Jacobin's "Four Futures:" "Socialism for Star Trek fans"

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Sci, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    Just came across this, and thought it was interesting:

    A little over two years ago, Jacobin Magazine published this article, "Four Futures" by Peter Frase, about different manifestations Socialism and Capitalism might take in the future, and it draws upon pop culture imagery to help illustrate its speculations. One of the influences it draws upon is Star Trek. (In a recent primer pubished as a result of Jacobin making the New York Times, managing editor Connor Kipatrick calls the article "socialism for Star Trek: The Next Generation fans.")

    Some quotes:

     
  2. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    Amazes me when people take the time to write some giant-ass essay without actually researching first.

    He states: "Suppose, for example, that all production is by means of Star Trek’s replicator." Why are we supposing that? We know it's not true. Chateau Picard produces wine, not via replicator. Ben Sisko's dad produces food, not from a replicator.

    And: "In this world, if Star Trek’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard wanted to replicate his beloved "tea, Earl Grey, hot", he would have to pay the company that has copyrighted the replicator pattern for hot Earl Grey tea." Does this need to be true? First off, we almost always see replicators on-board Federation starships/bases, suggesting that the individual would not need to pay for what's being replicated. Additionally, has the author never heard of a library? Perhaps there are publicly owned replicator patterns, and Fed citizens have access to those, much the way that you can read a beloved book by getting it from your library.
     
  3. Forbin

    Forbin Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2001
    Location:
    I said out, dammit!
    I imagine replicator patterns would be available two ways:

    1) Sold the same way 3D meshes are sold on the internet. Transfer the credits, download it, and it's yours to make as many copies as you want. This could apply to things you'd use often, like food, pencils...

    2) Sold the way licensed software sold - purchase it for a single use, get a serial number, make one copy. Toys, clothes, tools, household items...
     
  4. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    He's making an argument about how a productive economy that need not rely on human labor might work, using Star Trek's technological capacities as an example. He's not actually describing the events of the Star Trek universe.

    Well, no, and the article says as such. He is, again, describing four possible future economic systems; one in which scarcity is artificially created by intellectual property law is the one being described in that part of the article.

    Did you actually read the article?
     
  5. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    May 10, 2005
    Location:
    The visitor's bullpen
    Or perhaps this is the way Federation credits are used. We know the Federation does have a system called credits - although we don't really know exactly what those are (I prefer to believe it's a simple monetary unit, like any other, only it's all electronic - no physical currency). Anyhoo, perhaps the use of a replicator automatically incurs a charge of X credits on the user's account. Seems simple enough.

    Similar to when Sisko once talked about using up a lot of "transporter credits" because when he was at the Academy he would beam home to dinner every night.
     
  6. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    My sense would be that the Federation uses a hybrid system -- that some things are done socialistically, and some things done capitalistically. For instance, I'm sure there's a wide assortment of generic but useful goods that are considered public domain, which any replicator may produce for free; but I'm sure there are also numerous goods that are subject to copyright, which can only be replicated through payment of a fee.

    My sense is that anyone can live a happy, healthy, reasonably comfortable life in the Federation for free, but that going for luxuries beyond that requires labor and capital.
     
  7. E-DUB

    E-DUB Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2011
    In essence you're talking about post-scarciyty economics, under which a lot of traditional thinking about economics goes out the window. It wouldn't be socialism, as the term is currently understood, but it sure would look like it to a present-day observer.

    The best artriculation of the socialist ideal is the old maxim: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Under the kind of system described, it would be: "From each according to his inclination, to each according to his desire."
     
  8. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    So wait, he's using Star Trek as an example but not actually obeying what we've seen in Star Trek? What's the point of that? That's like saying "I wonder how the sun works" and then assuming that it's made of candles.

    I did not read the article, just the pull quotes you put up.
     
  9. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2002
    Location:
    Montgomery County, State of Maryland
    To use Star Trek's fictional technologies to illustrate how an economic system might work in real life, not to talk specifically about Star Trek minutiae. Obviously.
     
  10. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2012
    Luxury goods, not necessities.

    He's describing a world where replicator patterns are basically 'matter mp3s'. And we all know how easy it's been for corporations to regulate mp3s. Worst we'd get is a 'Replicator Spotify' where they get people to pay just by first offering a free product then offering to remove ads.
     
  11. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2007
    Location:
    in a figment of a mediocre mind's imagination

    I agree with this. Non-utopian socialism tries to deal with the world as it currently is, where we engage in social relations to make a living to gain the necessities we need. In a post-scarcity society, the compromises you need in any kind of economy, capitalist or socialist, don't really need to be made. In the Federation, you could have a third or half the population just sitting at home with replicators, playing in the holodeck, and it wouldn't really matter.
     
  12. LobsterAfternoon

    LobsterAfternoon Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2006
    I don't think it's just luxuries that are manufactured via non-replication methods. We know Chief O'Brien needed some supplies for repairing DS9/the Defiant that couldn't be replicated.
     
  13. Temis the Vorta

    Temis the Vorta Fleet Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 1999
    Location:
    Tatoinne
    DS9 was interestingly ambiguous whether there was any real difference between replicated and "real" things. Didn't Eddington claim to be able to tell the difference between a replicated and naturally grown tomato? Klingons are also affected by this. Jadzia butted heads with Mrs. Martok when she tried to take a shortcut in replicating a ritual candle, which was totally without honor!

    It could be that there's no difference but what's in people's minds, and wine could just as well be made via replicator but the ones that can advertise "naturally grown" on the label have more cachet. Which is no different than what happens today, when "premium brands" can command higher prices for products that are no better than the generic alternative.
     
  14. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2007
    Location:
    in a figment of a mediocre mind's imagination

    yep, I get the impression that the "I can taste a difference" crowd are more like snobs expressing a certain elitism toward those who eat replicated foods rather than meant to be showing us that there's a significant difference between replicated and non-replicated.
     
  15. Anji

    Anji Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2003
    Location:
    Assisting in the birth of baby Horta on Janus VI
    I think Mr. Frase's analysis is based on humanity in it's current evolutionary state. Didn't Picard say that we have evolved past greed, want? Perhaps when we reach that stage a new social organization will arise, something beyond socialism or capitalism... and is most definately something we cannot conceive of now.

    I don't know, but the idea of eliminating want, hunger and need doesn't sound like socialism but like something that we all deserve: a certain peace in our lives that allows us to grow intellectually, creatively and spiritually.

    But continue, I love these conversations....