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

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

  1. QuarkforNagus

    QuarkforNagus Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    It's an enlightened and compassionate future... Why wouldn't there be universal healthcare. Even most industrialized present day nations have figured this one out.

    The alternative would be living on Ferenginar.
     
  2. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The economics of the future may be different, but I must interject on a few points.

    The first one is that we really don't know that United Earth is truly a "paradise" in every sense of the word- we just have a few offhanded mentions of it. Yes, we hear of the "New World Economy" that developed around the 22nd century, but..

    Hear me out for a moment-

    The ones who are saying that Earth has overcome all it's problems are the "Best Of The Best"- Starfleet captains who grew up in places like LaBarre, France on vast, expansive vineyards. Certainly for someone like Picard, someone who undoubtedly lived quite a sheltered life on Earth before joining the Academy, any subtle social problems might not have presented themselves.
    At the same time, we do have hints that not everything is completely swell. Undercurrents, if you will.

    Now what we can also extrapolate is that Earth went through a massive period of slaughter and destruction (in the Trek timeline) from the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s all the way up through World War III and beyond, with the Post Atomic Horror. We saw the barbarism present during "Encounter At Farpoint", and the horrific conditions suffered during "Past Tense"-

    But what do we also see?

    If we examine "Past Tense", we see a sheltered segment of society practically oblivious to the suffering close by. As well, if we examine the Voyager episodes "11:59" and "Future's End", the areas that the Voyager crew beam down to have absolutely no indication of the Eugenics Wars or Post Atomic Horror violence that should be ransacking the planet.

    Roddenberry might have insisted on ensuring that everyone keeps insisting that money doesn't exist, that people are free to do what they want and such...

    But the undercurrents do bubble up.

    Recall that in "Tapestry", a few life choices doom Jean Luc Picard to a life as a "dreary man in a tedious job". He's stuck doing menial chore work- basically his idea of hell, until Q mercifully pulls him back. Think about that fact for a moment- everyone can't be a Captain. If someone like Jean Luc can be relegated to a lifetime of low level, menial work, chances are that there are others living that same miserable existence as well.

    In fact, one of my most hated DS9 episodes- "Paradise", outright states it- "Joseph, you would have been a repairman all of your life. Cassandra, you would have been a technical clerk in some closed-in room. And Stephan, my friend, you probably would have been in prison by now. "

    The person is making the case as to why living in what amounts to fifth-century conditions, digging around in the dirt and succumbing to simple illnesses is superior to being in the Federation.

    If all was truly, completely well with the world, it seems doubtful that people would be consciously choosing to be miserable throughout their lives unless they had to.

    As a final aside-
    If money didn't matter in the Federation, Quark wouldn't have had to sell his broken shuttle to book passage back from Earth to DS9 at the end of Little Green Men. And yet SOMEONE is charging him cash to get on a ship and get back home.
     
  3. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Well, in a way, most of what we "know" about the 24th century, and the history of that world, is offhand comments. You do have an interesting interpretation of those comments though.

    But since I like the idea of a "paradise" in which we have something to work toward and lift our spirits in the world we actually live in, I'm going to defend the paradise notion.

    I like your class-conscious interpretation but Picard actually is a good example against it. Picard is a very educated and historically aware person. His hobby is, after all, archaeology. So Picard is exactly the type of person who would be aware of conditions beyond his sheltered life, if he had one.
     
  4. Vandervecken

    Vandervecken Captain Captain

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    I can think of other instances where money matters, if not always entirely within the Federation, at least between the Feds and non-Feds:

    In The Most Toys, Kivas Fajo was paid by the Federation for his hytritium.

    In Gambit, Baran and his crew certainly expected to be paid by Taliera for the Stone of Gol (although they didn't know until the end that it was Taliera who hired them. Doesn't matter here though).

    Gambling at Quark's.

    In The Omega Glory, Captain Tracy was looking to become wealthy off the "immortality" he'd found on Omega IV.

    Harcourt Fentin Mudd routinely defrauded Federation citizens. He sold false patents to the Denebians for a Vulcan fuel synthesizer--presumably they gave him money for the patents.


    I'm sure other folks can think of more.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2014
  5. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Vandervecken-
    Your examples are great- however the reason I limited my scope was because the Federation seems to hold up Earth as the Great Shining Example Of Never Needing Money.
    Picard himself declares in an episode "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity".
    Yet we have an example on earth that either disproves him, or proves that he is a little more sheltered as to Earth economics than he might want to admit.
    You see, in what I've mentioned, we have an example of three things, given what Quark does with his shuttle-

    * Someone, on Earth, is actively trying to pursue the acquisition of "things"- in this case, the thing is the salvage of the ship. This individual is providing monetary wealth in exchange for that salvage.

    * A different someone, again, on Earth, is actively seeking the acquisition of wealth, this time in exchange for providing a service- that is, transportation back home. Quark pays him money for the service.

    * Given that Ferengi are notorious about profit, it stands as a rational point that if Quark could have gotten free transportation home instead of spending the large sum of money from the salvage of his ship, he would have.

    So... and here comes the big thing...

    It stands also to reason that if Quark could not have earned enough money from the salvage, he would have been stuck on earth until he could. This means that, at that point, Quark would have found himself in a poverty situation, however temporarily.

    So in this simple case, we see that, on Earth- 1: Individuals are exchanging goods and services for wealth and vice versa, and 2: Even on a small scale, the existence of poverty is a very real thing.

    And this is one single situation from one single character. Multiply this by the billions of individuals who are on Earth, and things change significantly.
     
  6. Vandervecken

    Vandervecken Captain Captain

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    I thought Picard was referring to the whole Federation in that quote.
     
  7. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    He was, but it's always Earth that gets depicted as the blue-sky utopia where everyone does just what they want to do. Earth is considered to be "Federation Prime", so to speak. Which is why they built their headquarters there. And why, in the entire quadrant, Earth is Sector 001.

    If poverty exists on Earth... well.
     
  8. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the broader point is that, at the very least for humanity, they don't have to worry about obtaining possessions. And has been conceded in the show, humans still need money for dealing with other cultures that do.

    Also, even assuming everything else about your argument, being unable to obtain transportation is hardly poverty.

    I think is also two aspects of the economy at play in this discussion. One is the existence of money. The other is a philosophical one; i.e. the driving force of their lives, as Picard put it. These two topics are interrelated, of course, but not necessarily the same.
     
  9. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The requirement of payment for transportation is evidence of the fact that economics exist on the planet. The fact that Quark has so little cash at his disposal that without selling scrap is the indicator of poverty.

    Bear in mind our idea of poverty doesn't necessarily mean "starving in the street"- Poverty conditions in the US, for instance compared to Uganda, for instance.

    In a realistic sense, the basic law is this-

    Economy is driven by the evidence of want and need, but want and need correlate with the appearance of inequity, and inequity leads to poverty.

    It's simple economics.
     
  10. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Star Trek is full of contradictory information about whether or not the Federation uses money or engages in economic exchanges using currency. You have Picard declaring that humanity does not use money in "The Neutral Zone;" you have Crusher charging a purchase to her account in "Encounter at Farpoint;" you have Scotty buying a boat in Star Trek VI and Kirk selling a house in GEN; you have Tom Paris talking about money going the way of the dinosaur in "Dark Frontier," and the Federation offering to pay for access to the Barzan Wormhole in TNG. It's all over the place.

    To me, the simplest way to reconcile this is to assume that the Federation uses electronic currency (called "credits") rather than physical currency, and to assume that the Federation's welfare system is so extensive and can so easily provide so much that Federates can live in conditions we would today consider to be middle-class comfort without having to work for a living.

    The Federation being therefore able to guarantee such a high standard of living to everyone on its core planets, the "playing field" is therefore finally truly level -- unlike the so-called "meritocratic" capitalism that exists today, in which the game is clearly rigged to redistribute wealth to the top. (Just ask the residents of Camden, New Jersey, or rural West Virginia, how much of an "equal opportunity" they ever had.)

    So starting from that level playing field, Federates do seem to engage in some competitive economic activities, as demonstrated by things like Joseph's restaurant in New Orleans, or Quark needing to purchase passage back to DS9 from Earth, Scotty's buying a boat, etc. I imagine that for luxuries that cannot be easily replicated or otherwise provided for in the welfare system -- a beachfront mansion, for instance -- citizens do compete to gain such wealth. This would provide incentives for innovation, the biggest advantage of capitalism. Presuming an extensive welfare state, however, accounts for canonical references to money no longer being the driving force in society, to people working to improve themselves and humanity rather than for mere economic gain, and accounts for the idea of money as people of the 20th and mid-21st Centuries understand it, no longer existing.

    (Ironically, only by starting from a perspective of wealth redistribution to create some equality can a truly competitive system of economic exchange emerge. Of course, as David Brin argues, this might not have surprised Adam Smith -- who favored an economy of mostly-equal economic actors competing with one-another, but investing their profits into the commons and preventing too much wealth accumulation. Adam Smith and Karl Marx may have had more in common than people imagine.)

    The following is my speculation on how the Federation would seek to preserve the advantages of limited economic inequality and competition while preserving its broadly egalitarian welfare economy:

    I imagine that the Federation likely has several systems in place to prevent the rise of an aristocracy -- limits on wealth inheritance; taxation to redistribute some wealth back to the lower income brackets; a limit to how much wealth a person may accumulate, etc.

    And I imagine the Federation also structures business entities very differently than they do today. Modern private businesses are usually bottom-up redistribution machines -- they take the wealth employees generate each day in the form of their labor, compensate employees with a value that is less than the wealth they generate, and then redistribute the rest to the owners of the business in the form of "profits." A Federation dedicated to economic justice, I argue, would require business entities to compensate employees with value equal to that which they create: an equitable distribution of profits to all employees, with ownership of the business being shared equally by all employees.

    After all, the justification for a business being "owned" by someone at the top (in spite of his business being utterly dependent upon the labor of many other people called "employees") is that he took a financial risk by investing capital into the business -- but in a society in which wealth is much more broadly equal than it is today, it seems unlikely that society would need a class who own greater capital to invest such capital in order to create businesses. Worker-owned cooperatives seem like they'd be much more common, once society is freed from the existing systems of inequality that require a capitalist class to initiate an enterprise.

    Broadly-speaking, therefore, I am presuming that the Federation can be described as a socialist society. Not in the sense of there being state ownership of all enterprises, but in the sense of the private ownership of the means of production being broadly ended, and social ownership of the means of production (in the form of democratically-controlled worker-owned cooperatives) being the new norm.

    So what does that mean for Star Trek? Well, I am presuming, for instance, that there is a strong possibility that Sisko's Creole Kitchen in New Orleans is not actually owned by Joseph Sisko, but that it is in fact a worker-owned cooperative of which Joseph is the founder and head -- sharing ownership of the restaurant with the waiters and kitchen staff, democratically elected to lead it, but not owning it per se, and sharing all profits equitably with his staff. Same, perhaps, with Broht & Forrester, the holonovel-publishing company in "Author, Author." Same, perhaps, with the mining company on Janus IV in "The Devil in the Dark." Etc. To be honest, I can't recall any character in ST being described as "owning" a business himself -- nor can I recall any reference to "shareholders."

    Of course, as anyone who recognizes the logo I'm currently using as my avatar might surmise, I myself am a socialist, so of course I'd be inclined to view the Federation as a socialist democracy.

    Still, I think this can all be summed up best by this image, taken from Young Democratic Socialists's Facebook page:

    [​IMG]
     
  11. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If money in some form didn't exist, Quark wouldn't have been able to sell his shuttle on Earth. And there's that time Quark bums a ride with Worf and Jadzia to risa so he wouldn't have to pay his own way there.

    I do think that the Federation would be capable of making both self-interested and pragmatic decisions, if it is meaureably to their best ends to do so.

    Bajor really doesn't seem to be bringing very much to the table as far as being a new Member. According to Bashir Bajor is on the very edge of Federation space (the frontier) and so Bajor would extend the Federation outward. Otherwise Bajor isn't going to provide the Federation with much else of anything (the Federation doesn't seem to consult with Bajor when they use the wormhole). So Bajor might have to observe a lot of picky little requirements that a different potential new Member might not have to.

    I don't know if democracy is one of the requirement, but if it is, then the Federation decided to make an exception for Ardana.

    Being all things to all species probably would be an impossibility.

    The way I see it, the Federation itself would likely fulfill a relatively small number of duties (collective defense would be one), with the individual Members doing most things themselves depending on the needs of their various societies and cultures.

    If one or more Member species did have universal health care, it wouldn't come through the Federation.

    Because it isn't the only way of getting medical treatments, an enlightened and educated populace would know that.

    :)
     
  12. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Precisely. I couldn't have said it better.
     
  13. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But are you going to have billions on Earth (or a trillion people in the Federation) who all embrace that one philosophy, and never change to different ones? A whole planet with only one philosophy is scary in a way.

    My interpretation of some of Picard's statements was that he was expounding his own personal philosophies and concepts, and not things that "everyone" or even most people on Earth and in the Federation believe. So Picard does get paid by Starfleet, but he personally doesn't seek to acquire wealth, and advocates others not to.

    :)
     
  14. grendelsbayne

    grendelsbayne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Using ships and travel as proof of money in the Federation is fair enough, but I would have to say using it as proof of money on Earth is pretty dicey.

    I can't think of any reason why humans would have to use money on earth in order for money to exist and be used in interstellar travel. In which case, Quark didn't sell his shuttle to the people on Earth, he sold it to an interstellar merchant/traveler who had use for it.

    In fact, we don't even know for sure that Quark absolutely *had* to pay for passage. There could very well be semi-regular shuttles between Federation planets that don't require payment, but which, perhaps, would have taken much longer for him to get home due to routes being optimized for the most possible destinations and not the far frontier. And, of course, if he wanted to follow a route that took him outside Federation space, he would automatically need money.
     
  15. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Or, if Earth economic are somewhat different but still recognizable, then Quark sold his shuttle for scrap right here on Earth, to a salvage business, in exchange for money (in some form) and use that money to pay for passage back to DS9.

    :)
     
  16. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    It is a canonical fact that the Federation has on occasion been lax about what kinds of practices it allows its Member worlds to have -- usually to its regret. Ardana is one example, though we don't know if they still do this sort of thing in the TNG era.

    Bajor is also a key strategic location -- it's in close range of Cardassian space, as well as of territories held by the Ferengi and Tzenkethi, and it is also apparently quite close to Trill (which may or may not be a Member world, depending on how you interpret the canon and whether or not you accept the novels' assertion that it is).

    That's to say nothing of the natural resources Bajor holds which were, we might recall, enough to make it worth the Cardassians' while to invade and occupy Bajor for most of the 24th century. Resources the Federation would be able to acquire much more easily than the Cardassians, since the Bajorans as Members would be trading it all by consent.

    I'm sorry, but this is patently at odds with the canon. We know from "Emissary" that the Federation moved DS9 to the Wormhole in order to back up Bajor's claim to the Wormhole's Alpha Quadrant terminus. Traffic through the Wormhole is regulated by DS9, which is administered as a Federation Starbase by Bajoran invitation -- meaning, that Bajor has willingly delegated the day-to-day supervision of Wormhole traffic to the Federation, on the condition that the Federation acknowledges and enforces Bajor's claim to the Wormhole's AQ terminus. We know the terminus is located within the Bajor system -- within Bajoran territory. We know that when the Klingons started harassing ships going to and from the Wormhole in "The Way of the Warrior," Starfleet was asked to intervene to enforce Bajoran sovereignty.

    So, yes, it would seem that bringing Bajor into the Federation would unify Bajor's claim to the Wormhole with the Federation. Their claim would become a Federation claim. That is not an insignificant thing to bring to the table.

    I agree that a universal health care system would almost certainly be done through each Member world's own government, rather than through the Federation government -- mostly because it seems absurd to imagine the Federation having the resources to coordinate a medical system serving the needs of over 150 separate species.

    More likely, universal health care of some sort is simply one of the requirements for Federation Membership.
     
  17. AverageWriter

    AverageWriter Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    This is exactly what he did. It's right there in the script itself. He uses the shuttle to get back to his own time, which pretty much destroys it. He appears in the 24th century, Earth Orbit Control tractors his ship down and he sells the wreck as salvage to gain passage back to DS9.

    He's on Earth. He sells the ruined vessel, on Earth, for money, to someone on Earth, to get him from Earth to DS9.

    Look, not to be rude, but I really hate repeating myself, especially in a forum where I know is populated by people where I shouldn't have to do it.

    Can we not go around in circles with this please?
     
  18. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Well, in Star Trek, that generally is how it works. There are individual exceptions, but the various societies have an overall unifying philosophy. Vulcans are logical; Klingons are warriors; Ferengi are greedy, but Humans are not.

    Now, on Earth, and presumably in the Federation as a whole, if you disagree, you are free to leave. There is a lot of space out there, are it is also implied in the show that people with different ideas of how things should work can and do form colonies for themselves.
     
  19. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Lovely way to handle philosophical diversity of thought.

    More likely PhoenixClass, Humanity (both on and off Earth) are just that, diverse. While some will hold to the quant philosophical idea of bettering themself through what you've posted, the vast majority would reject this in favor of a wide variety of opposing opinions to that, (and reject each others ideas too). Who knows, some small number might even advocate universal health coverage. Earth will be covered from pole to pole with a truly multi-cultural multi-concept society.

    Humanity will never be a collective of intellectual clones.

    But we see in the form of Robert Picard that there are people right on Earth who follow their own path too.

    We didn't see Robert being shipped out to the colonies.

    :)
     
  20. QuarkforNagus

    QuarkforNagus Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    I didn't say that it was the ONLY way to get medical treatment. I said that it was the enlightened and compassionate way to distribute healthcare services.

    An enlightened populace would consider the health of its citizens a public good and not a private matter of profit.