Should Robots Be Taxed If They Take People’s Jobs?
Economist Robert Shiller says that just “maybe” robots should be taxed if they end up taking away jobs from hard-working Americans.
Professor Shiller argued that there has been a flood of innovations that make life easier for people, yet eliminate the human element, such as Google Home, Amazon Echo Dot (Alexa), driverless taxi services, and Doordash, which uses Starship Technologies miniature self-driving vehicles to replace restaurant delivery people.
“If these and other labor-displacing innovations succeed, surely calls to tax them will grow more frequent, owing to the human problems that arise when people lose their jobs – often jobs with which they closely identify, and for which they may have spent years preparing,” he wrote in his syndicated blog Sunday.
“Optimists point out that there have always been new jobs for people replaced by technology; but, as the robot revolution accelerates, doubts about how well this will work out continue to grow,” the Nobel laureate economist wrote.
“A tax on robots, its advocates hope, might slow down the process, at least temporarily, and provide revenues to finance adjustment, like retraining programs for displaced workers.
Critics of a robot tax have emphasized that the ambiguity of the term “robot” makes defining the tax base difficult. The critics also stress the new robotics’ enormous, undeniable benefits to productivity growth.
“A moderate tax on robots, even a temporary tax that merely slows the adoption of disruptive technology, seems a natural component of a policy to address rising inequality,” Prof. Shiller explained.
“Revenue could be targeted toward wage insurance, to help people replaced by new technology make the transition to a different career. This would accord with our natural sense of justice, and thus be likely to endure.”
And Shiller is not the only respected economic voice to raise concerns about artificial intelligence taking over the American workforce.
By the early 2030’s, 38% of jobs in the United States could be at high-risk of being performed through automation rather than by humans, a new report indicates.
According to the analysis performed by accounting and consulting firm PwC, that is a higher number than in Britain, which could see 30% of its jobs become automated; Germany, at 35%; and Japan, with 21%.
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