Roddenberry's Worst Ideas

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by ZapBrannigan, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. I am not Spock

    I am not Spock Commodore Commodore

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    Exactly. In a future where crime, poverty, hunger, etc is apparently eliminated, and people can basically pursue whatever career they want to, without financial reward, you'd expect there to be some people who want to do...nothing much at all. Just sit around and enjoy life. I'm sure Joe Blow who works as a filing administration clerk on Starbase 49 doesn't love his job. The no money thing is a pretty stupid idea.
     
  2. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Fling administration clerk sounds like somebody you let a computer do and a society can work despite of some people who do not work. Capitalism has functioned for two centuries and if you take a look at long run employment stats full employment has been the exception (during the social democratic era). All the people we see in Trek work because they love their jobs. Some of them like the chief engineers even regularly work over hours. And there is nothing glamorous about fixing a broken piece of machinery or crawling through some Jeffries tubes, it is hard work.
    Happiness studies have suggested that being unemployed causes more loss of well-being to people than the mere loss of income could explain so we have firm empirical evidence which suggests that the economic ideas of Trek are not at all unrealistic.
     
  3. yousirname

    yousirname Commander Red Shirt

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    It's not at all implausible, sure. But why would you expect to see those people on the show?

    It wouldn't exactly make for compelling drama, would it?

    Although now that I think about it, I don't think Trek's ever tackled the stoner comedy subgenre...
     
  4. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Horatio83's response to this was already pretty good, but yeah, I'll just echo it. There are a lot of people NOW who have dropped out of the workforce for difficulty finding a job, or just lack of appropriate skills. Somehow, the economies where this happens haven't collapsed. As technology and production have gotten more efficient, there should be MORE people who can "opt out of work," not less. The only reason that we're not working less is because the richest segments of society are gobbling up more and more of the increased gains in efficiency and production, and well, just the overall wealth.

    I don't think Star Trek's economics, given the post-scarcity assumption, and the important but frequently overlooked assumption of people being raised in an environment where "contribution to society" is valued, is all that unrealistic.


    After all, our economic system NOW is pretty absurd, with teachers who work 70 hour weeks, making 1/100th of a pro athlete who contributes far lass to society. But you don't question those assumptions, because you were raised in a certain way with the values of your society instilled in you.

    Star Trek is no different. The characters grew up in a post-scarcity environment where one didn't have to work to get the basic necessities, but where "bettering yourself" was the primary goal.
     
  5. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Indeed, it is strange that nobody questions why work hours have been reduced to 40 hours and below, a fairly natural trend in a society with real GDP per capita growth rates of around 2%, but then started to rise again. It is perceives as totally natural while it actually isn't. Capital is happy about it in the immediate economic sense (labour's share of income decreases) and in the indirect political sense: overworked citizens have no time or energy to do political work.

    Keynes, a guy who made money on the stock market and wrote that Marx misread Ricardo, i.e. not a crazy leftist prophet but a centrist liberal, wrote about the future reduction of workhours (this is a good modern follow-up). The economic world of Trek, not working at all anymore out of necessity, the step from work as a means for consumption to a means for social contribution / self-fulfillment, is just the next step. And unlike working like crazy and then being too exhausted to do anything but passively consume and perhaps enjoy one hobby it sounds like a better life.

    About work incentives, they are overrated. Socialism didn't fail because of work incentive issues (they existed but were of minor relevance and compensated for by Western inefficiencies like lack of competition on output markets) but because of the absence of a capital market: companies couldn't fail. Interestingly the problems we face today also have more to do with a badly functioning capital market than with lazy, shirking workers.
    So yeah, I have no idea where these obsessions with work incentivzes come from. Somehow people are masochistic, they prefer a world without democracy in the worldplace and the constant fear of job loss to either a full employment world where they could actually tell their boss to fuck himself and easily change the job or a post-scarcity world in which they could merge work and hobby.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  6. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    they're not "masochists," they get bombarded with 24/7 propaganda that's very cleverly designed to deliberately mislead them give them misinformation, and make them not question. It's like the line about the "greatest trick the devil ever pulled."

    the greatest trick the right-wing neoliberals ever pulled was convincing the poor and the exploited to DEFEND the very system that exploits them.
     
  7. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    I am not so sure. Of course ideas and ideology matter and they are the single most important reason people act against their own interests.
    But I also think we should take the lessons from psychoanalysis seriously, people wanna sometimes punish themselves and others. Take austerity, one minor factor that might contribute to it is politicians repenting for their former deficit bias, punishing their over-indulgence and so on.

    When I studies and worked during the summers in a factory a colleague there said that he will vote right-wing because they will reduce work regulations and this will make one particular lazy co-worker work harder or make him get fired.
    I didn't get the impression that the was the victim of propaganda, he just seemed to care more about punishing this one guy than caring about his narrow self-interest.

    Of course this can be intertwined with ideology and perhaps this desire to punish others (which can also be beneficial, think about a state attorney who fights against organized crime and risks his life) explains why the "welfare mom" rhetoric ("Where is the fairness, we ask, for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits?") has worked so well.
     
  8. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

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    Ok, horatio83, sonak and stj, you have repeatedly derailed this thread from its original topic towards today's politics with a tenuous link at best to what was being discussed at the time. I realise that contemporary examples are sometimes necessary to make a point but you went way beyond that more than once. Try to stay on topic. You, horatio83, have been cautioned against that already and more than once so I'd suggest you cut it out.

    If anyone feels the need to have a discussion about left-wing vs. right-wing, libertarianism, economic theory of the 20th century and identity politics, feel free to do so in Miscellaneous or TNZ. I might even participate.


    To get a bite more back on topic:

    That's not true. In The Squire of Gothos there is a German science officer called J├Ąger who reacts somewhat indignantly at Trelane's assumption that he's a soldier. I always thought that was a nice touch.
     
  9. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Ehm, the topic is Roddenberry's worst ideas and "no money" clearly is a Roddenberryian idea. We are not derailing the thread but digging a bit deeper.

    This is what I call moderating when it clearly isn't necessary. Nobody has been insulted, nobody plays some stupid "my party is better than yours" game or whatever. It is impossible to not become political when talking about these elements of Trek ... unless one wants the discussion to purely focus on trivial matters.
     
  10. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

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    You were digging deeper but you (i.e. the general you) were also going off on tangents only strenuously linked to the discussion at hand, if that.

    The first one started off from this post (I won't quote all posts because that would make this post unreadable):
    But you brought it back on topic, and if that had been the only occurrence, I wouldn't have said anything. These things happen.

    But then the next tangent occurred, starting with this post, which has nothing to do with Roddenberry's ideas but is a rant about conservatives. Which is a legitmate topic but not in this sub-forum.


    Eventually, the thread got back on topic. Then it got off on a tangent for the third time with this exchange:

    I then decided to say something and remind people to stay more on topic.


    Well, the disdain for people on the right was pretty evident in some posts but thankfully no flaming or trolling took place, I agree. But those aren't the only things moderators should look out for.


    Yes, and I said that in my post. But there's a difference between that and going off on tangents. Just try to maintain a link to the overall topic in your posts and it's fine. I hope the examples above give you a better idea of what I meant.
     
  11. robau

    robau Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'll point out again that even in the utopia you have to work your way up to the job you love. That's why there would still be a filing clerk type position.
     
  12. Third Nacelle

    Third Nacelle Captain Captain

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    Don't underestimate boredom. If we lived in a world where you could do nothing all day except replicate breakfast and play in the holodeck, how long could you actually do that?

    I'm sure there are some people who would be content to be idle, but most of us would go crazy with boredom after a few weeks. We have an instinctive drive to be active and useful.
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  13. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I had to stop working over ten years ago for health reasons, and the biggest problem I have now is there's no sense of having a regular routine anymore. It's compounded because I don't own a vehicle and can't afford to go anywhere for a change of scenery. I'm either at home all the time, or walking no more than a few blocks to get anywhere. I've ridden the light rail from one end of the line to the other (less than 8 miles) but that's the farthest I've been anywhere since 1995. Not exactly utopia.
     
  14. stj

    stj Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Perhaps this was overlooked:
    The overwhelming majority of these people offer no arguments or facts, relying on their personal authority as the Voice of God or something. In one sense, all good science fiction is about the present (the bad is about other fiction, I think.) Refusal to discuss what the present really is, also derails discussion of what Star Trek was about.

    In practice, political conservatism is (incorrectly) conceived as the natural, God-given point of view. The moral postures of political conservatism underly the critique of Star Trek's future economy and society. That is, they are the motive for conceiving Roddenberry's moneyless society as his worst mistake. Discussion of political conservatism is directly relevant to the topic. And, the discussion of the scientific validity of academic economics which support it, is directly relevant as well.

    But it is quite obvious the real problem is not irrelevance, but too much relevance. However, as directed, discussion is now terminated.
     
  15. TheGoodNews

    TheGoodNews Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Remember, Marx talked about "the end of History," wherein human civilization will reach its logical or most rational conclusion...communism (in the literal/doctrinal sense). The Federation can at least be compared to this. Where everyone is free and equal in a mutualistic rather than materialistic society.

    "The Culture didn't use money, as such. But it also didn't want to be too extravagant with matter and energy either. (So inelegant to be wasteful)." The Player of Games by Iain Banks.

    "Human beings were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine." George Orwell - Homage to Catalonia.
     
  16. TheGoodNews

    TheGoodNews Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    But keep in mind that you wouldn't necessarily be idle and would have the freedom to engage in activities that interested you. If the resources and opportunities are available, then the sky would be the limit!

    It's the need to work to make ends meet and the unhealthy power relations and work place politics, not to mention economic uncertainies, that we are still vulnerable to. Overcome these and a new situation emerges.

    It's as anthropologist David Graeber describes:

    "The struggle against work always been central to anarchist organizing. By this I mean, not the struggle for better worker conditions or higher wages, but the struggle to eliminate work, as a relation of domination, entirely. Hence the IWW slogan 'against the wage system.'" David Graeber - Fragments of an Anarchist anthropology.

    or this:

    "Especially if we bear in mind that it's not like anyone would be forced to stop working after four hours it they didn't feel like it. A lot of people do enjoy their jobs, certainly more than they would lounging around doing nothing all day (that's why in prisons, when they want to punish inmates, they take away their right to work), and if one has elminated the endless indignities and sadomasochistic games that inevitably follow from top-down organization, one would expect a lot more would. It might even turn out that no one will have to work more than they particularly want to." David Graeber - Fragments of an Anarchist anthropology.
     
  17. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    "Working to better ourselves and the rest of humanity" is definitely a socialist idea, although not hardcore.

    The food, clothing, and etc, are all provided automatically by replicators and machines (which may be provided by the government.) (Picard said no need or want.)

    And you have to wonder if the earth government made this decision for the people, or if the people voted to do this.
    (I tend to believe the people voted for it)

    They can enjoy these things fine as long as they reside on earth, but if they leave it to join a culture that trades goods for currency--they'll be helpless.

    Trek doesn't say all of this outright, but it is strongly suggested. As I pointed out, Jake Sisko says as a human he doesn't have any money.

    He wants to "buy"-- actually purchase an item from someone on the station. He cant. He doesn't even have a few credits, absolutely nothing.

    As a human he lives off replicators, which provide what he wants.

    So earth is like some sort of garden of Eden that you have to live in to enjoy, but step out of it, and you're into the wilderness of money, working, and paying bills.

    This is all theory, that I pieced to together but it does fit in certain places.

    Notice how other cultures know about replicators, and they still trade in currency, and they have a definite concept of being poor.
     
  18. Hartzilla2007

    Hartzilla2007 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Which kind of ties into Sisko's rant in The Maquis about how it's easy to be a saint in the federation's utopian paradise but not so easy on its fringes where it is neither a utopia or paradise. As the federation just comes off as seeming to not really get that the whole galaxy outside of it isn't sunshine and rainbows.
     
  19. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    depends on your "dream job." What if you want to be a poet or a teacher? Not all jobs have huge ladders of hierarchy.
     
  20. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Societies do change over the course of history, sometime quite rapidly. So it is possible to imagine Humanity (or some portion of it) changing into the type of society where "bettering yourself was the primary goal." The problem is Sonak, what happen when the society changes yet again?

    You could envision a future society that had changed into a "all volunteer" system. People would volunteer their time, efforts and skills without anticipation of compensation. Goods would come from a machine or a individual/craftsman who would "donate" to you whatever you wish, the same with various donated services.

    But again, societies and cultures do change over time. Most (not all) would agree that certainly during the TOS time period money/compensation existed. There is no indication as to how long the "spirit of volunteerism" had existed (if it even did) prior to Encounter At Farpoint. In the time period of TNG-DS9-VOY you're only talking about a fourteen and a half year time interval in Human history, just as you can't tell how long the spirit of volunteerism had existed, you also don't know how long it will last.

    In order for your future society based upon this volunteerism to work over an extended period of time, the society you've described can never change. Not even over the course of centuries.

    Which seems unlikely.

    You have to admit horatio83, you were being deliberately snippy there. The only thing that prevented the statement from being actually insulting is that no one could possibly take it seriously.

    :)

    :)