Thursday, 9 February 2017

1702.09 UTOPIA ACHIEVABLE?

Watching Star Trek for all these years means I've been curious about the economy of the future. Captain Picard said that in the 24th century that people pursue personal enrichment rather than material items. But people still own property, have businesses and still acquire 'things'. So how does that work?

Now I'm not an economist or an academic by any stretch, I just want to understand the system. Now I know that it's just a TV show and as such there are bound to be plot holes especially with a 50 year history but hang on in there with me.

Sisko's Restaurant (Credit: Paramount)
It's basically eluded that in Star Trek's Federation society you get to choose your path, if you want to be an artist (and Star Trek has many artists that we meet along the way) or run a restaurant (like Sisko's father) you can. Similarly if you choose science, politics or the military you can. So how does this happen without money?

Even though it's been repeatedly said that in the 23rd and 24th century that there is no money I think there must be some sort of currency involved in some way otherwise how do you pay for your meal in Sisko's restaurant? If there is no money then what's stopping you eating out every night? Clearly trade goes on in Federation society so surely there must be some sort of credit?

Left: A Flashforge 3D printer
Right: A Starfleet replicator
In the near future automation will make quite a lot of jobs defunct, especially in manufacturing and perhaps in other sectors such as agriculture. 3D printing is already changing the world, they sure look like replicators to me. So what happens to those who are without a job in the future? Well Star Trek says that they are free to chose any path they choose.

So would it all work? What if you were allocated enough to live comfortably? Education, health and any needs were taken care of and as a Federation Citizen you didn't need to worry about living. Some may chose not to work, ok but I'd bet most would. The incentive to pursue your dreams would be the driving force in society, clearly if you work hard and achieve you could be credited more since whilst there is no need for materialism it clearly exists in the 23rd and 24th centuries, and why not?

London in the 23rd Century (Credit: Paramount)
This economic system is already being explored in the 21st century and has been since the previous century. I came across it during a discussion programme on TV when I immediately saw it as the gateway to the 'Star Trek' way of life. It's called the basic income (amongst other things) and it's a system where everyone is paid a basic livable wage irrespective of status. This does away with welfare (aside from disability assistance) and everyone is free to top up their income by working. If you wish to pursue a non-paid vocation then you are free to just as in the fictional Federation. In trials most people choose to work to earn extra money.

The freedom comes from not having to worry about living and getting on with living. Could this happen? Maybe it has to.

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