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Old March 25 2014, 04:04 PM   #1
JirinPanthosa
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The FCA makes no sense

In TNG and DS9 we're given the impression that Ferengi society is this laissez faire corporate utopia where people can do whatever they want with their money and there's no taxation or regulation or any sort, even of things such as bribery and intimidation.

Then early to mid through DS9's run we learn of the Ferengi Commerce Authority, this organization that strictly regulates commerce and can forbid Ferengi from doing business and seize their assets any time they feel like it.

This makes no sense! You can't be an Ayn Rand paradise and have strict government regulations at the same time! It's like after all the work Armin Shimmerman did to make Ferengi society seem less cartoonish they decide, nope, we need a Ferengi cartoon villain. Ferengi society isn't a corporate utopia, it's just Earth on opposite day!

They should have done without the FCA and, if they needed a character in the role of Brunt, make him a competitor rather than a government bureaucrat.
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Old March 25 2014, 04:48 PM   #2
Timo
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

I don't see the contradiction. Surely you can run a kleptocracy where the biggest thieves call themselves the Authority? And the way to get around FCA is, of course, you said it, bribery and intimidation.

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Old March 25 2014, 08:47 PM   #3
JirinPanthosa
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

But why would this authority care so much that you don't make deals with your employees, if said deals are likely to lead to greater profit? I totally buy that the richest people would put themselves in a position that requires you to bribe them in order to get what you want. What I don't get is how they would tyrannically enforce the gender restrictions or the union restrictions, in cases where violating them would lead to greater profit. That's the sort of thing that makes it seem more like 'Earth on opposite day'.
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Old March 25 2014, 08:50 PM   #4
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

Even Ferengi business culture has rules. They're just not the rules we're used to seeing.
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Old March 25 2014, 08:57 PM   #5
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

Because the Ferengi homeworld isn't an anarchy. They have a strong government, it just also happens to be the largest private corporation on the planet. It's why the Grand Nagus has to be the most brilliant financial mind on the planet, because he will have to deal with these businesses in a way that will make them mutually profitable, without tipping the scales too far to one side.

As for their culture and women, the Ferengi are extremely misogynistic. Even in a culture of profit, they repress the women. We do the same thing. Here in the U.S., women make less pay than men. Why would they do that? Our culture still places men as being more "important" on the hierarchy scale when it comes to business. It's stupid, it loses money, but there you go.

So to me, the FCA makes sense. They exist to enforce survival of the fittest, and to keep all the the ducks in a row. Even in a Randian paradise, there will be some regulation, and it would likely come by the biggest boy on the block, and that's whoever is going to wield the most power and influence, and outside the government, that's the FCA.

Edit: Also, I agree with MLB. There are some laws that the Ferengi live by, like the Rules of Acquisition, which seem to be quite sacred.
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Old March 26 2014, 01:49 AM   #6
PhoenixClass
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
What I don't get is how they would tyrannically enforce the gender restrictions or the union restrictions, in cases where violating them would lead to greater profit.
We need to get Sci in here, he would explain it quite well.

In addition to the FCA acting like just another bullying corporation, the FCA functions to protect the ultra-capitalist system. The existence of unions in particular is a threat to those who have power. Unions get better wages and working conditions for the workers which diverts money and power away from the business owner. This dynamic is as true in the Ferengi Alliance as it is in our world today.

It's also similar to why the US government is/was obsessed with the domino theory. If one country is able to go its own way independent of what Washington wants, then it can encourage other countries. It becomes the "threat of a good example." Similarly, if workers at Quark's unionize, other workers will see that it can be done and agitate for their own unions. Squash the union at Quark's and it helps prevent other unions too.
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Old March 26 2014, 04:30 AM   #7
JirinPanthosa
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

That only works if big corporations have more to gain by the existence of the FCA than they do by defying it. Just like Gala said "Screw you" and did business with Quark when it was banned to do so, because it was profitable to do so. The entire planet should be like Gala, just say "Screw you, I can get more profit over here without you."

Ferengi culture is extremely misogynistic, but if somebody could make more profit by not being misogynistic, wouldn't they have a competitive advantage over the other companies that are misogynistic? They would end up with a monopoly on smart women.

Remember the FCA only has power on Ferenginar, and they only have power as long as the richest Ferengi businessmen profit by their existence. That ceases to be the case, and enough of the top Ferengi businessmen say "Screw you, I'm better off without you", the FCA becomes toothless and inept.

@Mr Laser Beam

They are not the rules we are used to seeing. They are the list-item opposite of rules we are used to seeing, hence 'Earth on opposite day'.

Survival of the fittest doesn't need a big government authority to enforce itself. If a corporation really is the fittest it survives on its own without anyone's help. And if one corporation and only one corporation had good employee benefits and every other corporation cheated and exploited their employees, that corporation would get all the best employees, and again, they'd be the ones with a competitive advantage.

As the FCA exists, the corporations that said 'Screw you' and walked away would make greater profits than the ones that followed FCA regulations. So again, it does not make sense that an organization like the FCA exists.

And logic aside, a true libertarian planet would make better television than Earth on opposite day.
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Old March 26 2014, 05:28 AM   #8
PhoenixClass
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

Certainly collective action can nullify the actions of a government. The FCA has legal powers to use against people, though, which creates a barrier to such action. Also, remember, the business owners have every incentive not to give such benefits to their employees. Less benefits, less pay, less costly working conditions all mean more money for them. In the US, at least, such benefits were concessions won by the collective action of workers. The companies did not do it willingly.

As for the misogony, I think we are getting into issues of rational actor theory in economics. The theory you are outlining is that a rational actor would use skilled business people regardless of gender. But people, be they human or Ferengi, don't always act rationally. Most Ferengi simply don't believe that females are smart enough, so why would they ever give them the chance in the first place?

The FCA has power beyond just Ferenginar. Brunt was enforcing rules against Quark on a Bajoran station run by Starfleet.
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Old March 26 2014, 08:57 AM   #9
Sci
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
But why would this authority care so much that you don't make deals with your employees, if said deals are likely to lead to greater profit? I totally buy that the richest people would put themselves in a position that requires you to bribe them in order to get what you want. What I don't get is how they would tyrannically enforce the gender restrictions or the union restrictions, in cases where violating them would lead to greater profit.
Because the FCA recognizes that granting workers rights constitutes a threat to Ferengi capitalism in the long run, even if it is more profitable for one particular business owner in the short run. Same thing with feminism -- start spreading around the idea that women and men are equal, and soon you'll start encouraging other marginalized groups to think of themselves the plutocrats' equals.

Capitalism is built on exploitation. If someone who has power within the system begins undermining the exploitative nature of the system, this constitutes a long-term threat to its functionality -- and therefore to the wealth and power of the Ferengi elite. The last thing those elites want is Federation-style democratic socialism.

Bottom line: It's a mistake to frame this in terms of "unbridled free enterprise vs. government regulation." The goal of the system is exploitation and financial domination; the function of the Ferengi government is to referee disputes between wealthy elites while preserving the overall system that props those elites up. It's not about "free enterprise" (there is no such thing); it's about power.

ETA:

PhoenixClass wrote: View Post
JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
What I don't get is how they would tyrannically enforce the gender restrictions or the union restrictions, in cases where violating them would lead to greater profit.
We need to get Sci in here, he would explain it quite well.
You rang?
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Old March 26 2014, 10:27 AM   #10
MacLeod
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

JirinPanthosa wrote: View Post
In TNG and DS9 we're given the impression that Ferengi society is this laissez faire corporate utopia where people can do whatever they want with their money and there's no taxation or regulation or any sort, even of things such as bribery and intimidation.

Then early to mid through DS9's run we learn of the Ferengi Commerce Authority, this organization that strictly regulates commerce and can forbid Ferengi from doing business and seize their assets any time they feel like it.

This makes no sense! You can't be an Ayn Rand paradise and have strict government regulations at the same time! It's like after all the work Armin Shimmerman did to make Ferengi society seem less cartoonish they decide, nope, we need a Ferengi cartoon villain. Ferengi society isn't a corporate utopia, it's just Earth on opposite day!

They should have done without the FCA and, if they needed a character in the role of Brunt, make him a competitor rather than a government bureaucrat.
Laissez-faire ecomics doesn't always equate to a total lack of govermental influence or regulations but a minimal amount. So if some of those regulations are that women can't earn profit and unions are banned you need some oversight to enforce those rules.
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Old March 31 2014, 08:34 PM   #11
Jedi_Master
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

Real World answer: The FCA does not have to make "sense" because it is a fictional concept, designed to fit a story need.

In - universe answer: The Ferengi have had a unified economy for over 5,000 years. I trust they have some things figured out.
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Old April 1 2014, 03:13 AM   #12
The Wormhole
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

DS9 did seem to go in for these sort of "strong arm" agencies the incite fear in the people they serve. The Romulans with the Tal Shiar, the Cardassians with the Obsidian Order, even the Federation with Section 31. The FCA is just the Ferengi equivalent. And given they're always used in a comedic context, just how much sense are they supposed to make. They're douchebags who have Quark by the balls and he fears them just all other Ferengi do. That's all that matters to the story, and makes enough sense.
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Old April 2 2014, 07:44 PM   #13
Sci
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

I mean, the most basic reason to have an FCA is to give Quark a Ferengi antagonist he could plausibly fear, since it's not like his bar is competing with any other Ferengi businesses on DS9.

But I still contend that the idea that there would be no FCA because the Ferengi would not want "big government" is projecting the particularities of modern ideological conflicts onto another culture whose conception of capitalism need not include such contemporary political biases at all.

ETA: The idea that "big government = bad" is not intrinsic to the capitalist ideology; it is a rhetorical device generated in order to justify preventing or dismantling legal mechanisms to alleviate or prevent the exploitation of the working class and economic inequality. In a capitalism without a meaningful workers' rights movement, such a rhetoric about the evils of big government might never develop.
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Last edited by Sci; April 2 2014 at 08:04 PM.
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Old April 2 2014, 09:00 PM   #14
Jedi_Master
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

There is a Rule of Acquisition that says "War is good for business"

There is a Rule of Acquisition that says "Peace is good for business"

But there is no Rule of Acquisition that says "Anarchy is good for business"

Hence the FCA
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Old April 10 2014, 07:11 PM   #15
sonak
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Re: The FCA makes no sense

Sci wrote: View Post
I mean, the most basic reason to have an FCA is to give Quark a Ferengi antagonist he could plausibly fear, since it's not like his bar is competing with any other Ferengi businesses on DS9.

But I still contend that the idea that there would be no FCA because the Ferengi would not want "big government" is projecting the particularities of modern ideological conflicts onto another culture whose conception of capitalism need not include such contemporary political biases at all.

ETA: The idea that "big government = bad" is not intrinsic to the capitalist ideology; it is a rhetorical device generated in order to justify preventing or dismantling legal mechanisms to alleviate or prevent the exploitation of the working class and economic inequality. In a capitalism without a meaningful workers' rights movement, such a rhetoric about the evils of big government might never develop.


in US politics, "big government" is indeed a simplistic rhetorical trick designed to short-circuit any discussion of higher taxes or programs that would help the poor or workers.

It is also most decidedly NOT the case that the more "unregulated" the market is, then the more social freedom there is or less authoritarian the government is. Authoritarianism and repressive social policies have often gone along quite well with neoliberal regimes, and more socially tolerant policies have often gone along quite well with more economically left-wing societies.


US politics gives a skewed perspective on the politics of the Left and the Right because of both a corporate-dominated media and because there really ISN'T a genuine Left in US politics at the national level that has any influence.
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