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In this future society:

  • All of Earth's resources can be accessed since the planet has one world government.
  • All services and goods are owned, created, and distributed by the state.
  • Every step of production and distribution is fully automated, even the creation and maintenance of the machine labour force.
  • Money is a digital currency created by the state and received by people through a basic income based on their class, which can be raised (or fall) by collecting votes from other citizens and surveillance AI judging their contributions and behaviour either positively or negatively. (Think of it as social credit) As such, money exists to distribute things by who 'deserves' it, rewarding and privileging the most 'virtuous' citizens.

So would taxes still be required to make this society function now that all money and produce are controlled by the state, can be 'freely' created, and [money] serves moreso a moral goal rather than to pay for things?

*Note: Unlike its residents, I do not intend for this society to be a utopia. This system, the class system in particular, is deliberately insidious for story purposes.

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    $\begingroup$ Communism Mark II arrives. Joy. $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 29 at 16:49
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    $\begingroup$ The question is self-contradictory. Bullet 2 says that all money is owned by the government -- which cannot be true anyway, but I assume that the question intended to say "by the state". Bullet 4 says that people receive an income, which means that some money is then owned by the people, contradicting bullet 2. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 29 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ @HenryTaylor: Post scarcity is a requirement for Communism. (Communism cannot possibly work as long as there is scarcity. To quote K. Marx himself, "to each according to his needs"...) And economic models are fundamentally inapplicable to a post scarcity society, because economics is about allocating scarce resources. $\endgroup$ – AlexP May 29 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ AlexP, also... every nation that has ever attempted to create a communist economy has done so with the clear knowledge that they were not yet in a post-scarcity state. So although your "requirement" comment is true, that is often overlooked by the altruistic and the power-mad, both of whom pursue communal equality for their own ends. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 29 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ Why is there money? $\endgroup$ – Tim May 30 at 9:03
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No. What you are describing is a post-scarcity economy and as the individual citizens no longer have to work to provide for their basic sustenance, so also, the government does not have to tax its citizens to pay for its needs. Everything it needs to operate would come out of the same pool of automatically manufactured goods as provides for the citizens. The only thing missing is a source for the value behind that "digital currency" which when earned by government employees, allows them to live a moderately better life than those who do not work. But un-backed currencies are not a new thing.

The country might choose to charge a very small tax to its employed citizens, in return for enhanced class or special privileges. If it did however, it would not be doing so out of necessity. It would be doing it for the psychological effect; allowing each citizen to own and take pride in the miraculous accomplishment which is this post-scarcity civilization.

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  • $\begingroup$ You could have completely voluntary government, people will still do stuff they think it's worthy. I'm sure some people would step up, and aided by automation you wouldn't need many. Though hopefully, they are enough people to keep the system honest/just. $\endgroup$ – csiz May 30 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ @csiz, where are you finding your people? Because if they are more honest and just than a dis-compassionate, unbiased computer then they are something special. Either that, or I've been finding my people in all the wrong places. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 30 at 22:43
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    $\begingroup$ "Return from the Stars" from Stanislaw Lem is a good example for such a society. Society is almost post-scarcity. Food, clothing, medicine, housing, public transportation, and basic entertainment are all free and of reasonably good quality. Luxury items, designer clothing, holidays travels, villas, private vehicles, are not free. Unique in the style that it's neither a utopia nor a dystopia. Tends very slightly towards utopia, but has its flaws. The conflict of the story comes from the protagonist having a difficult time fitting in culturally, having arrived from our time into that future. $\endgroup$ – vsz May 31 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ Another good example is Corey Doctorow's Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom which is available in both printed and public domain downloadable form. Again, it describes a semi-utopian society with the added benefit of immortality/life-extension availablity. Although the plot centers on the issues inherent in immortality, the post-scarcity society depicted in the background is stunningly realistic and complete. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor May 31 at 16:03
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No - if the State owns everything there is no place for tax. The post-scarcity society you describe would be a far more extreme form of communism than has ever actually existed - even in the USSR it was official labour that was effectively 'communised' rather than all possessions.

The only purpose might be a form of 'claw back' in a society that placed an extremely high value on egalitarianism. In the situation you describe, the prudent could potentially save their state-provided rations to establish a stockpile which they didn't technically own but had sole use/possession of. A form of tax on stored rations and goods would allow the state to penalise hoarding.

However, since you're allowing inequality based on socially determined class it seems unlikely that the 'elites' of your society would want to introduce such a claw back system which would cut into their privileges.

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Let's start with your question :

So would taxes still be required to make this society function now that all money and produce are controlled by the state, can be 'freely' created, and [money] serves moreso a moral goal rather than to pay for things?

Tax what ?

The state gives the money in the first place (why it uses money is another question, as money implies choices driving an economy it does not control). In most countries States operate what are known as PAYE systems, meaning Pay As You Earn, but that applies to economies where all payments (the majority in fact) are made by someone other than the Government. In your case why would the State bother to remove money before it gives it to you ? Or if you give it all and then take it back later that's going to be rather weird.

So, no, taxes just make people confused : *"I'm getting this, but then they take it back ? What ?". It is, however, the kind of thing a centralized monolithic bureaucracy would do simply because it can and no one can stop or has a reason to.

So now it's Frame challenge time or ...

Start the Revolution Now !

Your idea has problems. They're called "humans". :-)

All of Earth's resources can be accessed since the planet is united under a single government body.

Note that "all of Earth's resources" would include people who are not motivated by a sense of social sharing and unification. "All" would inevitably include people who actually loath that system and want some wide range of other systems. Unless you remove free will, that is inevitable, so "all" is not quite correct.

Also some of those resources will turn out to be in places they cannot be accessed without social or environmental problems - moving large numbers of people, interfering with water flows, etc, etc. So again, "all" won't be available.

Even if all are available that does not mean that some resources will not be scarce. And these may not be luxuries, but basic amenities like food and water - we have a tendency to increase the population without reference to practical resource availability. So this model needs population controls to work.

All services, goods, and [digital] money are owned, created, and distributed by the government.

Stagnation would seem likely, as there is no need for development of anything but basic necessities. The State (as an institution) has no need for anything but keeping people alive and "calm" (minimal unrest). There's no economic drive to produce new goods and services or to innovate. Governments (a.k.a. bureaucracies) have a terrible track record for this.

Capitalism has many faults, but it's relatively good at driving innovation, but requires some controls (Government) to stop it getting "carried away".

At best your system produces apathy as a social norm. You might want to consider the history of the Rome Empire when thinking about this, or indeed Asimov's "Foundation" books (which really seem to take Rome galactic).

Every step of production and distribution is automated, even the creation and maintenance of the machines.

Practically speaking there is not much today that is not "automated" in the sense of being part of an intricate production-consumption system. However your particular problem here is what do all the people do to maintain sanity, mental health and a sense of self worth ? Without these your people will be a restless mob looking for a purpose, and that's how revolutions are born.

Humans receive a basic income from the state based on their class

Class !!!!

So we have classes, which means we're not all equal and "some people" (i.e. the vast majority as usual) will be lower class and "might" feel that it's unfair that bad luck, accident or birth, etc. makes them lower class.

And where do revolutions start ? The poor sods labelled "lower class" (or who know they are, regardless of label).

And those near the top class ? Do they practice all those arts humans have used to claw their way to the top over history ? Can you avoid bribery, corruption, politics, graft, greed, envy, lust and so on ? Not with humans involved, I think.

A class system would be a terrible weakness.

, which can be raised (or fall) by collecting votes from other citizens

A popularity contest ! Worse and worse.

An infamous fellow was once asked by a young man what skills he though a young man should nurture to prosper. The old man thought for a while and said "Charm", meaning charisma. The young man was a prison guard and the old man was Albert Speer, who used his charm is very anti-social ways, not to mention avoiding the noose he deserved.

My point is that any system where popular vote gets you to a better class (yuch) is weak because popularity does not equate to socially responsibility. "Albert" of course is just an extreme example : our society rewards socially irresponsible and even dangerous individuals all the time based on popularity and as a species it's practically a defining trait.

and surveillance AI judging their contributions and behaviour either positively or negatively.

And who polices the police. :-)

Someone must control that AI. Someone must define what is "good" and "bad". It can't be a popular vote as we've countless historic examples of how popular votes put the most repellent to the top of the heap. So there have to be rules, but what if you're in that unhappy group who are excluded by the rules - no rules are perfect, after all ?

I. M. Banks' Culture novels does depict such a system (run by AIs), but this is well past providing basics - this system provides anything you want, anytime. It's not post-scarsity (as one poster describes your idea), but post-surplus. Your post does not describe such a world.

So is your world one run exclusively by the AI ? Have the AI the "teeth and claws" to enforce what they decide ? They'll surely need some enforcement arm. What happens if you just happen to not agree or to want change ?

So would taxes still be required to make this society function now that all money and produce are controlled by the state, can be 'freely' created, and [money] serves moreso a moral goal rather than to pay for things?

Tax what ?

The state gives the money in the first place (why it uses money is another question, as money implies choices driving an economy it does not control). In most countries States operate what are known as PAYE systems, meaning Pay As You Earn, but that applies to economies where all payments (the majority in fact) are made by someone other than the Government. In your case why would the State bother to remove money before it gives it to you ? Or if you give it all and then take it back later that's going to be rather weird.

money serves more so a moral goal rather than to pay for things?

Money does what ?

Money acts as a medium to pay for good and services. Having more money than someone else as a goal is just creating yet more class divisions. If you cannot do anything with it other than "keep score", then it becomes ago ego and status, not morality or social value.

Morality ? Who defines that ? More rules ? The AI ? A ruling council, or God forbid, the Upper Class ? Is it some hideous dogma written long ago by dead people - a tradition enforced because the society has that as it's sole purpose - and so on to stagnation ?

You might as well start the revolution now. You've plenty of seeds for one.

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  • $\begingroup$ The question was whether there would be taxes, not whether you can find flaws in the barest of sketches. $\endgroup$ – rek May 30 at 6:52
  • $\begingroup$ @rek Frame challenges are a perfectly reasonable part of WB SE. We are not required to accept any idea an OP floats if we think it's deeply flawed. It's considered "part of the service" to point out flaws that make the workings of details pointless. As for the "barest of sketches", it's rather silly working out fine detail in bare sketches before you address the practicality of the bare sketch. And as I did answer the question about taxes, you should have no problem with my answer. $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 30 at 10:07
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Wow, you gave me so many good points to note down! Thank you! Some problems you pose I already implemented, e.g. population controls and moderating the potential for civil unrest and lack of purpose. The class system is deliberately insidious in being based on popular vote and morality (who defines that is indeed the question), as is the supposed 'moral' function of 'money'. I thought of it as basically a social credit system where the social credit is also your money. I'm just puzzling how that would work, what problems would arise, and how I can explore it through story~ $\endgroup$ – Eveline Daw May 30 at 11:29
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    $\begingroup$ @EvelineDaw Glad you found it useful. If you are asking more questions on WB SE I'd suggest stating things like your intention for the class system to be "insidious" (good word) as it helps people when developing their answers to have an idea that e.g. you're creating a flawed utopia and not a utopia. I probably wouldn't have mentioned half these things if I thought you were deliberately using them for plot purposes. $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 30 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Oh, my apologies..! I was under the impression that I should keep it concise. I was afraid to bog down my question with too much potentially irrelevant/distracting info. I'll be more clear about my intent in the future, thank you! :) $\endgroup$ – Eveline Daw May 30 at 11:58
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Yes. Required service to the state can strengthen a society.

You want to /make this society function/. A society is an assembly of humans. The best way to unite humans is to have them strive towards a common goal and share that experience together. In your future society (and in our current societies!) there is a real risk of individuals becoming unmoored from the larger society. These individuals may come to think of their society as the "other" - something that they are not a part of. This is the beginning of the end for a society.

A requirement of labor, time and service has long been a feature of many societies, and still is in some societies. The best modern example is mandatory military service; nations like Israel that could do fine with an all professional military still require their young adults to serve in the military for a time. I think a large part of this is a desire to instill in these young people the perception that they are as individuals part of a greater whole that is their nation.

In your "future society", there is a risk that society will disintegrate because individuals no longer consider themselves part of it. Requiring time and service for the common good (even if the service could be done by professionals, or machines) is one way to bind individuals together.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hm, I never would have thought of mandatory service as a type of tax, but I guess instead of owing the government some amount of money, you owe them some amount of time. But will it really bring citizens together to force everyone to do useless, unnecessary work for a portion of their lives? In the OP's scenario, it seems all of society's needs are met without human input, so forcing everyone to break rocks for a year in the name of "unity" does not seem like it would go over very well. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Hoagie May 29 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang - my suspicion is that you are an American. As am I. Many modern Americans bridle at being asked to sacrifice for the societal good, as our current COVID19 experience is demonstrating. I think you are right that the above described scheme would flop in a society of Americans. $\endgroup$ – Willk May 29 at 19:55
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In a post scarcity world, you could actually argue that taxation is abstracted. In effect, you pay the state a behavioral tax and in exchange you get sustenance, relative safety, and enough arbitrary credits to amuse yourself.

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    $\begingroup$ All citizens are required to do an Irish jig on their front law every morning for not less than 10 minutes in exchange for their daily living credits. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen May 30 at 5:51
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Taxation might still have a place in a post-scarcity economic system, depending on what goals the government is trying to achieve. I find Modern Monetary Theory is enlightening when looking at the relationships between governments, money, and taxation, and one of the things it teaches us is that governments don't tax you because they need your money -- they tax you because they need you to need their money. A government that issues its own currency can print as much as it wants, but (without taxation) it can't be sure anyone will want to take that currency off its hands.

Money buys lots of things that aren't material goods -- in fact, more than half of the US economy is in the service sector -- and those things can be valuable to a government. If it wants to purchase them and it issues its own currency, it can print money to pay for it -- but only if the seller takes the currency in question. By taxing its citizens, then, it creates broad demand for its currency throughout the whole economic base. This helps ensure that the currency has purchasing power -- and ensures that the currency's issuer, the government, has access to the marketplace in its own territory. As long as taxes exist, a government can be sure its citizens will accept its currency in payment -- even if the bills are fresh off the printing press.

None of this is changed by the post-scarcity premise. I do see you've said that all services are controlled by the government, but there must be a practical limit to that -- I'm not sure a government will get very far with enforcing quotas on creative writing, for example. (Does a post-scarcity society still have to wait for George R. R. Martin to finish the next Game of Thrones book? Is prostitution controlled by a five-year plan? Do all the captioned pictures of grumpy felines come from government-employed meme engineers?) In any case, unless the citizenry can't produce anything the government wants, monetary policy and taxation will stick around.

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    $\begingroup$ Those are some great points! Thank you! I never would've thought of taxes being used to create demand for the official currency, but it makes sense, especially if you want to prevent citizens from using other means of trade and becoming independent from the class/basic income system I posed. Hmm... the question then becomes, what would be taxed? $\endgroup$ – Eveline Daw May 30 at 14:14
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A major function of taxation is to encourage or discourage certain activities. For instance, if the state wants to encourage saving, they can increase interest rates and raise various sales taxes; or vice versa, if they want to encourage spending, they can cut taxes, increase benefits, which amps up inflation, which encourages people to spend now before the product they want to buy costs more in a year's time.

I think these sorts of considerations would still exist in a post-scarcity economy, as even when all basic needs are taken care of, there will be various economic factions who will want some activity or other to be encouraged or discouraged.

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