SECTIONS - Making Connections
September 08, 2017

Logic Prevails in EU as Bill Gates Robot Tax Dies


As we wrote in February while eating sushi and reading about Bill Gates trying to set global tax policy, taxing robots is a terrible idea.

In an interview with Quartz, Gates said that a robot tax could finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools. Needs in these areas are unmet, he said, and humans are particularly well suited to these jobs. He argued that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes.

“You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed” of automation, Gates argued.

We wondered why Mr. Gates, for whom we have the deepest admiration in terms of his contribution to the world of tech, didn't volunteer the idea to tax office productivity applications which replaced workers. Could it be perhaps because Microsoft, the company he founded, made hundreds of billions of dollars selling these applications?

Just a guess of course.

No one wants people to be jobless or poor or for that matter unhappy, unhealthy, etc. But taxing technology isn't the answer and never ever will be.

Tech innovation is responsible for allowing prices to fall on items like electronics and other necessities on which we all rely. It brings down prices on staples like food. In other words, technology is always a double-edged sword.

Do the thousands of millionaires at Microsoft need to be penalized for writing software which could reduce jobs? How about elsewhere in Silicon Valley? Should we go after Tesla and Alphabet because their self-driving cars will put millions of drivers out of work?

Yes, we don't want mass-joblessness. But we also don't want arbitrary taxes on industries which central-planners deem are the "bad ones." There is one political and economic system which has lifted more people around the world out of poverty than any other, and it is the free market system – where companies are free to innovate and apply creative destruction to existing industries.

The industrial revolution by definition reduced the amount of people needed to produce goods and services. Yet employment boomed as a result. Automobiles put blacksmiths who made horseshoes out of business as well as farmers who grew the hay the horses ate. Yet, somehow, these vehicles led to more jobs being created.

If we are looking for global solutions to challenges like unemployment, we should reduce taxes and regulations and allow human potential to be fully unleashed. In history, there has been no other path to financial prosperity for the masses like free markets.

The alternative is central planning, which is thriving in places like Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. A quick look at these areas should give those in favor of the Gates robot tax a moment of pause. But if they are truly open-minded they will realize this is not the path any country should go down. Thankfully, Andrus Ansip, the European Commissioner in charge of the Digital Single Market, agrees with us.

The industrial revolution by definition reduced the amount of people needed to produce goods and services. Yet employment boomed as a result. Automobiles put blacksmiths who made horseshoes out of business as well as farmers who grew the hay the horses ate. Yet, somehow, these vehicles led to more jobs being created.




Edited by Ken Briodagh


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