So What Was the Prevailing Econonmic Theory on Star Trek: TNG?

I am a loyal watcher of most of the Star Trek series. DS9 is the only one I never followed that closely. But there is just one thing that has always puzzled me about the story plot.

The original series takes place in the 23rd Century. And the Next Generation begins roughly one hundred years later. All the series give alot of detail of how things supposedly changed by the future–TNG and its subsequent spins offs and movies especially. Now, according to Star Trek and its writers, what exactly is the prevailing economic theory of earth in the future?

The reason why I wonder, is because of what Captain Picard says in the first season of TNG to the 3 earth people who were frozen and then revived by Dr. Crusher. One of the frozen people, a greedy Wall Street type person, asks Picard how he can check up on his stocks. Picard looks at him in distain and says there are no stocks or bonds in the future because people no longer are greedy and seeking only material things. Does this mean the writers of Star Trek are trying to say Communism is the prevailing economic principle of the future? Because TNG began when the Soviet Union was still in existence. So that would be an interesting side to take. On the other hand, alot of the stuff on Star Trek seems to be relating to the United States and its principles. The ships are even named “U.S.S.—”.

Does anyone know the answer?


While there are a lot of allusions to the fact that money no longer exists and people work only to better themselves in TNG, no particular economic theory is ever mentioned. While some might assume it’s Communism, since the ideals of that have a lot in common with TNG (no currency, nobody needs any essential goods) I don’t think it’s Communism. Rather, I think that with the invention of extemely efficient energy sources (say, fusion and anti-matter reactors (though God knows where they get the anti-matter from, but whatever) and the invention of Replicators, anyone can have any material item for next to nothing. So there’s no more scarcity, which means everything is worthless, which means no more market economies, no more starvation (food is easily replicated) and this leads to no more crime and war, both of which are often economically motivated.

“Let’s make it up as we go along.”

I think that freido has the right idea–at least that’s what I’ve inferred from the series. Technology has made it possible for humans to have all the “things” they need at the push of a button, and therefore money, crime, greed, etc. are no more. Humans now spend their lives bettering themselves.

Sounds nice in theory. However, from what I know of human nature, if we had every “thing” we needed or wanted just for the asking, we wouldn’t be out there boldly going where no man has gone before. We wouldn’t be able to get our fat asses out of our La-Z-Boys.

Remember when O’Brien and Keiko were gettng married and Data went to the replicator and got them a Steuben bowl or something for a wedding gift? Hell, in a society that has unlimited access to free replicators, what kind of gift is that? The only meaningful gift would be something you made or did yourself, like a song or poem or offering to dog-sit. . .

I pay everything with bars of gold-pressed latinum.

Jim B.–an afterthought:

You point out that the starships’ names begin with “U. S. S.”

Is it possible that in the future, “U.S.” refers to the “United States of EARTH?”

Even though I’ve seen a lot of the various STAR TREK episodes, I’m not really a Trekker–I mean I don’t go to cons and put on pointy ears and things. Any true fans out there know what kind of government(s) Earth has in the future?

SnugTheJoiner, assuming that your questions were directed to me, this is all I know. “U.S.S.” stands for “United Star Ship” IIRC. But I think it obviously is meant as an indirect reference to current American battleships–including the current U.S.S. Enterprise, which really does exist BTW. The convention of naming Star Trek ships “U.S.S.” began with the original series in the 1960’s, when Americans were more patriotic–or tended to think that our ideology would outlive all others in any event.

The government of earth will supposedly unite one day, according to the writers. And then eventually we will form a vast federation of planets on top of that. The headquarters for the United Federation of Planets will be located on earth, naturally.


According to the official reference texts, USS stands for United Space Ship. Go figure.

Gene Roddenberry was a staunch Secular Humanist. It’s pretty plain that he just kind of figured we’d all grow out of this “money” and “materialism” thing by the 24th century. I wish I had his faith in human beings. Then again, he wasn’t missing any meals by the time he created Star Trek, either.

And it is theoretically possible to create antimatter in the laboratory.

Of course, but wouldn’t it take as much or more energy to create it than you would get from smashing it into some handy nearby matter?

Yep. You don’t create antimatter for the purpose of generating more energy than you put into it, you create antimatter for the purpose of storing that energy in a handy-dandy light-weight form.

The writers are probably trying to tell us they’re idiots. If people, and by people I mean sentient creatures, have preferences, then the prevailing economic theory is probably an updated version of neo-classical economics–probably developed into something currently not extant, but still there in the fundamentals. Economics isn’t about money, greed, or material gratification, it’s about personal preferences and well-being.

There will always be scarcity. Even if we could make any material good we wanted, there would still be real estate, art, or even forms of artificial scarcity. Or people would want their own robot-staffed flying space hotel. Or their own solar system to play with.

If you get rid of money, the only way to allocate scarce resources is by force.

So the Star Trek Universe is a dictatorship. Whether it is truly communist or not is hard to say. But I’m guessing if you want to move to San Fransisco, you’d have to get permission from the United Federation of Choice Real Estate.

And then I’ll bet that if you were the son of a famous Starship Captain or something you could get a bitchin’ view of the ocean. The rest of the masses of humanity can live in the giant trellis of 16 x 16 2-room apartment cubes.

Holo-addiction would be a huge problem I think :wink:

It’s not just a matter of everybody getting what they want in Star Trek, but also people being satisfied with what they have, and being reasonable about how they live. Today, the fear of poverty keeps people in line, but in Star Trek it’s assumed that people can keep themselves in line. If you don’t think human beings are capable of that, that’s your opinion and you’re welcome to it, but it differs from that of the writers of the show. There are no factual problems as long as they’re consistent about it.

Of course, the idea of them playing poker on TNG when materialism supposedly doesn’t exist is kind of funny. And the whole gold-pressed latinum thing has already been pointed out.

Okay, here’s a question inspired by reading this thread:

What do Starfleet officers and non-coms do for money in frontier environments such as Deep Space Nine and Bajor? Quark’s Bar is open for the express purpose of getting its owner more and more money and I’m also 99% certain that Bajor still uses money, or rather credit, 'cause of the keypads and thumb prints I can remember Kira using on the Promenade.

So how did Bashir and O’Brien pay for their ale and holosuite adventures? How did Worf pay for his gagh and pipius claw from the Klingon Delicatessen?

Iain M. Banks (writer of the Culture series of books, NOT Star Trek, thank god) pointed out that, in an automated society where there truly is no want, people would slowly shift from a mindset of “Now I can do anything!” to “What can I do now?” A lot of people here are thinking what their reaction would be if they suddenly found themselves in a situation where they could have whatever they wanted… they’d be couch-potatoes. For a year. Then they’d get bored. REALLY bored. So bored that they’d either kill themselves or go off and do something else.

Look at modern man. We have far more liesure time now than at any other point in history. Has physical activity disappeared? No. There’s still plenty of people who go off and play sports, climb mountains, ski, sky-dive, all that fun stuff. But… if you took a man from the medieval era and put him in modern world, you’d see him glued to the fucking TV set like a child hooked on his Saturday morning cartoons. Again… for a year. Then he’d get bored. REALLY bored.

Remember what Picard said… “PEOPLE don’t seek out only material things”, not “SOCIETY has kept people from seeking out material things”. Of course, in Star Trek, it’s a bullshit statement, since we see in other episodes that there IS want throughout the Federation, and that replicators or modern technology CAN’T give people anything, at any time. But it’s a bit better than modern times.

Another thing. In a society where there is no need for work, what else is there to do aside from explore? That society would, to some degree, constantly need to find new things, or at be in the middle of trying to find them. A lack-free society that can’t find new things will inevitably get bored, stagnate, and then die.

Not everything in demand can be replicated. After all they still go through the trouble of mining dilithium instead of just replicating the stuff. Also replicators can only replicate so much in so little time. Oh, and I don’t even know what else to say since there really isn’t all that much information about how the Federation economy works. The show and the movies have been pretty vague about the whole thing. We get little tidbits once in a while but that’s about it.


I never really understood the distinction between socialism and capitalism, but I think the Federation is supposed to be the former more than the latter. Also, gold-pressed latinum only came into play when people were dealing with others not in the Federation; I can’t recall a single time that a Federation member used money when dealing with another Federation member.