Is the Federation a "cashless" society or not?

Discussion in 'Trek Literature' started by bfollowell, Nov 9, 2019.

  1. bfollowell

    bfollowell Captain Captain

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    I've always seen, read and understood the Federation to be a cashless society with some other form of economy where everyone isn't driven by the accumulation of wealth. I''m fairly certain at least one character basically said almost those same exact words. That being said, I often read things in the novels that seem to conflict with that ideal.

    In David Mack's recent, and excellent I might add, Collateral Damage, there were at least a couple of mentions of what I would consider "money", whether it is a real physical item or just credits.

    In Chapter 8 I read "Raising the capital had not been easy on a Starfleet warrant officer’s salary." Capital? Salary? What is this?

    And in Chapter 18 I read "Bajoran woman who was two years shy of her Starfleet pension;" Why would she need a pension?

    Both of these seem to refer to some sort of "money" based economy, and David is far from the first author to do so.

    So, is the Federation truly a cashless society or not? Convince me.
     
  2. Brendan Moody

    Brendan Moody Vice Admiral Admiral

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    The Federation appears, based on dialogue in the TV shows and movies, to be a cashless society internally, but it would still need some form of currency for dealing with other societies that aren’t. (There are references, not just in the novels, to “credits” in contexts where Federation personnel are doing business with currency-driven cultures.) By the same token, there would need to be some kind of tracking of the value of a Starfleet officer’s service, so they could be compensated if they chose to start a life outside the Federation, as the character is doing in the line you quote from Chapter 8.

    I think the best way to interpret the sometimes-contradictory references onscreen is more that Federation culture doesn’t value or place emphasis on the accumulation of wealth and that money is an abstraction to most people most of the time, and less that there’s absolutely no medium of exchange.
     
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  3. hbquikcomjamesl

    hbquikcomjamesl Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    We have it from one canonical source that Kirk found it unusual that "they're still using money" in the 20th century (ST IV: TVH), and from another canonical source, Picard declaring that in the 24th century, "material needs no longer exist", and that the challenge is "to improve yourself . . . enrich yourself." (TNG, Season 1, TNZ).

    And yet, we also have canonical sources for the Federation still having something analogous to money: the whole business of haggling over the price of tribbles (TOS, TT), or Kirk declaring to Spock that "The Federation has invested a great deal of money in our training" (TOS, EM), or Kirk rhetorically asking Spock if he knows ". . .how much Starfleet has invested in you?!" (and Spock beginning to answer) (TOS, Ap).

    It is generally agreed that, at least by the 24th century, replicator technology and the development of plentiful energy sources have made the Federation a "post-scarcity" economy. Consider what that means: for uncounted generations, Humanity has lived in economic systems based on scarcity. Feudalism was based on land (and on serfs to work the land, and vassals to defend it) as a source of food and other scarce resources. Capitalism and Communism are based on money -- an intentionally scarce medium of exchange -- as a means of obtaining food and other resources. In an environment of scarcity, enforced equality of economic status essentially means that everybody is equally poor. What kind of economic system would develop if scarcity were permanently eliminated, and replaced with abundance? Presumably one in which absolute economic equality would mean that everybody is equally rich.

    I would argue, though, that we will never have a totally cashless society until and unless we either (a) reach a more complete post-scarcity state than even what was envisioned in TNG, or (b) we utterly cease to value personal privacy: so long as there is a need for a medium of exchange, and so long as we continue, whether to avoid criminal prosecution or simply to avoid embarrassment, to want to keep our participation in certain transactions off-the-record, there will be a need for the anonymity of cash.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2019
  4. Meadowmorph

    Meadowmorph Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I was watching a TNG episode (I believe it was "Time's Arrow" part 2 or something like that). and Deanna explained to Samuel Clemens that poverty and slavery and all the bad stuff the accumulation of wealth and power over a sub-class would entail had been abolished "on Earth". hmmm

    I've often been amused when Federation officers et al find themselves without currency and need to have it. It's understandable that Data did not have any cash to rent accommodations in San Francisco in the late 19th century because he had no clue that he would be propelled back in time to that era. He eventually joined a poker game using his communicator which is apparently made of some form or gold.

    You see this happening time and time again including holodeck programs where they go to pains to don appropriate period garb, yet forget the cash. The search party that followed Data was not so clueless, but they forgot to bring money (and apparently never thought of using their communication devices) but did bring appropriate clothing. I've wondered if there was something done to their brains or there was a certain amount of cluelessness that happened the same time humans evolved to become unconcerned with accumulating personal wealth. When a person travels, it's well known that "you don't leave home without it".

    Truth is, this happening over and over again as a way the writers could remind the viewer that this evolution had happened, I'm sure.

    This is very interesting, really. I suppose if you can make energy into anything a person might want, perhaps after a while a person would realize they didn't really want or need it. If one week you wanted to travel in an Alfa Rameo shuttle craft, one could simply create one. The next week one might decide they wanted to ride in a BMW shuttle craft, change the Alfa Rameo back into energy and, poof! A baby beemer shuttle appears. Perhaps this would become all boring in the long run, as it's so easy and not unique. One more thing: What exactly do people do when they don't have to work?

    My point, or one of them, is that there had to have been some genetic evolution of the human brain, above the reptile and mammal brain we all have now. This might have made us all completely helpless when traveling outside of the Federation sectors.

    It's odd that people would draw a pension, and how would they calculate pensions? Apparently an ensign's pension is less than captain's pension. This would indicate a value placed on what society sees Captain as a more important function, when in reality, The function of ensigns need to be done as much as the function of captains. For instance, dilithium must be mined to fuel the starships and this is very important. Do miners pull less of a pension because mining is labor? IMHO, no gas, no go.

    This does bring up some interesting points to consider.. Each individual's purpose should be valued equally if you have a totally egalitarian society that values every individual's worth as defined by a hierarchical construct.

    You have a valid question.
     
  5. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    The 23rd century pretty definitively had some sort of money within the Federation. The TVH lines I write off as referring specifically to physical cash as something you carry with you (though that does recontextualize Kirk's line about "They're still using money, we've got to find some" as being a lucky break rather than a problem, since if they'd arrived after everyone switched to electronic transactions, it'd be a lot harder to get around, not unlike Sisko and Bashir's situation in "Past Tense").

    The 24th century is a lot trickier to make sense of. The easiest way is to do what Mack has done and assume it's the same as the 23rd century, people just talk about it differently. I remember reading an essay years ago, not long before "Trekonomics" by Manu Saadia came out, that was actually able to explain how the 24th century Federation could function without anything analogous to money as we know it. I believe it was this one by Rick Webb, it seems familiar, so read it and consider it my answer, along with an addendum for what CLB talked about in the first DTI books that even if money isn't a concern, there's still "social currency," prestige and fame and whatnot, that can motivate people.
     
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  6. DS9forever

    DS9forever Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  7. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    We shouldn't confuse the 23rd century with the 24th century. TOS is full of merchants, prospectors, mail-order brides, and other casual references to commerce. Heck, the whole dispute about Coridian concerned the Tellarites profiting at the native people's expense, while Flint was rich enough to buy an entire planet. And one likes to think that Kirk and Co. paid for their drinks on Argelius and tipped that belly dancer. :)

    And even in the movies, McCoy tries to charter a flight to Genesis, Scotty talks about buying a boat, etc. The whole "no-money" thing is much more of a TNG thing, despite that one joke in the whale movie.

    One can rationalize that it varies from planet to planet and culture to culture. The Federation is not one homogenous culture sharing the same customs and economies. Money may be no big deal on some of the more advanced worlds, but still very much a going concern out on the Final Frontier.
     
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  8. Spot261

    Spot261 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Oh, this is new and interesting.
     
  9. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Also, it's not that money doesn't exist, just that it isn't essential to work for a living. The 24th-century UFP is a post-scarcity society thanks to replicators, so nobody has to work to survive, to obtain the basic needs of life. There's so much prosperity that everyone can have a comfortable existence for free. But that doesn't mean you can't engage in capitalism if you want to. It's an option rather than an obligation.
     
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  10. bfollowell

    bfollowell Captain Captain

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    Well, I guess the whole post-scarcity argument makes sense. Still, if money exists in some form or other, and it can still buy you the nicer things in life, but you don't need it for the basics of life, that makes me think of the people living on "basic" in Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck's Expanse series. I mean, I know Star Trek was always supposed to be about this ideal future where everyone is motivated by things other than money, but I guess I'm more of a pessimist. I look at the world today and I think there would be many that would live on basic and let the state take care of them if their basic needs were met. I just think it's human nature than many, the lazy, choose to live at the expense of the hard working and industrious and do as little to earn their own way or contribute as they can get away with.

    And we've seen that in Trek too, just not as much.
     
  11. Guy Gardener

    Guy Gardener Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Why invent replicator rations (on Voyager) if money already exists in the future?

    Talaxian cuisine is free, replicating a bottle of wine is bankrupting... But (Paris) stealing a bottle of wine from Kim results in a shrug.

    In the real world, Kim would have thought about pressing his friends face against a wall while arranging a repayment schedule.

    Is being a free society (cashless society) criteria for joining the Federation? Of the five founders, the tellerites still seem to use money, and the founding might be more about fighting the Romulans, more so than a like minded view on economics.
     
  12. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    Except in a post-scarcity society, living that way isn't at anybody's expense, because there's more than enough for everyone. That's the whole point of the word "post-scarcity" -- that it's not a zero-sum game anymore, that nobody's profit requires anybody else's loss. So if a lot of people choose to lead lives of leisure and never accomplish much, that doesn't hurt anyone else, so why not just let them?

    Besides, in our society, "the lazy [who] choose to live at the expense of the hard working" are called billionaires. They've brainwashed us to blame working-class people for the deprivation that's actually caused by their own greed. The unfettered wealth of the top few hundred richest people on Earth comes at the expense of the lives and health and safety of countless millions of others, and that is the most damaging consequence of capitalism (or any scarcity-based economic system, since the richest few have always screwed everyone else over since the dawn of civilization). If a post-scarcity economy can get rid of that predatory greed or render it harmless, then I don't mind if it leads to millions of people leading comfortable, unambitious lives. At least they're not dying of starvation then.
     
  13. DGCatAniSiri

    DGCatAniSiri Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    A thing I tend to figure is that, at a minimum, Starfleet/Federation citizens have some kind of stipend that they get, given things like Deep Space Nine, where Quark charges for anything at his establishment, and the other merchants on the Promenade, which allows them to cover that (as well as Jadzia’s tongo buy ins), due to DS9’s status as a non-Federation facility. But areas like the replimat, for example, are free and open to anyone.

    If everyone has a replicator in their home, they have access to the food and drink and general things that they may want. Restaurants and craft works become a matter of ambiance and artisan crafting, where you may be paying for it, but it’s out of recognition that the art and individual effort deserves recognition, rather than economics.

    So you could go everyday, ordering from a replicator whatever you need, and never spending any kind of basic income that you receive, if you so choose, but if you’re going out, both to say Joseph Sisko’s restaurant or off Earth and to explore the culture of other worlds, you have currency to draw on to cover those costs.

    It’s that the accumulation of wealth as a goal unto itself no longer is the driving force within at least Earth, probably the Federation’s, economy, and so money is not seen as having an inherent value, it’s something that everyone gets, regardless of circumstance.

    At least, that’s been how I reconcile everything.
     
  14. Tim Thomason

    Tim Thomason Commodore Commodore

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    It's a cashless society, but it costs a lot to live there.
     
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  15. Guy Gardener

    Guy Gardener Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Sisko does not charge rent.

    This is Cannon.

    Sisko can charge rent if he feels like it.

    Which is more Canon from the same paragraph.
    Reservations.

    How many years in advance do you have to book a table at Siskos?

    If there's a way to jump the queue, that is the equivalence of money.
     
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  16. bfollowell

    bfollowell Captain Captain

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    I guess we're on different soap boxes. Not that I don't take your point, because I do. I'm part of the working class, and the lazy I'm referring to are the millions of welfare recipients who choose to live that way at my and other working people's expense. Not the few that deserve a helping hand, but the many that are perfectly capable of working, but choose not to, unless you consider breeding to be some form of work; the many whose families have lived that way for generations and it has become a way of life; the leeches if you will, that do nothing productive for society as a whole, but always expect a handout and for someone else to provide for them. Like you, if a portion of my salary didn't go to provide for them, I wouldn't care either. Since it does, I do.

    But that's a discussion for another venue and far beyond the scope of what I planned when I started this thread.
     
  17. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    That's exactly what I'm talking about -- that belief is a lie propagated by the rich to turn different groups of poor people against each other instead of recognizing that the rich are the ones who are really living at your expense. Welfare recipients are not your enemies. They're working as hard as you are. They have to -- welfare is not set up as a free lunch, despite the lies. Here are some facts:

    https://www.thebalance.com/welfare-programs-definition-and-list-3305759
    Heck, I was on food assistance myself for a little while last year, and it is not set up to be an easy or cushy thing to get. For starters, you have to have an absurdly low income to qualify for it in the first place and it's not remotely enough to live on by itself. And it automatically expires if you don't renew it regularly. As soon as my income improved even marginally, I was no longer eligible. It only saved me a couple hundred dollars a month for a few months.


    The truth is, the government spends far more of your tax dollars on corporate subsidies for executives who are already rich than it spends on welfare for the genuinely needy.

    https://thinkbynumbers.org/government-spending/corporate-welfare/corporate-vs-social-welfare/
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/taxana...-outrage-over-corporate-welfare/#2bc3fcde27dd



    Anyway, you're right, we're getting off topic. We're talking about the fictional post-scarcity future of the Federation, not the present-day situation. My point was, in a future society where there's more than enough for everyone no matter what, there's no reason why it would be a problem if a lot of people chose to lead passive and unproductive lives of leisure. It wouldn't take anything away from anybody else, so there's no harm.

    Really, the modern idea of the work ethic is a side effect of the invention of agriculture. The prehistoric hunter-gatherer lifestyle was generally a lot more relaxed than fiction tends to portray it. About 2/3 of calories were provided by gathering and only 1/3 by the more labor-intensive process of hunting, and a single big kill could feed a community for days. So the amount of work that had to be put into survival wasn't all that great, and lots of prehistoric humans and hominins had a ton of free time on their hands. And that's like 97-98% of the history of Homo sapiens, so that's a far more normal state of being for our species than the current work-dependent one. I guess you could call the hunter-gatherer existence "pre-scarcity," at least in times when food was abundant.

    So really, the Federation/post-scarcity lifestyle would be a return to the more natural state of existence for human beings. And I don't believe that people are naturally lazy. On the contrary, I believe that most people have potential that goes untapped as long as they're forced to expend their time and energy on mindless, repetitive work. With endless free time, you can embrace your full potential. People would have more freedom to join in their communities and help their neighbors, to be creative and inquisitive. They'd have the freedom to pursue their dreams and do things out of love, and I think that's a powerful motivator.

    I've often thought that in a post-scarcity future, the fields that would benefit the most would be education, child care, health care, etc. Humans are naturally a social species, inclined to help our families and communities and especially our children. If people only had to do the jobs they wanted to do, I think many, many people would choose to devote themselves to teaching and caring for the young, creating a safe and supportive environment for children to be raised in. And that would be better for everyone in the long term.
     
  18. David cgc

    David cgc Admiral Premium Member

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    Basic Assistance in the Expanse is the cradle-to-grave welfare system from hell. People on Basic are legally prohibited from earning money or buying things at all. They get what the government assigns them in terms of living space, food, clothes, and recreational drugs to keep them from revolting because they're so damned bored. Being part of the working class is a privilege you have to earn by (unpaid?) labor in your teens, and if you don't make the cut, well, enjoy being treated as a literal commodity. That's why people choose to be undocumented on Earth, even though there's no penalty or barrier to registering for Basic; it's so dehumanizing and soul-sucking to be on Basic that there are people who'd rather take their lives into their own hands and live within the black market than be shuttled around and prohibited from doing anything with their lives, since the system is based on exactly the same assumptions as the current American system, that the poor are that way by choice, they're naturally indolent and good-for-nothing, and providing the means of living to them is not even charity offered freely, but it should be overtly punitive because they're inevitably and constantly trying to steal from the good, working people.

    In "Legacies," David Mack described the TOS-era Federation system as being an unconditional basic income (basically, a cash salary for being alive you can spend on whatever you want because you're an adult and don't need Uncle Sam deciding what food is too nice for you to eat, or what neighborhoods are too good for you to live in as in current food stamps and housing vouchers), combined with social programs to ensure medical care is freely available and housing and food prices are reasonable for all. You can work for some extra spending money, or sit in a cheap efficiency making inscrutable art without ever worrying about starving, it's all up to you. It's as far from Basic Assistance as you can get, except for the rather damning bit that Basic Assistance presupposes that while the monied still hate the poor in The Expanse, they are no longer willing to watch them die from neglect, a low bar we have yet to clear in the real world.
     
  19. Christopher

    Christopher Writer Admiral

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    I don't think our system is actually built around such assumptions -- only Republican campaign propaganda is. As explained in the link I gave above, most federal aid programs go to the state overall rather than to individuals, and ironically the states that rely most heavily on federal aid are the red states, whose voters don't even realize how much they rely on the welfare programs they've been taught to despise.


    Wow. A sobering way to put it.
     
  20. Meadowmorph

    Meadowmorph Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    Wow, what a way to bring this string to a screeching halt! It was a good string too.

    And so.... Good grief! I don't know if I'm more annoyed at the person who called his mom a lazy breeder if she didn't go to work outside of the home and did so despite the current social norms. Raising children is not easy, it's hard. Kicker? You don't get paid for it. Truth? They could not afford to pay someone for the amount of thankless work they do. It's 24/7, 364 days a year with no holidays. And get this...when the kids come home from school, other kids whose parents work outside the home and are actually earning a wage or salary end up at your house. You don't get paid for that either, but you don't want the kids to be home alone. In short, you work your derriere off for room and board. The work is mind-numbingly repetitive, grunt work, (housekeeping) it's a good thing they are cute and you love 'em.

    Now, I wonder at the way the 24th century will handle child rearing. Who cleans the house? I guess the house now cleans itself, if it's built like a starship. Laundry is not an issue either; just toss it into the replicator, press "molecules to energy", then order a pair of pajamas to be made from that energy (remember the first rule of thermodynamics extended to the energy-to-matter-and-back-again thing). What my original post questions is how these people who have menial jobs will be valued. Would parenting be part of the equation? How much would be their "stipend"? Will children be put into Maturation Chambers until their prefrontal cortices
    is fully developed?

    Point two was that every job is important to the smooth running of this future organism we like to call TNG. Why should the stipend for Jean Luc be more than a dilithium Miner or a Warrant Officer? If you take the notion that the rewards of being a Captain is simply that, you are already being rewarded by having a very interesting job, one you love. It's good to be Captain. In fact, the Miner (read "Mother") should have a stipend greater than the Captain to compensate for the sheer drudgery. Like I stated in my last post "No Gas = No Go".
     
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2019