Keith Ablow, a Fox News analyst, asked Should Trump stop robots from stealing jobs?
Economist Don Boudreaux responded:
It’s true that the pace of introducing new labor-saving techniques has magnificently quickened in the past two hundred years. This fast pace continues today. Yet still we encounter no evidence that labor-saving techniques permanently increase unemployment.
You’ll reply “This time is different!” Perhaps, but I doubt it. And I’m so confident in my prediction that I’ll put $10,000 of my own my money where my mouth is.
Terms of the wager are at the Boudreaux link. I’m not sure if the bet has been accepted or not.
Meanwhile, here is Bill Gates, suggesting that robots should be taxed. Left undefined, at least in this interview, is a question of Exactly What is a Robot? Is a CNC machine tool a robot? I’d say it absolutely is, as was the case with earlier numerically-controlled machine tools that became pretty common in the 1970s and 1980s. How about an automated teller machine in a bank? And what about “robots” that have no direct physical incarnation but are purely software, such as the office productivity software that accounted for a huge portion of Microsoft’s success? It was largely Microsoft Word and similar software that made secretaries an endangered species in most organizations. (Can you imaging the lobbying, litigation, and regulatory struggles that would surround this definitional issue if politicians were to take Bill’s proposal seriously?)
The proposal also ignores that fact that the United States is not the entire world–taxing robots here would harm our competitiveness vis-a-vis those countries pursuing no such policy. (Which would clearly include China.) The only way to make a US-only anti-robot policy ‘work’ would be to establish very high tariff barriers.
See also my posts Attack of the Job-Killing Robots and Attack of the Job-Killing Robots Part 2. I hope to soon complete Part 3 of the series, which will focus on automation technologies and their impact in the post-WWII era.