I'm astonished to find yet another person getting this wrong. Martin Wolf:
Fourth, we will need to redistribute income and wealth. Such redistribution could take the form of a basic income for every adult, together with funding of education and training at any stage in a person’s life. In this way, the potential for a more enjoyable life might become a reality. The revenue could come from taxes on bads (pollution, for example) or on rents (including land and, above all, intellectual property). Property rights are a social creation. The idea that a small minority should overwhelming benefit from new technologies should be reconsidered. It would be possible, for example, for the state to obtain an automatic share in the income from the intellectual property it protects.
This is all about what happens when the robots steal all our jobs. And everyone, just everyone, is arguing that when they do then the capitalists will have all the money. For they, of course, own the robots. Thus we should tax the snot out of capital and the capitalists and the world will be a better place. It all sounds a bit Marxist to me to be honest, this idea that there is some class of capitalists that we must tax.
There are several reasons why I don't think this is going to happen:
1) My favourite economics paper. Looking at who benefits from Schumpeterian innovation, that's the same thing as the technological change we're considering here. The answer is that we the consumers get 97% of it and the entrepreneurs get 3%. Now why should we, getting 97% of the increased living standard from technological change, then want to tax the snot out of those people bringing it to us and only getting 3% of that new value created?
2) Does anyone at all really believe that the robots are all going to end up being owned by one class of people? In this age of open source stuff? Is this what's happening with 3D printing? Of course it damn well isn't: people are pottering about in sheds with these technologies. As soon as we do have robots that make robots (the necessary stage for them to take all our jobs) there will be designs for such robots that you can make at home. We'll all be robot owners and why would we want to tax the snot out of ourselves?
3) The assumption is that capital will become more productive in a robot world. That's why we'll have to tax the snot out of capital. And capital will indeed become more productive: which is why its value will fall. Yes, you read that right. When something becomes more productive this is equivalent to stating that we've made more of it. Thus more productive capital means we have more capital and the price of something that becomes in greater supply falls, not rises.
4) The last time we mechanised a significant area of life was probably farming back in the 1920s and 30s. Agriculture become significantly more productive. What happened to the price of land? Yup, it sank like a stone and the farmers have been on the public teat ever since.
Vast numbers of cheap robots would lead to our lives improving immeasurably: so why is everyone running around insisting that it will then be necessary to tax the snot out of the capitalists?