I hope our future looks more like the Culture than the Federation.
Edit: Of course, one valid criticism of the Culture is that humans are effectively the pets of the god-like AIs (the Minds) that actually run everything. However, as the Culture doesn't seem to act like most contemporary cultures in that it is quite happy to see people leave or parts of it secede if a group disagrees with a decision then I think I could probably live with being a very indulged pet.
Also diverged the discussion a bit into there is no reason to assume the ideal form of all intelligence is the same, so silicon based "AI" computers might be very good at helping control a warp drive, yet useless as human conversation partners. Surely the replicator has some advanced computation abilities, but theres no reason to think its any good at composing poetry, at all. And given that assumption it piled on more assumption that "turing tar pit like" (my short analogy, not the essay) at attempt to simulate a human on top of a real non-human AI would be tremendously expensive, stacking high tech emulation on top of high tech emulation, such that Voyagers EMH was probably a terribly high cost (yet, sometimes useful...) appliance, so ships never used the Dr unless there was no choice.
How this fits in with the mobile emitter makes no sense. Maybe the mobile emitter is the odd man out and should be de-cannonized. If running the Dr costs as much as running the warp drive at a modest speed, the mobile emitter makes no sense as a concept.
TLDR is there is no obvious inherent scientific reason why a humanoid-like AI should scale technologically to be cheaper than flesh and blood. "cheap AI" may very well be one of those classic math / logic / CS problems people bang their heads against walls for centuries, knowing it should be possible in theory or at least no known theory blocks the way, yet it never actually can be proven or implemented.
Energy is cheap in an interstellar economy. It kind of has to be, otherwise you are not going to space today. The most restricted and scarce resource in the Star Trek universe appears to be bandwidth.
Why can the Doctor (and information in general) not be effectively backed up? Why are comm pads ferried around the ship by hand instead of using email, remote login, or even teleportation? (Though that could be handwaved as basic military paranoia.) Why can the ship not automatically produce a "man overboard" alert when the number of life-signs unexpectedly drops?
I would expect AI to be cheap in Voyager's time. TNG would make conversational sentient AIs by accident in the holodeck with alarming ease. The Doctor was supposed to be an expert machine, and yet became basically sentient within a year.
Overall it seems that AI is cheap in Star Trek, but the "spark" of sentience is something that could only arise accidentally. However, because the mobile emitter exists, one could presume that holographic workers are pretty common by the 29th century.
Mind you, I think we are a long way off from actually having the theoretical or practical ability to build a true general intelligence - but I'm pretty confident we will get there eventually. Whether this development will actually turn out to be a good idea (Culture) or bad idea (Skynet) is another thing entirely.
Very correct. We even have the source code. (About 700 MB worth of it.) Of course, we have no way of running it or an approximation of it, it is for a ridiculously complicated and massive parallel physical and biochemical computer following rules that we can’t begin to comprehend at any level. But we have sequenced the entropy that goes into it – so the existence proof is trivial. (As you indicate.)
Someone else comments that a person trying to take charge of a Culture ship is like a intestinal bacteria trying to take command of a person.
Edit: Of course, the Culture also appeals because of the much higher ambient humour level in the Culture than in the po-faced Federation.
As to the point of are were on a post scarcity economy, well we might be in some Western cultures but it does indicate quite clearly that given nothing to do far too many people will excel at it, worse when they do do something it will be to eat. Society will need to adjust those who just take to find something to do with their time. It might not earn them money or much but they need an activity to avoid end up looking like an extra from Wall-e.
They unfortunately gloss over a lot of these issues in the show, for simplicity and entertainment. Unless it's part of a "plot device", then they make things scarce.
Many episodes have had characters complaining about replicated food not tasting as good as the real thing. And many episodes have star ship crews trying to obtain Dilithium.
So obviously some things aren't replicable, and many things that are replicable are only replicable at a lower quality.
Sorry can you rephrase this please? I really can't get the sense of it.
Depending on what morality we put into the AIs it may choose to do so.
Of course, they don't go into details otherwise they'd quickly realize that it's not really a post-scarcity economy. It might be a "post-scarcity" on a lot of resources that we currently find scarce, but not in the true definition. E.g. labor is scarce, property is scarce, and energy is scarce. Also, Remember they need a mined resource to power those giant warp-cores that make it seem like they have unlimited energy to "create" any resource.
Much like the laws of physics constrain us from creating a perpetual motion machine, they also constrain us from having a post-scarcity economy.
I see what you're saying, but it relies on a lot of details being glossed over. We'd essentially have to live in some sort of utopian society where the universe magically auto-aligns and adjusts everything so that everything and everyone is equal, and has the exact same things.
Because, as soon as something is unequal, it's scarce in one place and abundant in another. If that happens, then we've created a market for exchange, and we're back to scarcity economics again. Granted, we're getting into philosophical grounds now, but do you understand what I'm trying to say?
The first is that the Federation is but one of many interstellar powers within its galaxy, and that's putting aside any of the thousands of unaligned or independent worlds and smaller coalitions. Many of these societies, even some of the Federation constituent societies, appear to use their own currencies or means of exchange. Take the Ferengi as the most extreme example. They are basically an anarcho-capitalist society, bordering on kleptocracy. Money is important to the Ferengi, to put it mildly. So how does the Federation conduct trade with the Ferengi government? On a more microeconomic level, what happens when Bashir and O'Brien order a couple rounds at Quark's? Who picks up their tab? Clearly Quark pays for his own supplies, and charges hefty markups, and he's always seen fretting about the difference. I have a hard time believing that Federation officers can just consume his (clearly limited) resources without contributing to his profit margins. And if they pay him in Federation Credits, what good are they to a non-member of the Federation? If they are not currency -- if they are more like scrip, or rations, or promissory notes good for X units of energy, or what have you -- then this creates a serious problem for Quark. Presumably, the value of Federation credits is relatively fixed and/or tied to some other unit or commodity. It is not a fiat currency. So why in the world would Quark accept credits, when he'd strongly prefer latinum? And how does one go about exchanging one for the other? For that matter, what would the Federation make of someone who decided to exchange all of his credits, even if he could, for gold-pressed latinum? If credits are not money, then perhaps they are something along the lines of notes or bonds, floated by the Federation government. In which case, Bashir and O'Brien pay for their drinks in the equivalent of US treasury bills, or perhaps in fractional shares of a Federation sovereign wealth fund. Or perhaps they are energy rations of some sort, in which case, Quark needs energy as much as any other business, and so he's happy to accept it (and to charge as many energy-units as he sees fit for his food, drinks, and games of chance).
The second problem has more to do with using Starfleet as the lens through which we draw conclusions about Federation society. If I were to show some alien society a documentary about the United States, set primarily on a US aircraft carrier, with ~90% of the situations and characters taking place in a military context, my alien viewers would draw some very interesting inferences about the US (or, more broadly, all of human society). They'd think we were a rigidly hierarchical society. They'd think we have a handful of basic professions, and that nobody really cares too much about personal property. They'd wonder how everyone gets by, and how resources are allocated, and they'd probably assume it's through a quasi-socialist system of rationing and stipends.
The microcosm of the US military is different from the macrocosm of US society, and especially different from that of the entire world. It's sort of a mini society within a larger society, operating under its own rules and organizing principles. Similarly, we should suspect that life in Starfleet is probably different, in some meaningful ways, from ordinary life in the Federation. And life in the Federation is different from life in the Klingon Empire, or in the Cardassian Union, etc.
None of this is to discount the deep and insightful thinking on the part of this article's author. Nevertheless, I think we should consider the limitations of the framework through which the shows allow us to view the Star Trek universe. We get our fair share of glimpses into the outside-Starfleet world, but we should still be mindful of the observational lens through which we catch those glimpses.
It's not clear that the Federation president is elected. Has there ever been any discussion of federation politics ever? Even on an aircraft carrier someone would mention an election.
Trying to infer post-scarcity economics from an internally inconsistent bunch of TV shows and movies where it's pretty clear there was never much thought given to the matter seems like a waste of time. I lost interest in the article when it tried to do this, Iain Banks's Culture which is much more clear about its economics still doesn't answer basic issues such as "why can't anyone have x?" Or "what if two people want the same x?"
Of course, the real get out, as Banks has pointed out a number of times - Culture people are not humans - they are the results of 10,000+ years of direct (genofixing) and indirect (their language Marain) manipulation by machines to be a good deal smarter, rational and more capable of enjoyment than we are. You could argue that this is the machine gods making their pets more compliant, or not....
Also, Look to Windward does mention "re-inventing" money... :-)
Banks at least has put enough thought into it to give flip answers, though. Star Trek is a mindless mess.
It is also hinted in the Culture novels that there is a very rigorous psychological test that goes into the creation of a new Mind. I wish he went in to the "birthing" process a bit more. It seems at least the more even-keeled Minds become Hubs or GSVs, and the more crazy ones become ROUs, but what about the Minds that are too psychotic to be entrusted to the safety of pan-humans? They can't make "perfect" Minds, because "Perfect AIs Always Sublime". Apparently you have to be slightly off-kilter to want to stick around this plane of existence, but not too off-kilter.
For that to happen a number of things will certainly have to be in place, but in truth none of us know how the world will look like when most production is automated.
This article is "link-bait gone wild". Calling the article "The Economics of Star Trek" is valid in that the Star Trek setting is supposed to be post-scarcity. But that's about where Star Trek's usefulness disappears.
They don't even take their ground assumptions into account in either their background setting or their stories. (Most of the intrigue in the episodes is conflict over resources (unless it's the "Prime Directive" which is even sillier). Why do the Klingons want this planet?)
What I see is someone trying to speculate out loud about how such a society could work using Star-Trek as reference point.
Keep in mind that Star-Trek has always been fairly scientific in its approach to story telling and so I think it's absolutely fair to use it as a jump of point since it provides an already existing narrative to talk about an otherwise abstract idea for many.
To me it's speculation and it's concise enough to take serious. What he basically claims might be a possibility even if you took away Star-Trek but it would be harder to communicate the ideas.
After all isn't that what creativity is al about exploring?
I think a better approach would be to look at markets that are already post-scarcity or approaching post-scarcity. E.g. entertainment, many kinds of information, and software. What happens when the price of things gets so low that the cost becomes finding the thing you want rather than getting access to it?
In the world of open source (which isn't post-scarcity, but is similar in that people do stuff for "free" and so they aren't incented by money) we see what I refer to as the "economy of interestingness" where things programmers are interested in get lots of attention (3d game engines, web browsers, programming languages, editors) while things programmers don't care about are horribly neglected (e.g. accounting software, email clients)
Sometimes though you need a bit of a fictional narrative to help push thinking past the constraints if nothing else as inspiration and motivation.
But I am sure there are more rational ways to approach this.
The author actually explains this if you read further. Quark's operates basically like hotel. The cost of the drinks is basically written off as part of the cost of doing business. His real business is operating the gambling tables and selling holosuites, both of which are purchased in latinum.
A few questions arise: Who does Odo work for? Who pays him? Does he use money (he doesn't seem to in any other episode)? How does Quark get the latinum?
I find it funny that a scheming Quark would bother thumb-printing a shape-shifter. It's only Odo's honor that prevents him from saying, "Oh, no, that's not my fingerprint. Let me show you my current set..."
His profit comes from the other customers who pay in other currencies, including but not limited to, latinum.
Star Trek doesn't bear up to any economic analysis. It's not even worth trying.
No, its not. Its just phenomenally wealthy compared to any place in the real world today.
If the Federation was post-scarcity, then many of the plot lines in the various shows wouldn't happen, and the Federation, notably, wouldn't be getting into conflicts with neighbors for scarce resources like territory, etc. (And if it did because the other party started it, it would wave its hand to generate an arbitrarily-capable defensive force, win the conflict, and be done immediately -- which obviously isn't what actually happens in any of the series in that situation, which seems to recur fairly regularly.)
And Star Trek only gets more contradictory baggage as it goes on (in one episode of TOS they essentially resurrect the bridge crew using transporters; so I guess they could replace all the dead security officers too). It's explicitly stated, many times, that there's no money. But none of the implications of this are followed through.
And this nonsense suffuses the entire show, not just the economics. The new J.J. Abrams movies manage to be even worse, but at least they're fast-paced and the actors are trim. (Why does the Federation need to make deals with Khan when Spock just gave them interstellar transporters that can penetrate shields and target starships moving at warp?)
About the only thing that makes sense in Star Trek is that their security teams are utterly incompetent. In a world with infinite wealth and resurrection machines, there's little incentive to stay in shape and learn difficult (and painful) combat skills.
Deep Space Nine is not Federation property, however - while it is only administrated by the Federation, it remains the property of the Bajorans. Presumably, payment for use of space is part of the arrangement with the Bajoran government.
> Star Trek doesn't bear up to any economic analysis. It's not even worth trying.
I can't beat Tetris, either.
Presumably the post scarcity Federation could simply build its own arbitrarily large and luxurious DS9 next door to it. In any event, space isn't likely to "cost" anything.
I completely and utterly disagree with that statement.
I pasted that link because I didn't think you knew that the Ferengi had a government and governing structure. But then I realized that it could be the opposite...that you don't know what anarcho-capitalism is. So here is a link, please read it, and don't confuse anarcho-capitalism with any form of immoral government.
It is mentioned in the article that the Federation would likely hold reserves of foreign currency (like latnium) for trading with peripheral civilizations. It's likely that being stationed on an alien space station would give the DS9 officers some stipend of latinum for trading with the locals.
It could also be that Sisko worked out a deal with Quark that rent and maintenance is free, so Starfleet officers drink for free.
Or like he also said in the article, drinks are just a loss-leader for the Dabo table and holosuites.
They are undoubtedly capitalist, but they are far from anarchists. They have leaders that have to power to establish property rights and revoke them. There are episodes of Deep Space 9 about the Ferengi politics in which Ferengi women fight for the right to conduct business and wear clothes (!).
At which point you can eliminate minimum wage and labor unions. The question of course is whether or not anyone would do some of the jobs we cannot currently outsource to robots.
(BTW - you mean "basic tenet" not "tenant"...)
Economics has always had a weak association between labor and reward.... That's where I stopped reading.
Many episodes touched on that. Naturally, the value of a person's time sharply rises where no one need give their time. Today there are still vast differences in personalities among people that generates incredible variance in culture and pursuits irrespective of reward. Conjecture that to the maximum. There are things that give incentive to pull away from what one might not ordinarily do. There's specialty teaching; personal performances; lively forms of artistry; types of manual labor for odds and ends not conducive to androids and automation; the never-ending pursuit of happiness and/or power? What might "dirty work" be? It's like thinking of an amalgamation of the present day considerations of elite society equalized through sheer unrestricted access of the masses. I forget how land settlement on Earth works in Star Trek.
No matter the economics...
One might expect that most societies comprised of Earthlings will still start with the world's oldest profession and end with the world's second-oldest profession.
This lets the Federation trade with societies that value money (the Ferengi) yet not get all caught up in internal accounting.
With replicator technology, a Star Fleet officer could produce all the gold pressed Latinum he wants. But that would obviously have bad effects on the Ferengi economy, so there's a moral rule in place (perhaps enforced with limits in the replicator code) not to do that.
The whole basis for latinum's value as a medium of exchange is the fact that it has some kind of technobabble immunity to replication so, no, they couldn't. (Latinum isn't the only thing which has this kind of problem -- IIRC, as also antimatter, dilithium, certain radioactives, and, well, basically anything that needed to be scarce in at least one episode where they didn't want to invoke the non-availability of the replicators has a similar issue; of course, given that replicators and transporters notionally work on the same principles, but most replicator-immune things have been transported in the series, there is a pretty deep technobabble consistency problem here, but that's a recurring problem in Trek.)
Is there a person who is in charge of tracking the Ferengi economy and deciding how much Latinum is ethical to produce based on inflation? Is there a board of people who decide? Do any Ferengi get a place on that board?
What about people who do not have access to a replicator , can they access Latinum via somebody elses replicator without causing that person to go over the limit?
Ferengi certainly have Federation replicators as well as their own. If one of them could generate gold-pressed Latinum, then they'd be doing it.
The in-universe explanations are something along the lines of "the pattern's too hard to replicate". Which even holds up for ciders and wines, where captains prefer "not the replicated stuff".
The most important concept in that article is that of a gift economy. The economy provides people with their basic needs and allows them to do (just about) whatever they wish with their time. Some people will chose to produce goods in old fashioned ways, like fine wine produced by tradtional methods, and these goods would be given to others as gifts.
Such goods will always be scarce by definition, but they are all luxuries. An interesting case for this is looking at the markets that developed in POW camps during World War II and how they collapsed once the liberating armies arived with an abundance of goods.
"On 12th April, withthe arrival of elements of the 30th US. Infantry Division, the ushering in of an age ofplenty demonstrated the hypothesis that with infinite means economic organizationand activity would be redundant, as every want could be satisfied without effort." (Pg. 14 of the linked PDF)
Another thing to note is the shift in the means of production. If labor is basically unnecessary in the production of goods you get a shift in modes of production. I could see this happening in the near with the decentralized 3D printing of goods, combined with the massive energy of the sun and the shocking amounts of raw materials in the asteroids around the solar system.
This I think is a demonstration of Marx's biggest mistake. He thought the economic organization would shift without a change in the means of production. Unlike every other change in his economic theories.
If those $10 million people are capitalists, the price of the goods they create will rise until the rest of us become their slaves.
Ummm, I daresay that just about any Wall Street banker works significantly more, has to comprehend significantly more data points, exerts significantly more mental effort and is (probably) significantly more stressed than a teacher.
I will cheerfully admit that one's mental image of a Wall Street banker works less than one's mental image of a teacher.
And he puts way too much effort into justifying the internal contradictions of a poorly-written, third-rate science fantasy show.
Stopped reading right there. If you need straw men, you aren't worth reading.
"The challenge, Mr. Offenhouse, is to improve yourself... to enrich yourself. Enjoy it."
- Picard, describing life on 24th century Earth
As I understood it, every year in the star trek universe citizens would request what they wanted and say what they were going to contribute to the economy in exchange for thaose things. ie, Captain Picard might say "I want to make improvements to my farm in france, a new personal transportation device for a relative, X number of paid for vacations and the daily luxuries of being a starfleet officer. In exchange for that, I'm willing to be a starship captain for the next year". Then an elected committee would review the request and approve it or deny it. I remember that it was noted that the committee had to be from a different area or state than the applicant. ie, a committee in Florida would review requests from Texas. Essentially it was a "That sounds fair" economy, based on judgement instead of currency.
As I recall, daily needs like food, shelter, medicine were taken care of for everyone, at various levels of luxury based on what the person was expected to contribute. Starfleet officers frequently talked about credits, either when gambling or visiting a bar on a non-federation or non-participating planet. I imagine this was a sort of legal black market system that would allow people to exchange money between one another to settle debts and to spend in other cultures, not really for routine living expenses. Post scarcity does mean post money, but there still has to be a way to maintain personal ledgers (maybe the credits were a year 2364 version of bitcoins?)
I think that Gene Roddenberry and other science fiction writers envision post scarcity societies for two reasons: 1) Money causes problems and 2) Economies function more efficiently without money.
We all love money, but think of the harm it can cause. Crime, ruined relationships, greed and the general oppression if not outright murder and enslavement of millions of people throughout history. As we all know, whenever someone says "It's not about the money", it's about the money. A moneyless world would solve a lot of these social problems. It's not that wealth is a bad thing. It's great to be rich. But a lot of problems arise when people need money for their daily sustenance. Food, housing, clothing, entertainment. All of these things should be taken care of at a low level, with compensation from contribution providing nicer and more desirable lifestyles. And it's quite possible that getting rid of daily dependence on individual spending is the best way to supercharge an economy. We don't see the waste in modern capitalism because we're primarily concerned with our own wealth, but it's there. Think about how much is wasted on a national (or galactic) scale. The efficiency gained through improved economic function would be more than enough to pay for all the replicator time that everyone on multiple worlds would need to live well.
Like many great things, the idea of post scarcity / post capitalism started in science fiction. But it doesn't have to stay there. We can start building a world where everyone has comfort and the rich have luxury. There are things we can do today to move us closer to this ideal and move people away from a system that's designed to make us all slaves to small amounts of wealth. I'm looking at you, Basic Income.
 Why hasn't someone made a startup to solve this problem? I'm constantly thinking of things I read and potentially bookmarked years ago, but google is a black hole. I would pay for this.
It's hard to rectify that in a quick comment though, as it's a complicated, interesting and fascinating subject.
Just to pick one thing, you mention 'efficiency'. Capitalism is not very efficient in a lot of ways. However, it happens to be more efficient for large groups of people than all the other systems people have tried, if you don't mind me poaching Churchill's quote about democracy.
And another: money. Money is merely a means of trading scarce goods. Looking at it as a problem is a red herring. The actual problem is the availability and distribution of scarce resources like food and shelter and iphones and other things people want.
Here's a book I'm fond of - it's fairly mainstream economics.
He's written another one lately about macroeconomics which is pretty good as well:
It's worth pointing out that even a lot of ideologists putting forward alternative future societies does not see their future societies as likely to be more efficient than capitalism.
A key aspect for Marx, for example, is that the efficiency of capitalism and industrialisation acts as an enabler for socialism by bringing society to a post-scarcity level (at least in terms of basic needs), where it is possible for society to redistribute without leaving everyone in poverty, and where it is possible to as a result leave people free to make more choices surrounding how and how much they work.
Capitalism is more efficient than older systems because of the level of competition, and more efficient than most proposed future systems because most of these future systems are not expecting to be subject to the same constraints and requirements.
In Marx case, one of his arguments for why he believed a socialist revolution will eventually happen is in fact that he believed that capitalism will necessarily become so efficient that the revenue base starts shrinking as unemployment increases, while production capacity keeps increasing. That level of efficiency would necessitate drastic societal changes, and you could, if we reach that point, afford substantial extra inefficiencies and still most people would be better off.
Capitalist culture is essentially a Darwinian zero-sum game. Winners win big, losers lose freedom, basic necessities, and ultimately their lives - directly through a life of quasi-slavery working for someone else's benefit, and also through drastically shortened lifespan.
Money is the game counter. Decisions about how much money is available, who has access to it under what circumstances, and how much freedom they get in return for that access, define the game. But they're not set democratically - they're declared by a fiat, by a priestly caste of economists and bankers who administer the game.
The big difference between a Star Trek economy and this one is that in Star Trek, the game doesn't exist. Nor does the priestly caste.
What happens instead is that individuals trust the culture to do everything it can to look after them, and in return the culture trusts individuals to contribute voluntarily without freeloading, or without having some kind of semi-psychotic 'use all the things' fit of pointless public consumption.
It's effectively a trust economy, instead of a top-down planned economy like the capitalist system.
Wait - capitalism is a planned economy? Uh huh. Didn't you notice? It's as planned as the Soviet economy was, but instead of the Politburo, the planning is coordinated by the priestly caste which sets the rules of commerce (e.g. 'corporations must maximise profits and growth at all costs, even at the expense of long-term social stability'.)
In Star Trek, the economists have been replaced by planners who treat individuals like adults. The individuals act like adults, because they understand that the social benefits of volunteering time and talent vastly outweigh the personal costs, even if it costs them their lives.
In capitalism individuals are forced to compete for essentials. This makes volunteering impossible for most of the population. It also turns the culture into a bear pit, and wastes a lot of energy on pointlessly damaging individual competition.
No, it isn't. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-sum_game#Economics
Capitalism has its problems. There may be better economic organizations. Capitalism may yet have a long term flaw in it as technology progresses (a lot of chatter about that case on HN in the past couple of years, there's a lot of interesting questions there). There's all sorts of avenues of "attack", or, better yet, all sorts of ways to just think about where we've been, where we are, and where we're going. However, it's a sort of basic "you must be at least this tall to ride the ride" sort of thing that your theories must be able to explain how wealth has exploded under capitalism, and why it didn't explode under the older systems, and why it doesn't explode even more under any of the several attempts to use another system that have been really tried in the real world. (i.e., don't try to claim that many of the obvious "fixes" to capitalism have never been tried when in fact they've all been tried numerous times, and so far have not generated the best track records. Theories should include and explain real-world data, not ignore it when it is convenient to do so.)
And should you be tempted to explain away the wealth, or claim with varying degrees of obfuscation that its distribution negates the wealth explosion entirely because it isn't to your exact tastes (an obviously absurd claim when spelled out clearly but a popular dodge when slathered over with enough words to mask the logic), I strongly recommend spending some time with 18th century medical case notes, or reading about the opulence of 16th century royalty with an eye to what simple things we have today that they would (quite literally) kill for, or something else that will simply rub in your face how unbelievably wealthy we are today compared to the past. The past is poor. You can have theories about how it could be better, but if your theories become so powerful they explain why the wealth explosion didn't happen at all, it's time to throw the theory away and find a better one.
(Incidentally, I do have ways I'd improve things myself. If you're reading this as a paean to the status quo and anyone criticizing it should just shut up, you've probably got a bad case of the propagandas rendering you unable to understand different ideas. I've got my criticisms. However, my criticisms and yours still need to take the all of the above facts into account.)
Technology advances. I agree with the point you were trying to make (capitalism is not a zero sum game), but people expounding the benefits of capitalism tend to attribute to it the success of everything that it has touched. That's not necessarily correct. If an economic system controls 90% of the resources, we would expect it to have 90% of the success (even 90% of the growth!) under the null hypothesis that economic system doesn't matter.
> Don't just read the propaganda, think.
Oh no, the sheeple! Cut it out. Accusing your debate opponent of not thinking is beyond lazy.
> wealth has exploded under capitalism, and why it didn't explode under the older systems
Capitalism isn't an 18th century invention.
> why it doesn't explode even more under any of the several attempts to use another system that have been really tried in the real world
> if your theories become so powerful they explain why the wealth explosion didn't happen at all
That's trivial if you believe economic progress is not a pure function of economic system. And you'd be a fool to believe that.
> you've probably got a bad case of the propagandas
Why do I even bother?
You mean the world in which regulation and enforced redistribution of profits created a thriving middle class and spurred a boom in tech innovation? The world which started dying around 1980, when regulation began to be eroded?
The world which is now over, leaving a working population crippled by debt, unable to afford basic housing even on a way-above-average salary?
Tech is an exception. Kind of. Some of the time. For now. The important word there being 'exception.'
What made kings kings wasn't a pile of stuff, it was the ability to set policy.
How much influence do you have over national and international policy?
Do you think the question is ridiculous? It's not. It's the fundamental question that defines democracy.
How big is your area of interest? You? Your family? Your friends? Your company? Your country? The world?
How wide and detailed is your predictive horizon?
>Don't just read the propaganda, think.
Don't just think and persuade yourself that you're right - research, fact-check, and challenge your own beliefs.
Talk to people outside your comfort zone and usual circles. Go find out what's happening on the streets, in other countries, in the areas of the planet that are becoming increasingly inhospitable and difficult to live in.
Then we can talk about the modern world means to the people who live in it. You may find not everyone is as comfortable as you are.
Capitalism is a naive, wasteful way to run an economy. It explodes regularly in boom/bubble/bust cycles, it wastes human and natural resources with insane abandon, and it enforces a tacit caste system which puts a huge brake on social mobility.
My iPhone is nice. So is medical care. The Internet is definitely a win. Last time I looked science and engineering invented most of these things. Capitalism tried to sell them to me, not always in a good way. Sometimes it kept me from trying to find better alternatives. (Richard Gabriel is good on this.)
So I'm not yet convinced everyone couldn't have equivalent things - perhaps much better things - without having to pay a wrenchingly high price in avoidable economic instability, and questionable, sometimes corrupt, policy.
You almost had me going here. And then you remember how desperate ensigns are in Star Trek. The explanation : a sense of duty ... That's supposedly the explanation for 8 years of "scrubbing conduits". The explanation for in group walking through a dominion minefield. The explanation for putting up with getting sent to a listening post, 2 months away from human contact, your function is to repair any circuit shorts ...
I don't buy it. No way.
> In Star Trek, the economists have been replaced by planners who treat individuals like adults. The individuals act like adults, because they understand that the social benefits of volunteering time and talent vastly outweigh the personal costs, even if it costs them their lives.
In one sentence you've stated that the entire premise of economics is wrong. Rational actors ? Pfew ! What do we need that for ?
> In capitalism individuals are forced to compete for essentials. This makes volunteering impossible for most of the population. It also turns the culture into a bear pit, and wastes a lot of energy on pointlessly damaging individual competition.
That's must be why there was such an explosion of volunteering in the Soviet union then. Or why there is such a rich and diverse volunteering tradition among the unemployed.
I'd say there's a few holes in this thinking. But don't get me wrong : I sincerely hope you, or anyone, will convincingly fill them. But I've never seen decent arguments here.
I don't understand. On the one hand, you believe money is harmful, and all we need to do is properly distribute resources. On the other hand, you advocate distributing money.
It seems more in the spirit of the rest of your post to advocate a "basic survival" program. For anyone who needs it, dormitories, nutritious food, comfortable uniforms and entertainment can be directly provided. Then no one will need money for their daily sustenance.
I think the OP is intending to make money less relevant. The fastest way to do that would be to give everyone a base amount of it to the point they don't really want or need anymore.
In all honesty, if you knew you had enough money to have quality food, shelter, education, health and some luxuries for the rest of your life and your children, how long would it be before you never again looked at your bank balance? Not long.
Anyway the one I'm looking for had an extremely detailed "shopping list" of everything ever mentioned in cannon trek series as of that time, and how much it cost in credits, and I don't remember the exact spec but one credit seemed quite reasonable around one megawatt-hour, plus or minus a lot of star trek technology scaling.
It also had a lot of commentary about ratios between products and capital goods and stuff like that.
The kind of "cash" flow Quark had in credits seemed somewhat reasonable to run his vegas style establishment, plus or minus replicator charges especially for food.
The essay did discuss how the economic system didn't seem to work numerically in general unless replicators squirted out free food on demand, or at least gave everyone a fixed caloric diet as a baseline and more credits for slightly fancier synthesis.
So federation people technically didn't have money, as in tokens minted by a central bank to maximize wealth of the elite and obtain a semi-stable inflation rate at a cost of greatly increased economic cycle volatility. But they did have money in that they bartered megawatt-hours of energy (presumably electricity) but called them credits.
If it helps anyone remember, the essay explained they called them credits instead of MWH or whatever because the exact amount of MWH was based on some tiny SI prefix of antimatter in a 100% efficient reactor (thermal, I guess) gives off about 1 MWH of total (heat) energy. However, again, there is no such thing even in star trek world as a 100% efficient reactor and not everyone needs raw heat (although its handy) so they bartered energy as in megawatt-hours delivered.
In practice, any way to generate electricity, a reactor or a solar array or whatever, was a private mint.
This also explained some economics of star ship life, the ship itself actually generated "pay" for the crew right out of the reactor.
There was also some discussion in the essay about cross species, based on very limited evidence the Ferengi were fairly poverty stricken when comparing the average federation officer vs the average Ferengi when you analyze the somewhat theoretical accouting.
The essay did gloss over the Klingons... other than fealty labor I have no idea how they handled their economy and the essay I'm thinking of had no idea either.
"a long, complicated journey as somethings become more abundant in some places, while other things are still scarce"
That's an interesting thought. We have lots of examples of things suddenly becoming 'abundant,' especially in the last few decades. If I was doing a meandering essay on this topic I'd make a list and see if there's anything insightful to be learned from these. Maybe we can find a pattern.
Calories/grains are, for the wealthier half of the world are essentially abundant. Peasants were once the majority, producing and consuming grain as their primary economic activity. Today grains cost $200-$500 per ton. Median household income is in the $5k-$10k range. So half the world can have more grain than they can eat for <10% of their income.
Computers have various interesting examples of similar abundance.
The end result is interestingly similar in both cases. Our capacity to consume more quality is enormous. We feed grain to cattle to produce meat. It takes 5-10 grain calories to make a calorie of meat, depending on the animal. We spent processing power to create user interfaces put personal computers in every pocket. More consumption. Higher quality.
This seems to follow standard economics. When goods get cheaper we consumer more, at higher quality and spend less. That concept seems to stretch pretty well. Even though calories and computing power are incredible cheap and abundant compared to their historical prices, we haven't crossed our ability to consume more of them and 'scarcity economics' doesn't break.
If you go back to the industrial age or "space age" equivalents of this essay you will find fantastic parallels. "We can make so much stuff! So cheap! This will change everything!" There seems to be a common fallacy here. We look at a future of 10X efficiency and we underestimate our ability to consume more. Since we can't consume 10X more goods, we assume that we'll just work less. I think the tricky part is 'quality.' You certainly can't eat a ton of( $250) maize per day. But, you can easily spend $250 on food in a day. So, if you don't want to look stupid in 100 years, be careful about predicting free time.
Here's a question I would love to hear economists opines about: why don't high earners work less. Say a Belgian lawyer makes €100,000 euros per year and a paralegal make €35,000. Why doesn't the lawyer work fewer hours? Think of working hours as money and everything they buy as a good. It appears that demand for "goods" as a whole is infinitely elastic. Make the goods half the price and homo economicus buys twice as much. Most markets are a lot more elastic than this one. Why?
If we saw some clear negative correlation between earnings per hour and hours worked (either at economy or individual level) we might be able predict see the path to a start trek economy of optional employment.
It might be worth going back to the beginning with this question. "Why don't people work less when they make more per hour."
Thats the problem with "homo economicus" the market is very small and will not offer certain things, the Belgian lawyer in the example simply won't be offered a part time job by the market, no matter if the demand exists or not.
If you don't really have a market, market speak and market analysis don't lead to useful places.
I think this is the reason : high pay comes from actually caring, meaning part of the reason the paralegal is so underpaid (although no lawyer in Belgium makes €100k unless he owns a law firm or something) is that he works 8-5 and has little responsibility outside of that.
Real work doesn't work like that. The bigger pay comes from being able to give one responsability over a large(r) department/firm and know that whatever it is, it'll get handled. Including at 9pm. Given that people paid for this, it is used. That is partly why the degree matters too, since it proves you can work dedicated to a single task for years and actually have a useful result come out of that.
It's like a marriage ring. It's function is much more "proof of means/job" for the man than it is a token of love.
But why does the lawyer get paid ? Because those hours and the single point of contanct and the service at 9pm, that's the service he's selling. The flip side is, you get lots of long coffee breaks (maybe even on a golf course) and lots of "meetings" at the local steak restaurant.