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Sci-Fi The Almighty Buck

Can Star Trek's World With No Money Work In Real life? (cnn.com) 563

The economics of the Star Trek universe were discussed at New York Comic Con on Sunday. Paul Krugman was among the panelists who debated whether a world without money could actually work. CNN reports: "Star Trek has dared to 'boldly go where no man has gone before' — including a world without money. 'One of the things that's interesting about Star Trek is that it does try to imagine a post-scarcity economy where there's no money. People don't work for it. People don't work because they have to but because they want to,' said Annalee Newitz, the editor of Gawker's io9 blog. Newitz -- along with Nobel Prize winner and economist Paul Krugman, 'Treknomics' author Manu Saadia, economics professor Brad DeLong, Fusion's Felix Salmon and Star Trek writer Chris Black -- discussed economics through the lens of the Star Trek world at a New York Comic Con panel Sunday."
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Can Star Trek's World With No Money Work In Real life?

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  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:33AM (#50707883)

    The star trek fantasy is exactly that - a fantasy. For as long as communities have existed, there has been evidence of bartering. Unless you have infinite resources, which we don't, there will always be something that someone has which someone else wants, but can't get on their own.

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:36AM (#50707889)

      Just because you don't know any communities that do not have money, doesn't mean there aren't any.

      Besides, there is clearly reward in Star Trek in the form of career advances.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jhigh ( 657789 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:39AM (#50707901)
        I think the poster's point is that whether there is formal currency or not, humans will always barter. Inevitably, this will result in some goods and services, based upon their supply and demand, becoming more valuable than others. This becomes de facto currency.
        • by popo ( 107611 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:12AM (#50708089) Homepage

          The Ferengi still used it... and the Federation used it to trade with the Ferengi.

          • relative wealth (Score:5, Insightful)

            by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:59AM (#50708333)

            There is a difference between "post scarcity' and "no money". Post scarcity means that you have the basic needs of life met with no work requirement. We are quickly approaching the ability in the western world to provide that. There will always be crazy people who will eat every meal on fine china and then throw it away at the end of meal because they can get more at no cost. So that will never work.

            People in a post scarcity economy will work because of the joy of working, the joy of being creative and of helping fellow citizens. The joy of designing circuits or the joy of writing poetry. I'm sure there will continue to be monetary reward for those activities that produce something of value which can't be made by machine. And the people who do it will have extra "buying power" to acquire things in excess of the universal income that is provided to everyone else.

            • Re:relative wealth (Score:4, Insightful)

              by kuzb ( 724081 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @09:32AM (#50708587)

              "Post scarcity means that you have the basic needs of life met with no work requirement. We are quickly approaching the ability in the western world to provide that."

              No, we really aren't. If anything, basic necessities in the western world are getting more expensive. Just because we have a lot of things doesn't mean people will start giving them away for free.

              • Re:relative wealth (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @10:52AM (#50709333)
                Not really - if anything, we're defining the 'basic necessities' upwards.

                In 1800 (to pick an arbitrary date in the past), basic necessities might be a shack with a wood stove and a bland, basic diet. Would that cut it today, in any modern countries? Building safety codes alone would mean it's going to be more expensive, nevermind things like utilities, or the fact that we wouldn't consider that bland diet to be anywhere near healthy/varied enough. What about things like a cellphone, or internet access? You may not need them to stay alive, but you certainly need them to pretty much do anything in today's modern society.

                But is it really more expensive, in comparison to how much productivity has gone up? Per Capita GDP, adjusted for inflation, has risen by a factor of 50. This means that despite the increasing amount of stuff we're putting in the 'basic necessities' category, our productivity can much more easily support even that raised level, than we could the much more basic one back in 1800.
              • Re:relative wealth (Score:5, Interesting)

                by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @10:52AM (#50709347)

                No, we really aren't. If anything, basic necessities in the western world are getting more expensive.

                And you base this on what? Adjusted for inflation, food is cheaper than it's ever been. Luxury items (for example, smartphones, computers, big screen televisions) are affordable by basically everybody now. 100 years ago, poverty meant you were starving because you couldn't afford to eat.

                Today poverty means you have a house, plenty of food, and can afford your own means of transportation (in less urbanized areas, that means owning your own car) and probably a few (though not necessarily many) luxury items. The biggest thing separating poor from rich these days is how expensive your house and/or your car is.

                • Re:relative wealth (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Shadowmist ( 57488 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @11:12AM (#50709589)

                  No, we really aren't. If anything, basic necessities in the western world are getting more expensive.

                  And you base this on what? Adjusted for inflation, food is cheaper than it's ever been. Luxury items (for example, smartphones, computers, big screen televisions) are affordable by basically everybody now. 100 years ago, poverty meant you were starving because you couldn't afford to eat.

                  Today poverty means you have a house, plenty of food, and can afford your own means of transportation (in less urbanized areas, that means owning your own car) and probably a few (though not necessarily many) luxury items. The biggest thing separating poor from rich these days is how expensive your house and/or your car is.

                  You base it on the fact that the costs of basic necessities is a greater percentage of a working income than it ever has been. 20 years ago, a working man could pay for his rent with one week's salary. Now on the average it costs 2 weeks or more... and that's before you've paid for other necessties such as food, utilities, and car payments and gasoline. The upscale are paying much less of a percentage... but that's only because their grab of the pie has gotten so much larger. Poverty in modern America means that you're skipping behind in health maintenance, and you're not saving for retirement because the alternative is that you and your kids don't eat. And you're more likely to either not have health insurance, or have a plan which fail you when you need it most. There is much less upward mobility than there used to be a generation ago. And while food is cheaper than it used to be... it's of a much more long-term toxic variety for the lower classes who can't afford to shop at boutique grocery stores.

                  The future isn't Star Trek.... it's Shadowrun.... without the magic

                  • It's because productivity has become completely untethered from wages. Up until about the late 1970s, wages rose in rough correlation to productivity gains. After 1980, wages all but flatlined while productivity continued to increase at roughly the same rate it had before. The problem is that workers are getting less and less of a share of the value of the work (i.e. production) that they do.

                    The per capita GDP of the USA in 2014 was over $54k. You could put everyone in the country above the poverty line
              • If anything, basic necessities in the western world are getting more expensive.

                In actual dollar (pick your currency) terms appliances, consumer electronics, and even cars have gotten dramatically cheaper since their inventions. Commodities like food fluctuate but we have the means to feed a lot more people than we ever did prior to 100 years ago by hundreds of factors. Food is cheap enough that we regularly throw away tons of it. Don't say land; real estate is different. Depending on where you live land may actually be cheaper now than 10 years ago, or it may be more expensive. Real e

            • Re:relative wealth (Score:5, Insightful)

              by fche ( 36607 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @09:42AM (#50708639)

              "People in a post scarcity economy will work ..."

              That "will" part expresses perhaps an excess of expectation. A post-scarcity economy is in the apprx. "never will" happen category.

              • by naasking ( 94116 )

                That "will" part expresses perhaps an excess of expectation. A post-scarcity economy is in the apprx. "never will" happen category.

                I disagree. They "never will" work at jobs they hate, which means those menial jobs that nearly everyone hates to do will require more incentives. Seems perfectly reasonable.

                • by fche ( 36607 )

                  That's not a "post-scarcity" economy. That's a normal economy where there is a scarcity of labour willing to do menial jobs for low wages.

            • Land. That is the limiting factor there. There will always be a demand for Sq Ft-age based on family size and location; especially for Urbanites. There's no getting around that unless you can built vertically on the cheap, move people into space, or cull the human population.

              If going by the axiom of "What cannot go on forever, won't", than by that token, the Malthusianists win the argument.

              • There should be no need to cull the population : one of the effects of prosperity noted everywhere amongst humans is that the birth rate goes below replacement rates. (This could be a side effect of the capitalist economies that usually presage the prosperity though - hard to breed when you're workin' for the man all day).

          • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday October 12, 2015 @10:07AM (#50708905)

            People in outlying colonies used money, too. In fact, it was really only the Federation's core worlds that didn't, and I'm not even sure how it worked there, either. (How did they decide who was allowed to eat at Sisko's dad's restaurant? How did they decide who got to live in a sweet penthouse overlooking the Golden Gate bridge, and who had to commute to Starfleet Headquarters via transporter from Iowa? How did they allocate holodeck use? You know a significant fraction of the population would want to spend 24/7/365 in there...)

            It almost seems like less of a utopian "no money" thing, and more like a European socialist "basic income" kind of deal.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:34AM (#50708187)

          And the core point of Star Trek is to ask what happens when the supply of everything you could demand is infinite ?
          Strictly speaking the price of anything with infinite supply is always zero. In fact, it doesn't even have to be infinite - it just has to APPEAR infinite. Nobody can survive without oxygen for more than a few minutes, it's the ultimate requirement. The highest demand any product can ever have... yet none of us pay for it. The SCUBA and Space Travel industries are the sole places where anybody makes a profit out of selling air to breath. Everywhere else it's available for free -because the supply is close enough to infinite that we don't need to charge for it (of course, assuming regulations are kept intact and this remains true...)

          This is actually of great interest right now as we have other products which exist right now which we can produce at post-scarcity levels but not INVENT that way. Raising the interesting question of how to reward inventors appropriately when that dichotomy exists ? Intellectual products are foremost on this list. Right now the favored approach is to try and *create* scarcity where it doesn't exist, in order ot allow a market with a price to exist. This artificial scarcity is created by government intervention (in the form of laws like copyright) - and the more easy technology has made the replication, the more draconian the artificial scarcity laws have had to get.
          The current path leads to dictatorship (and if you compare copy laws in the west today to what they were like under ACTUAL dictators - we've long surpassed them - the motivation for the laws is very different - but the practical implementation is not).

          So what other paths are there ? If everything is post scarcity, perhaps that solves the problem because you don't NEED to pay the authors, after all - they can get everything they need for free. But when only some products are post-scarcity, that creates a conflict between "produces a post-scarcity product" and "needs to eat".

          Frankly we haven't got a good answer to how to deal with this yet, only a very BAD answer which politicians are unwilling to question.

          • Is a law enforceable when the unlawful act is ignored?
          • Yes, this. Slashdot is super hardcore in favor of the IP post-scarcity world put in place by Google, in which digitized everything is everywhere for the asking. Not to create scarcity means most creators are valueless, at more or less the valuation of a person capable of doing what you can do with a simple shell script.

            Removing money creates a REPUTATION economy. It also makes creators die unless they're fed in some way (welfare, et al, or a universal basic income taken disproportionately from the biggest w

            • by naasking ( 94116 )

              Not to create scarcity means most creators are valueless, at more or less the valuation of a person capable of doing what you can do with a simple shell script.

              Not at all. Post-scarcity on IP makes reproductions valueless, which is a whole different point. People willingly pay money to see artists perform their work live (like concerts), or commission work just for them (the way artists used to make a living when they had patrons).

        • by kuzb ( 724081 )

          Exactly this. As long as value is placed on anything, it can be bartered. Even if you eliminate the problem of resources, the knowledge of the individual is finite and it becomes the new scarce resource. I may know how to make unique sculptures, but you know how to fix my broken replicator. Services will continue to have value unless we hit a point where resources are infinite, and automation is so good that we don't have to even get out of bed in the morning because our robot slaves did everything for

      • Re: No (Score:4, Funny)

        by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:53AM (#50707977)
        Not everyone in the Star Trek universe works at Star Fleet.

        Besides, for many, many people, career advancement is a means, not an end. I mean, how does convince space hookers when their only incentive is goodwill?
        • Why turn a trick when dinner is waiting in the Replicator?
        • Another premise of Star Trek is a post-religion highly sexually liberated society. In that society, hookers haven't got much of a market because getting laid has become ridiculously easy.
          Basically - picking somebody up consists "Horny?" and "Yeah/Nay"

          • Another premise of Star Trek is a post-religion highly sexually liberated society. In that society, hookers haven't got much of a market because getting laid has become ridiculously easy. Basically - picking somebody up consists "Horny?" and "Yeah/Nay"

            I think what really destroyed the market for hookers in the Star Trek universe is the holodeck. At least until the Federation Council passes the Lieutenant Barkley Bill. Speaking of Barkley, just because there's no religion and no disease doesn't mean that everybody's attractive enough to get a date. That's what outpatient radical reconstructive surgery-by-hypospray is for.

            That said, I find it delightful that dating in your scenario is reduced to saying "Yea" and "Nay". Is there also a gavel involved?

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      But for as long as communities have existed, there has been scarcity. What happens when there is no scarcity anymore and automated production can supply the entire world. I mean, it's not as if the robots need to eat/watch tv.
      • by jhigh ( 657789 )
        The only way that I see that you could entirely eliminate the concept of "money" (aka currency) would be for everything that everyone wants to be available to everyone. This is the only way to eliminate the motivation to barter, and I just don't see how you possibly achieve that.
        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:50AM (#50707959) Journal
          Yes. Star Trek doesn't seem to quite have that. Iain M Banks' Culture series presented a genuine post-scarcity society. In one of the books there's brief exchange where a character is asked whether someone could have a whole planet if they wanted one. The answer was essentially "I suppose so, but why would you want one?"
          • Some days I want my own planet, but I would be satisfied with a space ship and a moon base.
          • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:10AM (#50708077)

            Yes, but in Culture there were still things you could not just have. Like position in Contact or SC. There was kind of bartering involved with things like information also. So, overall, pretty well presented and believable post-scarcity scenario if you ask me. Note that Culture also had basic immortality as inviduals. And most of the "humans" were pretty close to well kept pets. And seemingly the whole society was kind of lost with their search for the meaning of life. Great books, highly recommended.

            • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:41AM (#50708229)

              And most of the "humans" were pretty close to well kept pets.

              True, but beside the general altruism of the machine Minds, who were for all intents and purposes akin to gods, they recognised that humanity did sometimes produce geniuses who could strategise and/or solve certain problems in ways that their exacting, methodical & statistical approach could analyse and replicate, but not always come up with on the spot at the same speed. See The Player of Games (I think it was the 1st one I read, great series).

            • Re:No (Score:4, Informative)

              by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @10:13AM (#50708975) Homepage Journal

              Even that is touched upon, especially in the novel Look To Windward. There, the situation was live viewing for a concert, so that they Mind in charge of the orbital mentioned that people were talking about it being good enough to reinvent money.

              I do quibble a little with the opinion that the humans were pets, though some of the ship Minds may have felt that way when talking amongst themselves. Though some of the machines could be downright devious in manipulating the organic citizens, they were just as manipulative to each other. The core belief that individuals have a right to self determination was never questioned, but the Minds entrusted with running things did their job so well that there was no need for any other form of resource management (which is all money is).

          • Even then, scarcity would become a problem when two people decide they want the same whole planet.

        • This is the only way to eliminate the motivation to barter, and I just don't see how you possibly achieve that.

          Why do you want to eliminate barter?

          It has been eliminated for practical reasons because paying your rent with 3/4 of a cow each month would be rather impractical (change anyone?)

          But if those big expenses (rent, health care, insurance) could be taken care of by reversing the polarity of a replicator or other robot. (whatever Technobabble is used here to solve THAT problem) the "small stuff" might be handled by personal barter. You know, that home made jam for that painting or whatever craft we are taking on

        • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @09:08AM (#50708385) Homepage

          The only way that I see that you could entirely eliminate the concept of "money" (aka currency) would be for everything that everyone wants to be available to everyone. This is the only way to eliminate the motivation to barter, and I just don't see how you possibly achieve that.

          The only way to do that is to expand into space where raw materials and land are no longer scarce and/or reduce the allowable type of goods. (i.e. Noone is allowed to own their own jet). The only other way is for people to voluntarily exit the rat race. I have everything I want with excess money to spare but that's because I don't want much. I'm content with what I have. Sure, I would like my own jet and to be able to take 3 month vacations, but I've decided that I'm comfortable living at a certain amenities level which happens to be considerable less than what I make. Another example would be Bill Gates, he is at the "post scarcity level" and can buy anything he wants and spend approximately 6 million a day and never run out but I would be surprised if he spends even 6 million a year on "stuff". So you don't have to get to complete and total infinite resouces, there are plenty of people in the world that have enough "stuff" and have no desire to have more.

    • Those communities have also had scarcity. Star Trek is a post-scarcity society, and we could reasonably become one.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        No we couldn't, as there is always a scarcity to overcome - we can't reasonably give everyone on the planet million acre estates for example, and we couldn't ensure everyone has the best weather or a sea view.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:16AM (#50708113)
        Probably what they had was more like the happiness theories that at the time found people stopped gaining happiness around $70,000 a year of income just from the income. You wouldn't need a ridiculous amount of resources to bring the population up to that level and keep most of the sheep happy. After that it became self improvement. STNG had an episode about that.

        After that things became scarce and quick. Wanted to be in Star Fleet and be a Captain of a starship, well you worked your ass off. Want your own ship and bypass SF, you were also going to have to work your ass off, and be smart enough to obtain or build your own, much less maintain and pilot one, but it wasn't something the average person could accomplish and obviously the world government wasn't just handing them out for free else we would have been seeing a lot more examples of "Red Neck Yacht Club" in space.

        The other thing that they didn't get into but I'm sure was a thing was the right to have children. I'm positive they'd have some sort of licensing requirement before you could have more than say a single child, else the hoods of the world would have been overflowing with feral children.

        • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

          by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:28AM (#50708165)
          I doubt that they would have such an issue. Keep in mind that most Western countries currently have sub-replacement birth rates, and women have much greater career and education opportunities in Star Trek, as well as far superior birth control.
        • The other thing that they didn't get into but I'm sure was a thing was the right to have children. I'm positive they'd have some sort of licensing requirement before you could have more than say a single child, else the hoods of the world would have been overflowing with feral children.

          Not a problem in a society with transporters, replicators, and starships with warp drive that can transport tens of thousands of people in a journey and get them to some other planet within mere months or less. With pretend-physics, a human diaspora is plausible.

    • "Infinite resources" through antimatter thingies creating unlimited energy for replicators is one of the things that this fantasy is build upon and may be considered a prerequisite that puts this whole thing clearly in the "thought experiment" drawer.

      But it still leaves some interesting questions. e.g.

      Do we need actually infinite resources or would we just need enough resources to cover everyone's needs? This leads to "what are those needs" and "How long can we keep going on artificially raising those needs

    • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Feral Nerd ( 3929873 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:01AM (#50708027)

      The star trek fantasy is exactly that - a fantasy. For as long as communities have existed, there has been evidence of bartering. Unless you have infinite resources, which we don't, there will always be something that someone has which someone else wants, but can't get on their own.

      Why would an economy without money not work? Just because we and our economic elite are so entrenched in money and free market theories that border on religion that does not automatically mean that other ways of organizing a civilization do not work as well. If you pulled a Roman citizen off the streets of Rome and told him/her that in 2000 year or so people will buy silk (a very expensive luxury back then) with something resembling papyrus money rather than solid gold aurei he/she would have either laughed at you or if they were a kind hearted person offered to escort you to the temple of Apollo so that you might have your lunacy treated by a skilled healer. That same reaction would have remained a constant reaction into the 18th century everywhere on earth except perhaps in parts of China where paper money came into general circulation earlier than elsewhere in the world. Outside of China, except for the mercantile and banking communities in Europe and the Middle East who were familiar with the basic concept of promissory notes and trust based value, the rest of the population would have written you off as a lunatic for talking about paper money. It's all a matter of culture and common consensus about value and how things should work.

      • Why would an economy without money not work? Just because we and our economic elite are so entrenched in money and free market theories that border on religion that does not automatically mean that other ways of organizing a civilization do not work as well. If you pulled a Roman citizen off the streets of Rome and told him/her that in 2000 year or so people will buy silk (a very expensive luxury back then) with something resembling papyrus money rather than solid gold aurei he/she would have either laughed

    • They used the credit system for trading with other worlds. So there must be some form of currency.
      However while it may not be money as we think of it. Not everyone can live in the favorite spots that they may want to live in. How many beach homes and/or mountain top view, are there for the population. Even in Starfleet, Officers get their own quarters, while many enlisted members share bunks. There is still a reward system in place for people who do the smaller supply and high demand job. As well in the

    • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Eunuchswear ( 210685 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:40AM (#50708221) Journal

      For as long as communities have existed, there has been evidence of bartering.

      This turns out to be untrue. Before the invention of money most systems seem to have been based on a gift economy, not barter. In fact debt, accountancy, and later money, were invented as a way of keeping track of the gift economy.

      Barter tends to come into existence as when money collapses, it post-dates, not pre-dates money.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Star Trek's world is one where status and wealth is achieved through ability.
      The combined baseless egos of managers and business execs won't allow this to happen.

    • The star trek fantasy is exactly that - a fantasy.

      It always cracked me up that Star Trek, at the height of the Cold War, was able to portray a future with a communist social system right under the noses of the American public. Just because James Kirk would make the occasional speech about freedom and shit, I guess people missed that there was no religion, no money, and that everyone worked together for the common good. This was especially obvious on TNG, where the Ferengi were some of the initial bad guys on the show and Picard openly mocked their capitali

    • Sure bartering has existed forever. But money is not bartering - it is a quite different thing entirely. Money is just a man-made asset that we arbitrarily produce in quantities that are meant to maintain its price relative to a bunch of real assets (the inflation measurement). It is quite incredible that we can create real material prosperity or real starvation based on how much of this arbitrary asset we produce. It really does make this current 'great recession' just seem like the height of human communa

    • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @09:20AM (#50708475)

      there will always be something that someone has which someone else wants, but can't get on their own

      Star Trek and Iain Banks' Culture books would be really boring if that wasn't the case :-) - both are mainly based on the adventures of the minority of society who were not content to sit at home and enjoy their free bread and circuses.

      For as long as communities have existed, there has been evidence of bartering. Unless you have infinite resources...

      Yet one of the "wonders" of modern society is that we have a "fiat" monetary system that has dropped any pretence of a link between the value of money and essential resources. In the past, people could have starved because a crop failure made food unaffordable. These days, its just as likely for the problem to be that nobody has grown any food because the markets have gone chaotic and dropped the price of food below the cost of production. At times in the recent past, farmers in the West are being paid not to produce food to create artificial scarcity. Oil-producing countries will deliberately reduce their output to prop up the oil price.

      For many people, most of their salary goes, not on food, but on paying back the artificially-inflated price of the roof over your head (and much of the other money you spend goes to pay other people's wages so they can pay their rents and mortgages). The only reason housing costs so much is that the prices have been severed from 'what people are willing or able to pay' to 'how much phoney money banks are prepared to lend'.

      The other area to look at is software, music and film: in the 21st century the cost of physical production and distribution has become trivial, the only significant, necessary, expense is the human talent - and that work is sufficiently enjoyable that people are prepared to do it for nothing. The open-source software scene is the closest we come to 'post-scarcity' economics, and it doesn't seem to be a total bust. The internet was largely created by government-funded science, education and military establishments (i.e. by people who had food, clothing and housing provided by society so they could work on interesting things) who gave away the software. Early websites were made by volunteers - capitalism's main contribution since then has been continual efforts add artificial scarcity to the internet by introducing proprietary standards and abusing the patent system. Music and film, again: the whole digital rights mess is caused by the old industries trying to create artificial scarcity - film and TV are being pushed 'upmarket' because the low end of the market are happy to watch their peers' cat videos on Youtube.

      The problem is always how we could get from here to there, not whether "there" would work. If everybody is provided with food and a place to live so they don't need wages, all your resources are harvested by machines and your machines are made by other machines then it won't cost you anything to build the infrastructure to give everybody food and a place to live etc. Oops. serious bootstrap problem.

      Plus, human nature - one problem with Socialism/Communism etc. is that, in the past, if the wealth had really been shared out evenly, it would have been spread rather thinly and the majority of people (at least in the 'first world') would have to put up with a simpler lifestyle, so huge numbers of people have an incentive to game the system and be a bit more equal. Post-scarcity needs to improve the life of the majority, and to provide plenty of opportunities for the remaining psychopaths to become starship captains, order people around and shoot Romulans or join Special Circumstances and go rogue on some primitive planet...

      Of course, in the Culture it kind helped that humans were basically being kept as pets by all-powerful AIs, and in Star Trek every citizen of the Federation seemed to be such an absolute paragon of virtue that you wanted to slap them...

  • by higuita ( 129722 )

    Yes, it can.
    You have shared resources communities already in the world. It requires a change of mind to reduce the selfish temptations, but it is possible.

    Please notice that lack of money doesn't mean lack of rules to access the resources, so if you abuse, you will still be punished.

    • Please notice that lack of money doesn't mean lack of rules to access the resources, so if you abuse, you will still be punished.

      Those rules would be based on some criteria. Call them "critpoints" or "resalls", it's just money in a different form.

  • by Brian_Ellenberger ( 308720 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:42AM (#50707921)

    Star Trek couldn't even get rid of the concept of money in the show. This led to various inconsistencies throughout the various Star Trek shows and movies, even within the Federation. See http://en.memory-alpha.wikia.c... [wikia.com]

    • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

      Well, no money works for most things in the ST universe since they are in abundance. You can create almost anything via the replicator (and presumably the energy required is practically free). So food, clothing etc is free. But there are still some things that are scarce, like animals (although at least one type of animal in ST has proven to be anything but scarce) or when dealing with other societies that only understand money (and ear rubbing).
      So while there are a couple of mentions of "federation credit"

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      Star Trek had money. Remember the miners on the planet with the Horta? Kirk said they would be embarrassingly rich.
      In other words it was one of the things that just didn't work.

  • by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:42AM (#50707923)

    Short answer, not really. Longer answer you'll always need some means to control supply, even if only for extreme luxury items.

    Consider this scenario: a couple of centuries from now the solar system is well developed, we have gargantuan manufactories orbiting the sun, being fed near-limitless amounts of raw material by automated harvesting operations working through asteroids and comets. Technologically and economically it would be quite feasible to build and supply an entire 20th-century ocean liner for every one of the earth's 18 billion odd inhabitants.

    Is it desirable to do so? Of course not. So for items with a vast physical, environmental or sociological footprint (like nuclear warheads) there will always be a cost price. While I'd expect things like one car per person to become almost free, along with ubiquitous healthcare and good spacious housing, economic competition aka capitalism will always have a place. The targets for the competition will simply become more grandiose.

    • Technologically and economically it would be quite feasible to build and supply an entire 20th-century ocean liner for every one of the earth's 18 billion odd inhabitants.

      Is it desirable to do so? Of course not.

      You're neglecting that there is no use in having your own personal ocean liner when this can't be used to show of your wealth because anyone could have one. Compare how to cars are no longer status symbols to young Europeans in metropolitan areas. With good public transport, you don't need one, and it is more of a hassle with parking and upkeep. "Back then" the only reason for not owning a car was that you couldn't afford one but with average middle class being able to have a average middle class car, it ca

    • economic competition aka capitalism will always have a place. The targets for the competition will simply become more grandiose.

      In Startreks case, witness the species known as the Ferengi, and their "rules of acquisition"...

  • Sure it could work, as long as you have a box that can turn energy into any physical good you like. Since there is only one real commodity, the system doesn't have to deal with different preferences, even time preferences. (They did have energy usage rations). Without that equalizer, different preferences and relative scarcity will produce 'money' in one form or another.
  • Red shirts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @07:49AM (#50707957)

    Of course it can work, it just takes a whole bunch of people really wanting to be red shirts rather than space ship captains.

    • And people willing to let families keep massive vineyard estates over many generations, like those nice Picards.

      What if many people wanted their own county-sized vineyard estate home in the country? How is that not scarcity?
  • Money of some kind will always be there as long as people enjoy exchange things, and assign values to the things they exchange.

    Before the conception of money, people simply exchanged one thing for another. You can argue that the things they exchanged were money. If you use electronic payment to obtain physical goods, you are effectively exchanging information for something physical. However I think you would definitely agree that you definitely exchanged money. The point is that the money as a concept evolv

    • If you use electronic payment to obtain physical goods, you are effectively exchanging information for something physical.

      No you aren't. The information itself is of no use to the vendor. Indeed, in some POS systems the vendor never even sees it - it's handled by an external processor.

      It's simply the old notes and coins scorekeeping system, but automated.

  • 1. Star Trek was a TV show, where wasting valuable time on inconsequential things isn't done. They did not need to explain how they got stuff, they just got it. Plus, pocket on the uniforms would have ruined the look.

    2. Even so, there was still evidence of some sort of medium of exchange and way to establish value. People did thing that produced valuable items, and had things that did not appear to be what they made, which implies there would be some way to establish value and determine what is a worthwhil

  • Star Trek portrayed a very optimistic, indeed idealistic future. As with all such things, it's not entirely realistic.

    Society without money? Um...no. Not unless you can make a fundamental change to human nature, by eliminating greed.

    Look at the West now: no one is poor, not by any reasonable definition of the word. Barring drug addiction or mental illness, everyone has enough to eat, a roof over their heads, a mobile telephone, a television, and likely even a car. This would have counted as wealth 200 years ago.

    The capitalist saying is very true: "a rising tide floats all boats". The problem is that no one wants to own the little boats. You can raise the bar as far as you like, but there will still be limited resources. Not everyone can have their own private island. Not everyone can be sole owner of a starship. Whatever goods count as rare, people will lust after them, and count themselves poor for not having them.

      As long as this remains part of human nature, we will need money, or something equivalent.

  • One of the things that's interesting about Star Trek is that it does try to imagine a post-scarcity economy where there's no money.

    That's an interesting thought experiment but since we do not and never will live in such a post-scarcity society it is ultimately meaningless. Some form of money is going to be a necessity for the foreseeable future. There simply is no scenario whereby we would have access to every possible resource we would need without some for of currency making the economy work. Star Trek is a fantasy that relies on fictional technology and unlimited harnessable energy sources. Since we do not have those things in t

    • "Most people are lazy, self indulgent and would happily sit on their ass doing nothing if there wasn't a fear of poverty driving them." Presuming were were post-scarcity this really wouldn't be a problem. It isn't like the good workers would be dragging these folks along. If anything it would free up the good workers to do greater things because they wouldn't have to burden themselves with worrying with social or familial support.
    • by urdak ( 457938 )

      That's an interesting thought experiment but since we do not and never will live in such a post-scarcity society it is ultimately meaningless. Some form of money is going to be a necessity for the foreseeable future. There simply is no scenario whereby we would have access to every possible resource we would need without some for of currency making the economy work.

      There is a difference between "need" and "want". It is conceivable that what we need will be available freely - food, lodging, etc. - but if people want more than what they got, the troubles begin (and scarcity will return). For example, imagine one random member of the Star Ship enterprise. He gets a room, food, entertainment, security - all for free. But what if one day he decides he wants his quarters to be twice the size he now has? *that* resource is scarce. What if one day he decides he wants to repli

      • Of all the inventions of Star Trek, a political or economic system that successfully controls human greed seems the most futuristic.
  • If you change basic human nature

  • That article sucked (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RobinH ( 124750 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:38AM (#50708213) Homepage

    Wow, that article had almost zero content.

    First of all, Star Trek did a horrible job of explaining how this society worked, other than Picard's brief explanation in First Contact that people now sought to improve themselves. Not only was it glossed over like this, but there are lots of references to Credits and other forms of money. So trying to figure out how the economy of Star Trek worked is just an exercise in imagination. Admittedly that can be fun, but there's no real canonical answer.

    Secondly, the economic system rests upon a much more fundamental difference. Roddenberry believed that in the future, if humanity wanted to go to the stars, they would have to put aside their "petty differences" and work together. Roddenberry worked very hard through all the shows to depict a future in which humans didn't fight with each other, often having arguments with writers like Ronald D. Moore who complained about how hard it was to create drama if people didn't do petty, mean, evil things to each other. Roddenberry insisted. This, by the way, is the main difference between the "new" films and the old ones. In the new Star Trek reboot, young Kirk finds himself in a bar fight a few minutes into the movie. Roddenberry never would have allowed such a depiction of humans behaving like this to each other (Picard, after all, did get mortally injured in a bar fight while he was a cadet, but it was with a Nossican (sp?)).

    Roddenberry said that the humans depicted in Star Trek were just fundamentally different than ourselves. They're better than us. Of course a cashless society doesn't make any sense for us as we are right now. However, if you're already willing to imagine a new kind of person that can set aside petty differences and work together, then you've already imagined a person or society that's motivated by self-actualization rather than simple material wants.

    On top of that, there are clearly still some limits on resources, energy, raw materials, etc. Nobody's running around in their own Galaxy Class starship. People "steal" shuttlecraft and runabouts... which doesn't make sense if you can have anything you want. It's a lot more likely that everyone has some kind of fixed ration of replicator time/energy, which is way more than enough to support their basic necessities and typical interests, and it's likely that people get together to do grander things, like pooling their resources together to tackle bigger projects, both for interest's sake and because they believe it's the right thing to do. That's probably the best that a post-scarcity society could really achieve, realistically.

  • by urdak ( 457938 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:39AM (#50708219)

    Yes, it was tried, and it worked, in Israel - it was called the Kibbutz (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kibbutz).

    The Kibbutz, a form of town popular in the twentieth century in Israel, were small towns where all the inhabitants worked together on some shared infrastructure, mostly agricultural (fields, cows, etc.) just like the Star Fleet guys worked together on their ship. Everyone had a role in the Kibbutz just like on the starship Enterprise: One person's role could be to milk the cows, while a second person grows wheat, a third cooks dinner for the first two, and a fourth would take care of the first three's children. No money was changed hand between any of these individuals. The kibbutz also had shared cars, collectively owned houses, etc. This arrangement worked pretty well for a long time, and did not involve any state coersion (unlike in the communist USSR) - people genuinely wanted to be part of their Kibbutz, and if they didn't, they were free to leave.

    The Kibbutz lost its popularity as the economy in the rest of Israel improved, and people (rightly) started to feel that perhaps they could have better living conditions by making money outside the Kibbutz, and people started to leave, or worse - started to want to divide the Kibbutz's income unequally among them. At that point, the Kibbutz died. It still exists nominally, but not in spirit.

  • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @08:44AM (#50708245) Homepage Journal

    Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Betteridge, sighing at a headline.

  • Really?

    I'm far from a Trekkie but from what I remember of watching it and the various spin-off series when I was a kid, money did indeed exist.

    The Ferengi, for example. Profit was their main aim.

    End of argument.

    Sure, we can argue canons and spin-offs and all kinds of junk but imagining something to be "free" because of some (mis-remembered) imaginary perfect world just isn't going to work in the real world.

  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @09:07AM (#50708375) Homepage Journal

    Post-scarcity huh? Well there's always scarcity - it just depends on what scale of stuff you're talking about. Generally "post-scarcity" is used to refer to things like food, housing, medical care - you know, the basic needs. What if each person wanted their own star ship? It's not like someone pushes a button and they come into existence. What if everyone wants their own planet? Obviously there are limits and there will always be scarcity.

    One thing that all the Star Treks make clear is scarce is talent and skill. Not everyone can do what Geordi does. What about people like Deanna Troi who can sense others' feelings and emotions? How many people can do that? So even if everyone had their own star ship, why would anyone else want to be crew members on them to make them functional? The people on the Enterpises are all highly motivated because they're the best of the best on the best starship probing the outermost reaches of the galaxy. Yeah, that sounds fun. What about the people that operate trash frigates? What's their motivation for learning and bettering themselves and climbing the ladder of command?

    Really, it all falls apart very quickly when one begins to think about it.

  • by gavron ( 1300111 ) on Monday October 12, 2015 @10:56AM (#50709389)

    Star Fleet is a conceptual futuristic military space navy. This means people are provided uniforms, living quarters, meal rations, and a function to perform. If that's the kind of thing you like it's available here on planet Earth today at your nearest military recruiting station (or the FFL if your country has none such.)

    However, that's not how any of the rest of the Star Trek universe works. The Ferengi are notorious "horse" traders and they sell for gold-pressed latinum. That's a currency, and it's only one of the many currencies. Even in the original series there were traders (Harry Mudd) and crimes and criminals and evil doctors who experiment on people and fame and fortune and money.

    Those who call Star Trek a utopia are conflating "not much need for cahs aboard a naval vessel" with the rest of the universe -- where it is very much in need!

    Ehud

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