"The economics of the future are somewhat different..."

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Stevil2001, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    A political scientist friend of mine just posted this, and I was surprised to read a very well-thought out account of how the post-scarcity economy of the Federation might function: https://medium.com/editors-picks/29bab88d50

     
  2. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    People may still want something to do to alleviate boredom or cabin fever, if nothing else. Jobs that might be considered too menial may be handled by machines, while other jobs could be still be trade-related.
     
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But at one point in the article doesn't your friend come right out and state that the Federation isn't really a "post-scarcity economy?"

    And where does he get " ... and there is, clearly, universal health care and education ..." from? It not evident from the show that civilians had (government provided?) universal health care. Yes we see Starfleet personnel getting health care from Starfleet doctors, and they provide emergency care to civilians, but the economics of the clinic run by Doctor Bashir are unclear, free or paid in full? Again unclear.

    The same with supposed universal education, yes we see education taking place with some individuals, but his statement of "universal" is a unsupported supposition.

    There are a lot of assumptions in this article not present in the show, and frequent uses of "let's imagine."

    :)
     
  4. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Given how Earth, at the very least, is described in the show, it would not make sense to assume that healthcare and education are not available to everyone, whatever the means of providing them.

    Universal healthcare and education could be government provided. Under the author's version of the economy, it could just be that there are enough people who get fulfillment from being doctors and teachers that those services are simply available to everyone naturally.
     
  5. Botany Bay

    Botany Bay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    How can scarcity be eliminated?

    There will always be scarcity of time, skills, land, labour, you name it.
     
  6. USS KG5

    USS KG5 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    There will always be SOME scarcity, of course, but the "post-scarcity economy" is a real topic that is discussed, ironically given current economic woes for the near-ish future.

    Certain things are almost certain to happen in the next century that fundamentally change the requirement for human labour, at least in the developed world. Most logically nanotechnology will enable a lot of menial or low-grade work obsolete, why have people collect your trash when nanites will break it all down into basic carbon compounds for you?

    Also 3D printing technology has already advanced beyond simply layering plastic, to layering other things, including proteins. Once this technology is cheap and widely available, producing simple blocks of nutrients to feed everyone is quite practical.

    Whats more, all these processes will likely be run by an AI that matches human intellect, if not creativity or emotion.

    This leads us to a world where we can meet everyone's essential needs easily and cheaply, instantly resolving most of the problems we all cry over. The question then becomes what if you want more, what if you want a yacht or a huge house, or a new car every year? Well fine, get off your ass, get educated (heck the AIs can teach you, it wont cost us anything) and take on one of the now intensively competitive but rewarding jobs that do require you to do more than sit around and breed.

    This basic idea (which I admit is social democracy with added technology) is not spot on I know. Fundamentally humans are very greedy, very selfish and in large groups deeply stupid. Trek on some level is about a hard-to-believe future where this has been overcome.

    So much of our consumer culture is based on getting one over on the other guy, having bigger, better, more, that the next century is going to be a challenging and possibly dark one, but humanity might come out of it looking a bit more like the people we see in Trek.
     
  7. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    But it's not a stretch to believe that Universal Health Care is the norm, it exists today in many countries the same with Education. So why should the future be any different, and whilst STar Trek has always been a bit haphazard when it comes to money in the future sometimes money doesn't exists, sometimes we've heard about credits. Now of course money could refer to physical currency rather than some form of electronic currency. But if we accept that there is no money then how do people pay for medical care?

    And various reports on how effective health care is in various countries work, generally show that countries with Universal Health Care rank high than say higher US system of insurance. And the per capitia cost is less than half of what the US spends.
     
  8. RunawayStarShip

    RunawayStarShip Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for the link! It was an interesting read.

    With regards to the overwhelming benefits postulated in the article, I do have an alternate take.

    I've always thought it would be simpler to assume that the Federation gave each citizen just enough to live modestly (say the equivalent of $1300 USD every month) in addition to benefits like universal health care. That way, no one is really at risk of death from starvation or disease, and it does jive with the no poverty thing (unless someone wastes their Federation credits on random crap).

    At the same time, a modest limit to how much a citizen is gifted allows for incentives to still exist. Want a hover car? You still need a job to pay for that.

    Furthermore, it allows for certain jobs to be more lucrative than others. Overwhelming benefits make it unlikely for certain jobs to ever be filled. In terms of industrial production, perhaps it can virtually all be automated. In terms of something like education, the Federation is going to need a teacher for every 25 students or so.
     
  9. Stevil2001

    Stevil2001 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oops, my wording was ambiguous-- my friend posted the link, not the article itself.
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That's one way, I came up years ago with a future United Earth safety net, or what my friends called the cement floor, it's a point below which society simply wouldn't let you fall any further. Mostly from the thread Imagining the Federation governmental structure.

    -You would have access to basic food and water. You won't starve or even go hungry/thirsty.

    -You'll have someplace dry, warm, safe and protected to live and sleep, but it might be a open bay arrangement that you share with twenty other people. You won't freeze, cook or be wet.

    -There will be clothes on your back and shoes/boots on your feet, a coat too. You won't be naked.

    -Local public transit. You won't be walking long distances.

    -K through 12 education. You won't be uneducated.

    -Free emergency room care. You won't "die in the street."

    -Limited "cell phone" communication, also limited "internet" access, You won't be (completely) incommunicado. You get internet information and job openings, but nothing that would be considered entertainment.

    Pretty bare bones, beyond this the society gives you nothing, it's designed this way so that you won't want to live out your life here. And there would be societal pressure to not stay at this level.

    And make no mistake, this isn't a right or a entitlement, it's social charity.

    It's not that society can't give you more, it's that society won't.

    Want more? Then "seek to better yourself" through education and hard work. Push yourself.

    You want more education, college or tech school? Good, take a test to show you would prosper, then maintain a good grade point average. If you start slacking and get bad grades you'll be shown the door. The world you live in will bend over backward to help you find and keep a job. Even if the job is only vacuuming the floors at Starfleet Academy.

    The same with transporter use, replicators, holodecks, vacations, space travel, jumping clubs, restaurants, gourmet foods, cheap liquor , fine wines, stylish threads, condos, houses on the beach, vintage corvettes.

    The senoritas no go, if you have no dinero.

    No it really isn't, it certainly is one possibility, but there are others.

    The non-canon backstory for McCoy in the prime universe is that prior to Starfleet he was a successful civilian doctor, he lost most of his money and property in a divorce. Dialog from Nu-McCoy tells a similar story.

    In some ways TOS is a creature of 1960's America, McCoy would have been a doctor in private practice, and would have either directly billed his patients, or their insurance provider. A government "single payer" UHC system wouldn't be part of that future.

    And while that may not be what exists in the 23rd century Star Trek universe, it is a possibility.

    :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  11. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Some people take pride in their work and their position, I think that would be people's primary position to hold jobs in the 24th century Star Trek economy. Pride and prestige, and also the influence implied by the position, not to mention the social stigma of not contributing.

    It's true not all scarcity is eliminated, but the scarcity of food and basic supplies is. I think in that case, currency would become social currency instead of physical currency.
     
  12. urbandefault

    urbandefault Commodore Commodore

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    I agree.

    In fact, most, if not all of what you've described is already in place in the US. That people don't take advantage of it is beyond me. No one who wants food, clothing, or shelter has to do without. No one has to "die in the streets," or even live there for that matter. It takes a little bit of initiative (and by "initiative" I mean "get off your butt and go sign up"), but even the poorest among us can have these basic things and maintain their dignity at the same time.
     
  13. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Unless the shelter is already full; or you are mentally ill and the state underfunds it's mental health services; or your employer underpays you; or politicians demonize you and reduce funding for those services ever more.

    There is a safety net in the US, but you are overstating your case in terms of how effective and robust it is. If it was, the US would look a lot more like Star Trek than it does.
     
  14. urbandefault

    urbandefault Commodore Commodore

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    Not trying to make a case. Just stating what I've seen first hand.
     
  15. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's easy to say "Better yourself through hard work and education" when you've been born to parents who can provide you with a high quality education, and grown up in an environment filled with role models who better themselves through hard work.

    I would estimate that in the Star Trek universe, social problems are eliminated more through providing equal quality of education and opportunities than through any physical handouts.

    But, I like your point about the 'Cement floor'. We have to consider also the existence of replicators. In the 20th century to feed millions of people costs a significant amount of money. In the Star Trek 24th century it costs practically nothing. I would think the height of that 'Cement floor' is directly related to the cost of resources.

    You also have to think, though, that seating at Sisko Sr's restaurant goes to his friends and the well connected before they go to the general public.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  16. urbandefault

    urbandefault Commodore Commodore

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    Why do you say that?
     
  17. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The safety net is what it is, part of the problem with it being overloaded is that it really seem to have been design to catch people when they fall, but not so much to continue to hold them for protracted period of time. All the while more people need to be caught on their way down.

    There are people who stay in the system only a short period of time, catch their breath and reenter society and work force, clearing the way for new arrivals.

    People who make no real effort to leave the social service and charity system are the ones bogging it down. And I'm very much aware that there is a separate group of people with mental problems and who have addictions to drug and alcohol, who need a entirely different kind of help.

    They need to be in mental hospitals and treatment facilities, but there they are in the shelters and the charity kitchens. Largely (but not exclusively) they are the source of the violence in the shelters that leads others to staying on the streets for their own safety, but where they also won't be getting any help.

    Sometimes I've tried to get teens and twenty-somethings to come inside, but they're scared of "the crazies." And by law we can't keep the crazies out, we have to wait until the preventible trouble start..

    Excuse me if I vented.

    :)
     
  18. JirinPanthosa

    JirinPanthosa Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A small nice restaurant can only service so many people at once. If it's a popular restaurant and there's no money cost, the demand is going to far outweigh the supply.

    So either he decides who's going to get in by random draw, or he picks based on who he would prefer be in the restaurant. Which is his friends, his local regulars, and people he wants to make connections with.

    When there is no physical currency, influence becomes currency.

    @T'Girl

    I agree with you there. The problem with the social safety net in the US is that it's not preventative. It doesn't step in until the damage is already done.
     
  19. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    :wtf: The USA actually has the meanest and stingiest of all Western welfare states. There is no guaranteed housing, food stamps are a political football that are constantly being cut, unemployment insurance is being cut from long-term unemployed as we speak.

    The US is FAR from a socially democratic society that guarantees entitlements to the basic necessities, unfortunately.

    As for Federation economics, I think it probably is just a robust welfare state beyond which you work to increase your opportunities.
     
  20. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    What percentage of the people in the safety net make up this group?

    Incidentally, you didn't sound like you were venting. Just making your point.