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Federation Economy

How does the economy of the future work? Is there really no money or other form of reimbursement?

In debates on this in the past, I've always advocated that some sort of monetary system must exist not only based on in-episode evidence, but to satisfy human nature. Mankind will always strive for prestige in some fashion because we are by our very nature competitive. A frequent criticism of communist economic philosophy when carried to its fullest extent is that if everyone is reduced to the same basic economic status and all resources are shared evenly, then what is the motivating factor for working hard at a job you don't love? Regardless of what you do, good or bad, you're going to get the same wages.

But in a surplus economy, such as the Federation has, where all your basic needs and wants are met instantly without any or significant cost to you, how does one distinguish themselves? Anyone can have gold, jewels, vehicles, houses, etc. to their heart's content, so long as it doesn't exceed space, energy, legal, or safety requirements (you can't just request your own planet, a city-sized energy expenditure for a house, an illegal substance like the sometimes prohibited Romulan Ale, or a military starship for instance - except under special circumstances which I will go into later).

What if the Federation's surplus economy, begun somewhere in the late 21st / early 22nd century after First Contact with the Vulcans and in its final stages of developement towards the time of "Enterprise" and the birth of the Federation, caused such a major paradigm shift in humanity that it went from primarily a society that granted prestige according to one's wealth; which would now be largely irrelevent since anyone could share that standard of living, to a society that granted prestige based on what you "gave back" to society as a whole?

Joseph Sisko works his restaurant every day despite it being a hard job not only because he loves cooking (which is in itself a rare thing to love one's job), but because by doing his best and gaining recognition the world over as a great Creole / Cajun cook, he gains prestige in society.

The janitor in "TWoK" might have simply been a cadet given a lousy job as punishment or training, or he might have been a person who's abilities do not allow him to do anything beyond being a simple janitor. But even so, he makes sure he's the best damn janitor he can be so that he gains prestige with the cadets and Academy staff who notice what a great job he's doing.

Boothby is a simple groundskeeper, but he gains prestige not only by doing his best to maintain the Academy grounds, but by being an indespensible source of advice to the cadets and staff of the Academy.

Everyone treats their job as an art form, not nescessarily because they always love it, like the janitor perhaps, but because by doing so it is the only possible way that they can gain prestige and get noticed in a society that expects this of them.

There are of course other ways to gain prestige in the Federation, ways that exist even today. You can do so by gaining fame, or by gaining power, but always, the philosophy of "giving back" to Federation society as a whole must be key, because that is how the people themselves live their lives and so that is what they expect from their celebrities and politicians. You don't have to be the best right out of the gate, but you have to constantly strive to better yourself or you won't be taken seriously by the people who have adopted this philosophy as the guiding principle of their lives. A celebrity will constantly strive to give a better performance; a politician will constantly strive to serve his contituents to the best of his abilities.

That is why Starfleet is never short on personnel and is so omnipresent in Federation society; what better way to give back to the Federation than by defending its people, planets, and principles, and by at the same time expanding the Federation's knowledge base?

So, how to explain that corporations still exist like the Dytallix Mining Company in TNG "Conspiracy" or Ezri's family's company on New Sydney? Resources must still be acquired and harvested; goods and services must still be produced or performed, and they can't all be done by individuals. Which leads me back to my comments about you can have whatever you want, within limits, unless you can show that you can develope those things in such a way that it benefits Federation society. If you want a planet, you have to present the appropriate Federation controlling agency with a "business plan" that takes into account benefit to society (i.e. how does it "give back" or make society better?), energy and logistical requirements, safety concerns, etc. So even a major corporation, rather than being motivated by profits, must subscribe to the same principles of the Federation's citizenry as a whole; the pursuit of bettering itself and as a result bettering society at large.

The same applies to credits as mentioned above. All people would have a basic energy allocations without charge, but if you exceeded those allocations (like Sisko did by using the transporter excessively during his first days at the Academy so he could eat dinner with his family every night), then you would have to use credits. The more dangerous, time consuming, or beneficial to society your job may be, the more credits you would be allocated. Likewise, credits can be offered as a reward for a significant achievement of some sort. If you could convince the Federation agency responsible for such things that you need more energy for a certain task, than you could be granted more credits as a "loan" that you would have to pay back by giving back to society or by providing a service to the Federation agency in question.

Crime of a monetary nature would largely be eliminated within the Federation not because of security measures, but simply because you couldn't gain any prestige that way. If you stole gold, who would care and what would be the point since anyone could have the same thing? The only thing of any value would be authentic (non-replicated) merchandise of a rare or illegal nature, like the possessions of Kivas Fajo or the attempted acquisitions of Vash. But even then such things are ultimately pointless beyond admiring it yourself (or showing trusted friends - a rare commodity amongst criminals), since sharing it with the public would be impossible due to you being subsequently arrested for your crimes.

So, in closing, I think the Federation's citizens are motivated to better themselves and by extension society because that is the only way to gain recognition from others who are guided by the same principles.

(Theory by Bond, James Bond)



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