and then withhold them arbitrarily in order to maintain an obsolete system we are just being dullards.

Now imagine that this found fruit tree was planted by another person and the trade in that fruit was their sole source of obtaining the goods necessary to their survival.  Is it still moral to take the fruit without paying for it?  Is it moral to take all the fruit and distribute it for free, because others are entitled to eat?

There is nothing arbitrary about how we allocate resources.  It may or may not be fair, but it's completely removed from the range of arbitrary.

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Even in 'pure free market capitalism' (which also has never existed) there will be systemic decisions made; it's just they'll be made by unelected forces that can leverage their own power in concert and to their benefit. It happens repeatedly through history and is one of the truly tested and confirmed aspects of economics.

If you believe that, you shouldn't make economic arguments at all, because you are denying the basic concept of what a free market it.

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I will remind you of one of the key features of the inception of Soviet rule (which I assume is your benchmark of assessing 'communism'), which is that the Soviets immediately seized not only power, but also all material goods they could get their hands on, and additionally even pillaged all means of production that they could, rendering even farmers unable to continue farming. Their version of 'redistribution' was roughly equivalent to a raze and burn campaign and it left the USSR unable to continue productive efforts, no less benefit anyone.

It's fascinating to me that you can write this - which is exactly my point about how your system will resolve - and not understand that it's where you are heading.  You have don't have a choice if you corrupt your currency, you either seize the resources or you give up on them being exchangeable for the currency that you can provide. 

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Since it was a fascist dictatorship there was never any legitimate attempt to help anyone IMO, but in any case the chief problem in the USSR wasn't lack of cash but lack of goods produced.

Sigh.  Yep, when you make currency worthless, mandate the prices that things must be sold at (without regard to cost), and generally take away the "unfair" profits of the rich you end up with less goods.  You may be able to burn through a few years with expropriation of robot factories and the goods to run them, but you won't have new products and factories being made to replace them.

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You can go read countless stories (or speak to people who lived there) about having money and there being literally nothing to spend it on.

Yes you can.  Are you reading what you're writing?

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The problem here is the reverse of what it was in the USSR: lack of money in the system to buy what already exists (or easily can exist). It's a money supply problem rather than a production problem. Your concerns about the inflation of the currency by increasing the money supply are legitimate, but your concerns about reproducing 'communism' are not.

It's not a reverse problem, its a different stage of the same problem.  Our society has generated excess wealth specifically because we are not based on a redistributionist ideology, when you switch the society to what you recommend, you get the problems that come with a redistributionist ideology.

cherrypoptart

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #47 on: March 01, 2017, 02:35:37 PM »
I didn't mean that the government would own all of the robots, but that for the ones it did own and for the work those ones did the taxpayers would get the fruits of those labors. Yes, there are many dangers to navigate in that approach to ensure it helps promote innovation and private enterprise instead of getting in the way, but I think it's possible. Is NASA getting in the way of private space exploration, or have the contributions of NASA helped it?

Seriati

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #48 on: March 01, 2017, 03:05:59 PM »
Space exploration is an example of one of the handful of things that are of such scale that only a government could get the ball rolling, when the tech comes down in price maybe that changes.  It's not the only thing either, the country's roads would be garbage if they were all private and controlled by the people that built them.  The postal system (especially before the modern era) is another subsidized system that led to huge social benefits.

There's some areas today where similar forces could cause similar results.  The easiest to see, is of course, health care, which could benefit from nationalization in many ways (in other ways it would of course be a detriment).

But government sponsored commercial enterprise doesn't cause efficiency in market based systems.  It causes incentives to warp, resources to be allocated inefficiently and suppresses innovation.

Fenring

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Re: Taxation of Robots
« Reply #49 on: March 01, 2017, 03:23:15 PM »
Seriati, some of your objections are mechanical ones, meaning that you believe some result will occur from a UBI and I think otherwise. There's not really any further we can explore that one, especially since predictive economics theory is insufficient to 'solve' such things to any degree of satisfaction. I guess I'll have to leave that part of it alone and we'll agree to disagree.

A slightly more interesting aspect to our disagreement here seems to be a premise that you're tacitly employing, which is that everything is owned by someone, and therefore the only way to obtain anything at all - finished goods or even natural resources - is by getting them from someone. That is a fascinating premise, and actually I suspect it's one shared by many proponents of capitalism. I also think it's highly problematic once inspected carefully. You see, since finished goods are obviously made by someone at the moment it stands to reason that the only 'fair' way to deal with them is through trade. One important thing to note here is that it won't always be the case that it requires human effort to produce goods, and so this part of the premise is not intrinsically true but only has been true so far due to technological limitations. If a 'production robot' could take raw materials and produce goods from them that element of the premise would become potentially obsolete. You might argue that someone still owns the robot, and even this would be a shortsighted objection. I could create a group of intelligent robots, for instance, and 'donate them' to the community to produce as much, say, bread, as anyone wanted to eat as long as wheat was provided in some way. You might ask how the wheat is gotten, and a similar answer could be provided. The possibility of this is not very far off, but I digress. Let's go back to the other part of the basic premise, which is that even natural resources can only be obtained from someone. This is the part I find most troubling, because it tacitly asserts that every part of the planet - from the mantle up to the stratosphere - is owned by someone. Maybe this will be the case some day, but I hope not. But it's certainly verging towards that, with companies like Nestle effectively trying to leverage control over natural water resources all over the world, despite the common sense wisdom most people seem to believe which is that they should be considered as communal resources. The 'water wars' are a big deal, and personally are a concern of mine going forward.

But getting back to 'mined' resources and things like that, we'd have to get into licences to mine, contract rights, land ownership (where relevant), and other such details. At first glance it appears to be 'obvious' that land is owned, and that whomever owns it owns what's on it or in it, and can sell it to others; this would include oil, a mine, or whatever else. And yet I don't actually think this should be so obvious at all; it actually strikes me as perverse. And this is one area where I think our macro-economic disagreement may actually stem from a more fundamental disagreement about what 'ownership' ought to be taken to be. I think it's rational to say people should own their own belongings, their house (if they do own it), the land it's on, and so forth. Private property is important to human dignity, and so is having things of one's own. However I do not think it's rational for people with wealth to leverage it by buying vast swathes of unoccupied land, ores that are in the ground, and everything else that doesn't float up into the sky. Heck, I'm sure down the line individuals are going to try to purchase air space as well. I kind of view the whole notion of buying up the planet as pretty sick. It's not that I want communism - because I don't. But whereas someone might ask why the populace should be allowed to share in the Earth's natural resources, I think they fundamentally already have a right to, regardless of what some current law or financial system has to say about it. I do not believe that the vast majority of the people in the world should effectively be the Irish tenantry to the few people who buy up all the land and natural resources first, and then basically charge them rent for the use of any of it. That kind of system (which England previously employed) is just another kind of slavery, and I'm against it. I'd like to think you are too, but there is a clear and present conflict of interest between (a) keeping the sanctity of private ownership and property, and (b) delineating some kind of line where we would say that certain things ought not to be available to be owned by private citizens. It's probably a very hard line to draw, and yet the further along we go technologically the more we will need to find that line, because once production becomes so trivial that any old robot with decent AI can do it, it will really be about availability of resources and who's withholding them from the majority of people. Certain resources (gold, uranium, etc) are actually scarce; most relevant ones to living a good life are not. The issue really is with resource distribution in the end. Capitalism's solution to the 'puzzle' of how to distribute it is to be agnostic and let things play out how they will; that method is beginning to fail and will get worse and worse over time as a solution, to say nothing of more and more unjust. Another solution will be needed, and pretending that "no one ought to ever decide where resources go" is a cop out that won't be tenable for that much longer. It does need to be decided, and although I know you might take this as a "gotcha!" that I'm advocating for communism, you would be wrong. Making a decision is not the same as making a violent one that is designed to oppress everyone. At a certain point failing to make a decision will be the more oppressive course to take.

/sermon
« Last Edit: March 01, 2017, 03:27:02 PM by Fenring »