What's the point of taxes if no one works?
Photo: Kevin Marsh/Flickr
It's said that nothing is for sure but death and taxes. Anti-aging scientists are already working on getting rid of death, but what about taxes? If we all live thousands of years, will we also have to pay the IRS every April 15th?
It's unlikely. Individual income taxes will not survive the end of the century, if they even survive the next few decades, due to the coming robot and 3D printing revolution.
In little more than 20 years, about 75 percent of all jobs and occupations will be severely challenged by robots and software—both of which will be able to do jobs better and cheaper than humans. And by the end of the century, it's possible that basically all jobs may be replaced by unmanned machines.
(Full disclosure. I'm currently being audited by the IRS.)
However, it's not because humans won't be working that we may no longer pay taxes—after all, money and consumerism aren't going anywhere soon. But paying taxes generally is related to government spending. And governments will certainly continue to spend money, but not the people's money. Rather they will spend resources they create and control—like robot power. They will do this in the same way they print money on demand and control interest rates as needed to keep economies moving along smoothly.
An automated government will not need money. It will need more robots
In the future, when government needs more worker power to implement policy, it will just put in orders for more bots at factories it controls—giant 3D printing facilities. The CIA Headquarters, US Congress, and even the White House will likely have their own robot creation facilities ready to produce on-demand a plethora of functional machines they need.
All this sounds a bit fanciful. But a deeper look into the future of economics shows us why so many radical changes are imminent.
To begin with, there's really only two ways for America to proceed in our transhuman future. We can kill the robot revolution by saying no to robots taking our jobs—frankly, this will never happen, since a critical component of twenty-first century economics is corporations continually modernizing to make or save more money. Or we can embrace robots, and begin the strange path to a world where humans don't work and machines do everything for us. Yes, it will eventually be the end of capitalism as we know it, but economic competition will still survive a while. It just won't be borne on the back of humans, but on machines.
If this all sounds impossible, consider that countries are already testing driverless trucks on the road to deliver goods. In the United States, there were 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and most of those drivers cannot be easily trained to do other jobs. What do they do when they get replaced?
Trucking is just just one of dozens of industries over the next five years that will run head-on into the robot revolution.
Society must soon come to grips with the fact that nearly all human employment is susceptible to extinction in the next few decades. While this might frighten some, I support robots taking our jobs, as I think it will usher in a new American Dream, one that doesn't include working the 9 to 5 grind, but having time for oneself to do whatever.
For me, the key to a new American Dream is the Universal Basic Income (UBI). To keep progress and economies moving forward, it's okay to replace human workers with machines, but we must compensate people adequately and indefinitely. Where does that money come from? The answer is that robots will make industries so much efficient that there will be ample money—probably via higher corporate taxes from higher profits—to dish out a livable income to replaced workers.
Interestingly, corporate taxes will also likely disappear in the long run, as new technologies and engineering innovation methods become more valuable than money and are required by government to manage populations. Corporations will help their government out by sharing technology, not by paying taxes.
However, most importantly, with a UBI, individuals paying taxes will be totally phased out, since there will be no money created by people. In fact, welfare and social security will also end, as a UBI will totally replace the need for it.
Historically, Americans didn't always pay taxes, anyway. Income tax only arrived permanently in America in 1913. Over time, the US government ratcheted up income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and other types. Today, we are drowning in taxes, due to one single factor—the government needs more money than ever to operate. But an automated government will not need money. It will need more robots to operate and implement control and defense—and it will need more robots to program code to create more sophisticated unmanned machines for its endless use.
The key factor here is that at some point in the future, the government will only need its own robot factories, which it will build. The government doesn't need to acquire natural resources to build things, since it already has plenty of them—it owns over half the resource-rich land in 11 Western states, including mineral, oil, timber, water rights and more.
All the American government really needs now is the public to vote in good representatives who can understand and utilize technology to govern better. And with that better management will come the technological-inspired extinction of all personal taxes—and freedom from the Uncle Sam.
Zoltan Istvan is a futurist and 2016 US presidential candidate of the Transhumanist Party. He writes an occasional column for Motherboard in which he ruminates on the future beyond natural human ability.