Robots must pay to do our work.
Robots must pay to do our work. Getty Images

The big news in France's political world is that the Socialist Party did something that the Labour Party in the UK did, and the Democratic Party is still struggling to do in the US: displaced a centrist (neoliberal) with a progressive (social democrat). In the UK, that move from centrist control is represented by the current leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who came into power after Labour's neoliberals (Brownites and Blairites) were soundly defeated by the Conservative Party in the 2015 general election. In the US, it's represented by the popularity of Bernie Sanders. In France, it's BenoƮt Hamon, who, on January 29, won the party's candidacy for the presidential race happening in April. This race will include France's version of Trump, Marine Le Pen, who is anti-immigrants, anti-EU, and all that sort of thing.

There are two bold policies in Hamon's socialist program. One: he wants France to have a universal basic income ($803 a month) for all citizens; two: he wants to tax robots. If you are a robot, and you have replaced a worker, you must also pay taxes. This makes perfect sense because for one, it socializes the benefits of robotization. At present, the human machines are heavily privatized despite the fact that a lot of public money supports the research and development of this technology.

Another thing: If robots are taxed for work they perform, this revenue will make human free time less expensive. The problem with robotization is not that it puts people out of work, but that free time in an advanced capitalist society is nowhere near free or even cheap. You need lots of money to enjoy and not be oppressed by free time. If you have too much unpaid free time, you are likely to end up on the streets. This is where the universal basic income and robot revenues help. They would cheapen the time when nothing is happening.