Friday, July 25, 2014

The Economics of Star Trek: Proto-Post-Scarcity?

This piece starts with two premises that really interest me 1) That the Federation in Star Trek doesn't use money (this bothers me) and 2) That technology will soon make us exponentially more productive (this I find plausible).

And tries to bring those two together. I don't like his conclusions though. I do like the line "The Federation seems a bit like Williamsburg — a lot of artists who don’t need to work." But his idea that food is apparently free because its so cheap (plausible) but that computers in the background keep track of how much you eat to make sure you don't eat too much (why bother). I do find it plausible that "cheap things" (anything that costs less than $1000) would be so insignificant, like pennies that people wouldn't bother keeping track of them. I also agree that expensive things, like starships, couldn't possibly be free.

But he calls Star Trek a post-scarcity economy and that just isn't possible. There will always be a scarcity of reservations at the hottest restaurants (ok, maybe that is allocated by lottery like we often do now), but other things like Jake and the antique baseball card (in the DS9 episode that showed the absurdity of a barter economy), or Picard's Chateau in France. We still need money (Federation credits) for that, not just as foreign exchange.

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