By Jack Buckby
Rese­arch Associate
Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Policy

Sin­ce the publi­ca­tion of Ful­ly Auto­ma­ted Luxu­ry Com­mu­nism in 2018, a mani­fe­sto by Aaron Basta­ni, mil­len­nials across Cana­da and the Uni­ted Sta­tes have embra­ced a new Marxism for the 21st century.

This new socia­lism is based on the con­cept of a post-scar­ci­ty eco­no­my that embra­ces auto­ma­tion, the reduc­tion of wor­king hours and a uni­ver­sal income.


It sho­uld come as no sur­pri­se that mil­len­nials want more tech­no­lo­gy, gre­ater con­nec­tion and more time spent out­si­de of work.

In a YouTu­be video expla­ining his ide­as, Basta­ni offers the Lon­don Under­gro­und network and super­mar­ket self-chec­ko­uts as exam­ples of how auto­ma­tion can redu­ce wor­king hours.

His sug­ge­stion is not to ful­ly repla­ce human wor­kers – at least yet. Inste­ad, he sug­ge­sts human wor­kers sho­uld be paid the same sala­ry for wor­king fewer hours, whi­le the robots pick up the slack.

Under­gro­und tra­in dri­vers could work 10-hour weeks whi­le still taking home a sala­ry of up to C$160,000 (that’s not a typo – the trans­port unions have a stran­gle­hold over the gover­ning Lon­don Assem­bly and pro­ba­bly dese­rve auto­ma­tion at this point).

Poten­tial­ly half of all Cana­dian jobs could be at risk from auto­ma­tion in the next deca­de, so cle­ar­ly some­thing needs to change.

For­cing wealth cre­ators to pay twi­ce for its employ­ees, howe­ver, doesn’t real­ly solve the problem.

Under ful­ly auto­ma­ted luxu­ry com­mu­nism (FALC), employ­ers would be requ­ired to pur­cha­se the equ­ip­ment that repla­ces the wor­kers, as well as fork out lar­ge sala­ries for human employ­ees who work fewer hours.

In the long term, sup­port for the­se employ­ers would be taken over by the sta­te and the bur­den of pay­ing twi­ce for eve­ry job would be pla­ced on the taxpayer.

The­re are obvio­us eco­no­mic flaws – com­mu­nism is com­mu­nism, whe­ther or not it invo­lves let­ting robots do the work for you. And FALC is fun­da­men­tal­ly fla­wed in that it seems to advo­ca­te a dys­to­pian eco­no­mic model simi­lar to the com­mu­nist model from the past – at least, in terms of how it would impact socie­ty at large.

The dif­fe­ren­ce betwe­en a futu­ri­stic capi­ta­list sys­tem and FALC is that one is dri­ven by tech­no­lo­gi­cal advan­ce­ment and con­stant pro­gress, whe­re­as the lat­ter would be dri­ven by short-term pro­gress, then deca­des (or cen­tu­ries) of stagnation.

Howe­ver, both would ine­vi­ta­bly invo­lve doing less, con­su­ming more, and gre­ater depen­den­ce on tech­no­lo­gy. Total auto­ma­tion, capi­ta­list or com­mu­nist, remo­ves the very pur­po­se of human exi­sten­ce. It strips us of our dri­ve to get up in the mor­ning and do some­thing to chan­ge the world. We turn into couch-dwel­ling consumers.

If we were to buy into this ultra-socia­list dys­to­pia that Basta­ni envi­sions, will hair­dres­sers, the­ra­pi­sts, teachers and nur­ses be hap­py to sit and watch whi­le low-skil­led wor­kers get paid full sala­ries for doing less? Or are we meant to belie­ve that the ave­ra­ge per­son would be wil­ling to stick the­ir head into auto­ma­ted pods equ­ip­ped with scis­sors and razor bla­des? Or rely on mobi­le robots to deli­ver urgent medi­cal care?

Advo­ca­tes for FALC conve­nien­tly igno­re the huge ine­qu­ali­ties that the pro­gres­sion towards full auto­ma­tion will ine­vi­ta­bly cre­ate. Basta­ni admits in the book that “tech­ni­cal bar­riers” must be sur­mo­un­ted, but tho­se bar­riers are going to take real time to overcome.

Money can only acce­le­ra­te inno­va­tion so much and that money’s ine­vi­ta­bly going to dry up if eve­ry major employ­er is pay­ing twi­ce for its employ­ees and taxed to high heaven at the same time.

During this trans­i­tion, some will work full time for full pay, whi­le others get to put the­ir feet up whi­le the­ir employ­ers still have to pay them. This is extre­me auto­ma­ted capi­ta­lism in rever­se: the high­ly-skil­led are for­ced to work for the­ir cash and the low-skil­led enco­ura­ged to go home and con­su­me more social media, more tele­vi­sion and more sta­te propaganda.

It’s a sys­tem desi­gned to both repla­ce humans with machi­nes and convert low-skil­led human wor­kers into an obe­dient robo­tic class.

Assu­ming the tech­no­lo­gi­cal bar­riers that Basta­ni refe­ren­ces can even­tu­al­ly be over­co­me, and all pri­va­te indu­stry is swal­lo­wed up by the sta­te, the small task of cre­ating a uni­ver­sal basic inco­me, guaran­te­ed housing and social health care must then be tac­kled. Fun­ny eno­ugh, Onta­rio alre­ady tried it – and failed.

In 2018, the province’s radi­cal expe­ri­ment that offe­red 4,000 low-inco­me resi­dents an annu­al sti­pend to spend how they like was can­cel­led two years ear­ly. Under the pro­gram, couples were gran­ted $19,000 a year and indi­vi­du­als $13,000. Not sur­pri­sin­gly, a simi­lar trial in Fin­land imple­men­ted in 2017 was not renewed.

FALC would offer luxu­ry for tho­se in the lowest inco­me brac­kets, bre­ed discon­tent­ment and anger, and widen the gap betwe­en the clas­ses until tech­no­lo­gy advan­ces eno­ugh to imple­ment a demon­stra­bly unwor­ka­ble uni­ver­sal basic inco­me sys­tem. That is, assu­ming the work­for­ce doesn’t beco­me so discon­ten­ted that there’s nobo­dy ready and ava­ila­ble to work on the tech­no­lo­gi­cal advan­ce­ments requ­ired to imple­ment this radi­cal vision.

Ful­ly-auto­ma­ted luxu­ry com­mu­nism won’t work for Cana­da, or any­whe­re else. It’s the ugliest cul­mi­na­tion of Marxist the­ory and mil­len­nial lazi­ness. It’s devo­id of human soul and cha­rac­ter, and it would strip Cana­da of any sem­blan­ce of natio­nal iden­ti­ty and pride.

Jack Buck­by is a rese­arch asso­cia­te with the Fron­tier Cen­tre for Public Poli­cy.

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