Thanks for the fantastic discussion points Verteron and Neozeks!
We all love a good discussion.
From the original series episode "Devil in the Dark," Kirk also uses the lure of getting "rich" to convince the miners to work out a pact with the Horta. This seems to imply that some people (the miners) even in this society are taking "dirty jobs" (such as mining) not so much because they feel it's a calling, but for the financial rewards.
If there are to be some people with more money/credits/etc. than others, then their must be some economic disparity, even in a generally classless society.
Good example. I imagine full economic equality is simply impossible, at least without forcing it on people (and that's not really Trekkie). But when everyone has a comfortable high living standard and an equal chance to gain a bit more, disparity loses it's prevailing importance (ie. nobody even notices it, really).
We should also remember the Federation is a mix of hundred cultures, planets and colonies. Not all have to have the same economic system (though I expect all are developed and socially just to some required degree). Some probably still have money and markets. There was mention of a Bank of Bolarus, for example. Bajor would have been admitted into the Federation while still being nowhere near as developed as Earth.
i imagine there is though also some kind of overarching economic system on a UFP level - maybe the Federation credits we heard mentioned from time to time.
And since you mention the miners, you know, I just realized something. I've always wondered - why mine anything, when you can replicate it?
I figured they were probably just mining stuff that couldn't be replicated. But I was just now reading up on the replicators and realized that they work differently than I thought. They don't create matter just out of energy, they rearange other matter. So you still need raw materials for replicators to work. Waste materials could be used, of course (making a new shirt from an old one), but ocasionally you'll still need 'fresh' matter.
Again, I'm not knowledgeable beyond a certain point, but I'd assumed that Vulcan was free, but not democratic. The fact that they are "logical" implies to me that they, perhaps more than a more "emotional" society, would be more willing to give up governance to the Oligarchy or Elders or Priests or whomever is most qualified, and not contest it. In other words, I don't think anyone could argue that Vulcan is a repressive society, but I also image that there is no voting, campaigning, representation, etc. I may very well be wrong, however.
Makes sense, going on what we know of the Vulcans (it would surely aleviate a significant problem with democracy - two stupids can outvote one smart guy
). Maybe the 'democracy' requirement I mentioned is for the population to peacefully and willingly accept their political system, even if the system itself isn't democracy.