What is civlian life like in the Federation?

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Civ001, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    But I noticed that it is only Starfleet officers using credits-- My guess is that Starfleet officers are given an account where they earn credits to use with other cultures that use money.

    For things like shore leave, purchasing special items, conventions, alien space stations. It's a must.

    Jake on the other hand being a civilian, doesn't have any money--not even Federation credits. As long as he used the Starfleet replicators, he's fine. Otherwise, he was pretty much helpless to do anything that required money.

    It's times like this that I wish one of the Trek shows was still airing on TV because it's so much fun when you notice certain things that stick out.

    You just have to appreciate how odd some of this looks in light of what the characters sometimes claim.

    It's like Humans apparently go through all the motions of a work/commerce without actually doing it.

    Jake sells his stories to the Fed News Service--but they pay him nothing because Earth has no currency system. He uses the words, describes the process, but he was not paid anything.

    So then you have to wonder--in the 24th century, where all needs and wants are met easily...no poverty, no need for money.....

    ...if there are maids or janitors--and there is no money or compensation to be earned and at times you have to clean up disgusting things, or put up with an obnoxious boss who talks down to you--why would they do it?

    It's just interesting to watch.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  2. bbjeg

    bbjeg Admiral Admiral

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    Then why call them Federation credits instead of Starfleet credits?

    In Jake's case, at the time when he said he had no money, he didn't have a job as well.

    I think Mr. Laser Beam and T'Girl have a point with the Federation credits. Maybe in the Federation, food, transportation, and shelter is free but Holodeck usage, interplanetary travel (or a shuttle), or obtaining scientific equipment costs Federation credits which are obtained by working but you don't have to work..
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  3. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    No, Cyrano Jones and the Bartender negotiated in credits, and they're both civilians, on what is apparently a civilian space station.

    In the episode Progress, Jake and Nog conduit a business deal that earn them each a equal share of Latinum. Jake at this point has money.

    Jake's later denouncement of money, and his avocation of "I don't need money," is paper thin. Jake has obtained money when it suited his needs.

    Jake admitted to Quark that he was employing a euphemism. While Jake did said they weren't going to pay him, he didn't say that the Fed News Service doesn't pay anyone.

    The notion of fairness is tied to the work of fiction that somehow we're all equal. Equal in abilities, talents, drive, intelligence.

    Saying that everyone should have the same chances in business, is like saying everyone should have the same chances in the music industry.

    Society (like life itself) isn't fair.

    If you're sixty years old and out of shape you can try out for the Olympic Team, but it's doubtful you'll be selected.

    Nor do we all have the same attributes.

    The thing there is they did attempt a (admittedly technobabble) explanation. A shorter versions on the show, later a more lengthy explanation in the (non-canon) TNG tech manual. Warp drives, transporters, replicators, weapons, etc..

    With the economic system they didn't even try.

    :)
     
  4. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Your responses are strawmen. You're arguing against points Arpy didn't even make. He was talking about inefficient and harmful maldistribution of wealth. He did not say anything about economic differences per se.

    Maybe you mistyped something, but your point about the music industry doesn't make any sense. Neither does your point about the Olympics. Again, Arpy didn't say anything about people being chosen for jobs they are not capable of.

    Arpy was arguing that oligarchs and billionaires have more money than they deserve given the work those individuals actually do - an unfair and economically nonsensical result.

    The notion of fairness is tied to the fact that we're all equal in dignity.
     
  5. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    That's just because most of the regular characters are Starfleet.

    Apparently Jake's a masochist, then, because I'd wager that journalism is hard work. You wouldn't do something like that without a kind of compensation.
     
  6. RandyS

    RandyS Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The whole "No money" thing originated with Nick Meyer, not Gene Roddenberry. It was a joke line in Star Trek IV:

    Taylor: Don't tell me, they don't use money in the 23rd century.

    Kirk: Well, we don't.

    Meyer wrote the 1986 parts of IV, so the (supposed to be) one-off joke originated with him. For some reason, the TNG and other spin-off writers latched onto this.

    There WAS money in TOS, which we saw in a partial conversation between Spock and Kirk. I forget which episode, but it went something like this:

    Kirk: Do you know how much the Federation has invested in your Starfleet training?

    Spock: Aproximately seven thousand--

    Then he got interrupted.
     
  7. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The local news stations here in Seattle accept stories submitted by their viewers.

    The submitters don't get paid, although the professional reporters who work directly for the station do get paid. Students can sometimes get temporary press credentials through the stations to obtain access to press events.

    But they still don't get paid.

    Jake Sisko's situation might be similar, he did get some kind of credentials eventually didn't he?

    What irks me most about today's society is the inequity of it more than the inequality.

    Arpy spoke of being irritated by the lack of fairness in our modern society, my response was addressed to that. I used examples that I felt presented my position and made my point.

    My position on his assertion concerning inequity.

    Strawman where?

    I was addressing Arpy's statement specifically concerning social fairness.

    But he did write about people not having "the same opportunities." Of course people don't have the same opportunities, how could we?

    I don't see that particular tie. And dignity has to do with being worthy of honor or respect, so no we're not "all" equal there. It has to do with what kind of person each of us are.

    :)
     
  8. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    your response is the typical rationalization given to anyone who has ever questioned an unfair or unequal order or system: point out the undeniable truth that life is unfair and then go from that to pull off the sleight of hand that the unfairness represented in a SYSTEM is actually just a reflection of the natural inequality of nature.


    translation: just because someone is rich, DOESN'T mean that they're smarter, faster, or harder-working than a teacher, policeman, or firefighter.


    "life is unfair" is not a trump card when someone asks why a woman should have to work 70 hours and two jobs to make ends meet while a guy with a trust fund doesn't because he had the "natural ability" to be born to the right parents.
     
  9. PhoenixClass

    PhoenixClass Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I'll try to rephrase:


    Your point about the fiction of equality in abilities is a strawman because Arpy never claimed that.

    Fairness is being "just or appropriate in the circumstances." It does not mean that people in different circumstances should be treated the same. He was saying that people that don't work harder or differently than anyone else get way more money than people doing comparable levels of work. His point about lack of opportunity and safeguards was intended to highlight factors other than drive or ability that affect success. Thus, Arpy concluded that wealth is distributed unfairly.


    Since the music industry is a business, what you said is, "Saying that everyone should have the same chances in business, is like saying everyone should have the same chances in business." I don't know what you are trying to say.

    Strawman as I explained above.

    What I was trying to say about fairness and dignity was said best by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.
     
  10. Arpy

    Arpy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    What Phoenix and sonak said. ...We need a Worf-nods-with-admiration emoticon.

    "Life isn't fair" is an observation not an aspiration.
     
  11. BMariner

    BMariner Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I think fairness should be an aspiration. The question is in the definition of "fairness" and how it is to be achieved. Too bad Trek, for all its social evangelizing, didn't even touch it.
     
  12. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    Then you are not responding to actual socialist arguments, but are instead attributing false claims to the socialist argument for you to dismantle. The term for this is "strawman."

    I am a socialist (a member of Democratic Socialists of America, to be precise), and I spend a lot of time reading socialist and socialist-leaning opinion sites. I have never encountered a socialist who thinks that personal property should be subject to arbitrary confiscation.

    There are two separate issues at play here:

    1. The right of the government to confiscate property and what circumstances should govern such confiscation.

    2. The use of media by elites to spread propaganda.

    With regards to #2, let's make one thing very clear: Media is used under capitalist systems to spread propaganda just as clearly as it was under Stalinist or Maoist systems. The only variable is which piece of rhetoric the particular set of elites in question used to justify their undemocratic domination of society.

    With regards to #1, let's not pretend that capitalist systems actually view the right of personal property as sacrosanct. Eminent domain was placed into the Constitution itself exist for a reason -- even the 18th century oligarchs who wrote the United States Constitution recognized that sometimes the right of the people to receive a public good outweighed the right of an individual to a piece of property. So if you think the government should never, ever be able to confiscate a piece of property, then let's be fair in our condemnations; this is a "sin" all societies share equally.

    Meanwhile, goodness knows that capitalist police forces feel free to confiscate personal property from citizens for completely arbitrary reasons, with no real due process, if those persons are poor and the police claim to be conducting a drug-related investigation. Just read this account of police confiscating the personal property of a woman whose estranged husband was a suspect in a drug investigation -- including things like a PlayStation -- to see how little the capitalist system actually cares for the personal property rights of those without wealth and power.

    So, the questions are: Are there any circumstances under which it is appropriate for the state to confiscate property, and, if so, under what circumstances can such confiscation be appropriate?

    As a democratic socialist, I do not think your scenario -- the government nationalizing a newspaper in order to spread propaganda and suppress dissent -- is appropriate at all. However, I also do not recognize the so-called "right" of a person to "own" a firm whose wealth is actually created by the labor of its employees. In my view, such an "ownership" system -- the private ownership of social wealth -- is a work of legal fiction.

    I would view it as appropriate for the government to make the firm publishing this newspaper into an employee-owned cooperative subject to democratic management, with a board of directors and upper management elected by all employees in a one-person-one-vote system.

    All other things being equal, if one particular person wishes to have a media platform that reflects his views and his views alone, then I think he has an obligation to run and maintain such a platform himself -- a possibility that has become exceedingly plausible in the modern world, where we can all obtain and maintain media platforms with no real barriers to large audiences for free or at minimal costs. But if he requires the labor of others to maintain his media platform, then he should carry a legal obligation to run that platform democratically and reflect their policy agenda in the product, too.

    I am open to the idea that maybe someone who founds a firm by taking the risk of investing her own capital ought to receive a greater share of the profits and have the firm reflect her individual vision -- at least for a time. But I think that as a firm grows larger and larger, there comes a point where the labor of the employees is more important than the initial risk undertaken by the firm's initiator; at that point, the firm should be switched into a democratically-managed cooperative. I'm open to different ideas about when that point is reached, however.

    I hold a Bachelor of the Arts in Political Science with a Concentration in International Relations, thank you very much. And sonak is right -- your scenario is specious and can be debunked by a very small amount of research into actual socialist proposals. :)

    Differences in points along the spectrum matter. Otherwise, you'd be forced to conflate Augusto Pinochet with Winston Churchill just because they both happen to have been capitalists. Democratic capitalism is very different from authoritarian capitalism -- just as democratic socialism is very different from authoritarian socialism.

    And, no, not all socialist visions involve state ownership of firms. The communal ownership of the means of production can be accomplished through employee-owned cooperatives, for instance.

    Oh, please. "Socialism" has been a dirty word in American popular culture for decades. One of the most reliable rhetorical devices used to suppress those who dissent from laissez-faire capitalist arguments has been to engage in red-baiting. Socialism is constantly demonized and conflated with authoritarian communism or with fascism. The only relevant center-left party in the United States isn't even a member of the Socialist International, and has spent thirty years moving steadily further and further to the political right (to the point where its signature health-care law was actually invented by a right-wing think tank and first implemented on the state level by an avowed capitalist).

    What you're reacting to is a trend in the more liberal -- not socialist, but liberal; liberals believe in capitalism with some socialistic modifications to curb its worst excesses, but still believe in the private ownership of the means of production -- content creators in U.S. popular culture to use their platforms to criticize the worst aspects of laissez-faire capitalism. But most influential people in American popular culture are opponents of laissez-faire capitalism, not capitalism period. (Once again -- differences in points along a spectrum matter.)

    I think this is fair. No economic system will ever be perfect; all systems have their costs and benefits. Showing these costs and benefits would make for compelling drama.

    Exactly. The system is rigged and always has been, and it merely uses the rhetoric of equal opportunity to justify economic exploitation.

    I would in fact go one step further: I would argue that it is inherent to any meritocratic system that those who benefit from the meritocracy will eventually find ways to subvert the rules of fair competition in order to benefit themselves and their allies. Meritocracy cannot function in the long term, because it will always be subverted and produce an oligarchical class. As Christopher Hayes argues in his book Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, "He who says meritocracy says oligarchy."

    I don't think Moore was being a twat; I think it's legitimate to make fun of poorly thought-out pieces of worldbuilding. I wonder if Moore might have worked to develop a more science-fictional economic system that reconciled the various seemingly contradictory clues throughout Star Trek if he had been the showrunner on TNG or DSN.

    Which I rather object to -- it's an act of exploitation to accept a story produced by someone's labor without compensating him or her for that labor. The fact that this person is blinded by the media attention does not make it any less exploitative.

    And thus T'Girl once again reveals her hierarchical political agenda that seeks to find rhetorical justification for policies that are blatantly designed to enrich some at the expense of many -- her constant agenda to justify oppression and injustice. "Some people are just better than others, they should benefit from other people suffering."

    * * *

    I'm going to end by quoting a previous post of mine wherein I speculate about how the Federation economy works, attempting to reconcile various contradictory pieces of evidence, and to reconcile them with Gene Roddenberry's anti-capitalist inclinations:

    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]
     
  13. BMariner

    BMariner Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I love when people choose to tout their own view primarily by trashing another's. (Capitalism sucks. Go socialism!!)

    Sci, you have way too much time on your hands.
     
  14. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    We cannot discuss what civilian life in the Federation is like without discussing the economic system. Because the Federation is explicitly supposed to have a social structure that is more enlightened and provides greater freedom than our own, we cannot do this without discussing how we think the economic system ought to be organized.

    I spent time in that post discussing what I think is wrong with capitalism. I spent time in that post discussing how I think an enlightened economy ought to work -- and particularly by trying to reconcile canonical clues about the Federation economy with one-another and with Roddenberry's explicitly anti-capitalist views.

    Both efforts made up a significant portion of the post; if you claim that it was "primarily" one or the other, than you didn't pay attention to the content of the posts.

    Don't forget to accuse me of having cooties. An attempt to change the topic needs to have more teeth than that! :)
     
  15. BMariner

    BMariner Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Not trying to change the topic at all. I did read your post thoroughly, and while you did address how an "enlightened" society might work within the scope of Trek, you didn't balance your general criticism of capitalism with a defense of (or praise for) socialism. By all means, enlighten me. What is awesome about socialism?
     
  16. Sci

    Sci Admiral Admiral

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    I shall repeat myself:

    I spent a fair amount of time in that post talking about how communal ownership of the means of production (in the form of worker-owned cooperatives that distribute the profits of the firm equitably to all employees) would allow those workers to benefit from the fruits of their labor. This would avoid the major disadvantage of the traditional wage model, in which the compensation of the worker is less valuable than the wealth she creates through her labor (i.e., the coercive redistribution of wealth from the most productive to the least productive), while preserving the best aspect of capitalism -- the use of inter-firm competition to promote innovation and productivity. The injection of such a large amount of capital into the pockets of the working class would constitute a significant stride in the quest to eliminate poverty and economic oppression.

    From there, the question becomes how one keeps the playing field level for all individuals in order to enable fair competition and avoid the evolution of an oligarchical class. I listed a number of ideas about how to do this; if you cannot find them, I shall quote the relevant sections of my post.
     
  17. sonak

    sonak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I am a mere social democrat, not a socialist, but I can tell you that there are many things to praise about socialism, and that many of the things we take for granted now were once considered "socialist" things, such as:

    -collective bargaining/unions(going away in most places)
    -free and universal education
    -universal health care
    -regulations on work weeks, wages, welfare programs, etc.



    but as is relevant to Star Trek(the point of this thread after all) socialism(in either its mildest and most reformist strands or its more full-throated versions) is much more reconcilable with a truly DEMOCRATIC society than laissez-faire capitalism. In the latter, you have "elections," but most of the important stuff is decided by unaccountable corporations where people don't have a say.

    In a future like Star Trek, citizens would(or should) have an actual say in their lives as to where they work and under what conditions, and would have access to the resources and services that are needed to say that one really has the "choices" available to live the kind of life they want to.
     
  18. trekshark

    trekshark Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I've had similar thoughts. I wrote this a while back when discussing it with people

    the social system of the federation only works due to matter replicators for food, clothes, etc and basically limitless energy sources to fuel the replicators

    I figure it works like this: a federation citizen on a federation planet doesn't need any kind of money to get at least basic housing, food, medical care, etc. and on established primary worlds like Earth they can probably get just about anything they want for free. Or at least anything that can be replicated
    Likewise, starfleet personnel on a ship or starbase don't need money

    But I think in both cases they do earn some kind of "money" aka credits by working, and the federation gov't has money they can trade with, as evidenced by Uhura buying a tribble, the negotiations for the barzan wormhole, Crusher telling the cloth seller at Farpoint to bill her account on the Enterprise, and (according to memory alpha, I didn't remember this one on my own) Quark accepted credits as payment from the starfleet personnel on DS9
     
  19. Arpy

    Arpy Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sci, you shouldn't expect people to respect socialist principles when actual socialists don't respect people's time. Long, self-indulgent replies do little to sway support to one's cause. Let the creative destruction of capitalism weed out the pretentious and the verbose, I say.
     
  20. Nightdiamond

    Nightdiamond Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Starfleet is the exploration/military wing of the Federation.The Federation is a federal government agency that is able to issue currency.

    Humans that live and work in space and different cultures probably have to deal with credits. Starfleet officers and people like Kassidy Yates.

    But take a typical human with no job with an alien company, pace them outside the Federation or earth, and that person won't have any means unless he's in a human or maybe Federation facility.

    The idea that a replicator can be used minimally for basic needs for free makes sense. But problems keep inching in the way.

    Jake sold his stories to the Federation News Service, and they paid him nothing--not even Credits, which he could have have used on the station.

    Consider--the Federation News service knew Jake lived on an alien station. The Federation credit is obviously a valued interchangeable currency.

    And yet they offer no pay for publishing other people's stories.