Star Trek Has Money

It seems like a really pointless addition to the nerd rage culture that exists to add yet another hair splitting post about why some created universe has a flaw. This post might add to that inanity, but I hope it adds more to a discussion on economics and explains why Star Trek has such an enduring fan base despite the radical move towards general audience acceptance.

Let’s start with the basics. For those living somewhere outside of time and space, Star Trek is a fictional science fiction universe based around a number of television series, books, video games, conventions and a number of fan created homages. The basic premise of every show is that a Federation of aligned planets centered around humans but inclusive of other species agrees to mutually cooperate and share resources. The Federation is known for attempting to be the “good guy/gal” in every situation showing respect and charity to all that they meet, at least on the surface. As with any utopia comprising billions or more people there’s likely to be some people who don’t agree with the government and actively work against them. What the shows make apparently is that real life often has gray areas that require much more than simple right or wrong dynamics. It generally succeeds in this, with each individual show bringing a different spin on it depending upon the real life political issues of the time.

One of the common threads throughout the shows is that because humans have the ability to use replicators, devices able to create anything unless it’s convenient for a plot point to not be able to create. Essentially all food and needs are limited only by the amount of energy and raw materials needed to create it. This leads many people to think that the Star Trek Universe has no money. The truth is a bit murkier. The shows, with the notable exception of Deep Space 9 take place on vessels that are part of the military and exploration wing of the government. This means that every being you see on the show is being compensated for their time whether it be in food, entertainment, or whatever they might need. They all have a limited allotment of credits to use, and since the shows primarily focus around the highest ranking, and therefore highest paid members of the vessels, money is typically no object.1

We’re shown on numerous occasions when either interacting with other species or people outside the military regime that standards of living aren’t the same, even within the borders of the Federation. Traders purchase and therefore own their own ships, restaurants are opened even when you can make anything at home, and people are generally free to go about their lives. What you don’t see is mass starvation or need. Everyone has the basics for a comfortable life and one can focus on the things that truly matter, such as arts, sciences, politics, or engineering. Even farming takes place for those looking for grown foods.

Another thing you don’t see is unlimited amounts of massive starships. The traders mentioned prior are generally far less lightly armed, unless going through known dangerous area, and have significantly less protection from the dangers in space. When trading with other species a conversion rate exists for how much local currency your credits will get you, Deep Space 9 is a series set on a defensive base outside of the Federation where it’s common for interspecies trading to happen.

So why does any of this matter? Star Trek, in it’s most basic form is a series that focuses on the rights of the individual in a society and the responsibility of government to safeguard those rights. It shows a society where differences can coexist and peacefully work towards a better future with respect for the dignity of all who are part of that society. The real surprise is that with few exceptions, most of the monetary system of Star Trek could exist today with the political will to make it happen. There is zero reason for any child on the planet to go hungry based on our current food production capacities.23