A corporate tax on profits is not enough. We need a robot tax
Automation, and now enhanced automation, brings higher productivity and higher profits...obviously. This kind of equipment needs to be taxed or levied in some way ... not depreciated like ordinary equipment. Progressive societies that balance the public good against corporate interests will, ultimately, have to milk the robotic cash cow for the sake of social stability. Bill Gates has already proposed this idea as a robot income tax.
Capitalism works. Corporate objectives and social objectives are often congruent. But we know from experience that capitalism left unchecked is flawed as a tool for promoting the general welfare. Which is what most of us care about. Unrestrained capitalistic institutions monopolize, pollute, and exploit people. Now they can discard people permanently -- those troublesome workers -- in exchange for tireless uncomplaining workers. A well-thought-out tax on the latter will slow the robot transition by reducing the profitability slope of automation. At the same time the funds realized in such a levy could be utilized properly to help contribute to social transformation; that is, for things like universal guaranteed resources and health care. And development of a more artisan-based human work culture. We can train makers, and more nurses and doctors and trainers and entertainers and story tellers.
Henry Ford paid his workers well at the outset because he understood they they would also be his customers. Robots wear nothing, eat nothing, drink nothing, watch nothing and they certainly buy nothing. Even the dimmest business people understand that they will need paying customers. As this trend matures values could very well change. And we may come to value human contributions more. Robots could well free us as was sometimes envisioned by the futurists of the past. Or if their introduction is pursued thoughtlessly they could lead to a huge class upheaval.
The choice is ours. Milk the cow or have it trample us to death.