Taxing robots (Pigovian beard tax edition)

Microsoft billionaire and quasi-monopolist Bill Gates recently proposed that we should tax robots. But should we really tax robots? Why not impose a tax on every line of computer code instead? Or why not tax computer programmers who sport beards? Via Wikipedia: “In 1698, Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax to bring Russian society in line with Western European models. [1] To enforce the ban on beards, the tsar empowered police to forcibly and publicly shave those who refused to pay the tax. [2] Resistance to going clean shaven was widespread, with many believing that it was a religious requirement for a man to wear a beard. [3] The tax levied depended upon the status of the bearded man: Those associated with the Imperial Court, military, or government were charged 60 rubles annually; wealthy merchants were charged 100 rubles per year while other merchants, and townsfolk were charged 60 rubles per year; Muscovites were charged 30 rubles per year; and peasants were charged two half-kopeks every time they entered a city. [4]” Notice the “progressive” nature of this old Russian beard tax. (The footnotes are below the fold.)

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Save me from Bill Gates…


[1] Corson, Richard (2005). Fashions in Hair: The First Five Thousand Years (3 ed.). London: Peter Owen Publishers, p. 220.
[2] Worthington, Daryl (2016). History’s Strangest Tax? Peter the Great Puts a Price on Beards. New Historian. London: Forgotten Books.
[3] Walsh, Devan (2015), Analysis of Peter the Great’s Social Reforms and the Justification of the Reactions from the General Public.
[4] “Указ Императора Петра I — О бритiи бородъ и усовъ всякаго чина людямъ, кромѣ поповъ и дьяконовъ, о взятiи пошлины съ тѣхъ, которые сего исполнить не захотятъ, и о выдачѣ заплатившимъ пошлину знаковъ” [Decree of Tsar Peter I — Concerning Beards and Mustaches of Certain Ranks of People, Exempting Priests and Deacons, and Levying a Fee and Issuing a Mark to Those Who Do Not Wish to Shave] (in Russian).

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
This entry was posted in Current Affairs, Economics, Politics, Web/Tech. Bookmark the permalink.

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