Gold-pressed latinum
November 19, 2013 7:12 AM   Subscribe

How does economics work in a post-scarcity society - namely the United Federation of Planets? As depicted, the canon is not entirely consistent. But there are clear consequences to meeting all one's material needs with ease. Why is there money at all, for example? Does Picard's family own vineyards just for kicks?
posted by Chrysostom (232 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 


I have a dream; a dream that all people - human, Jem'Hadar, Ferengi, Cardassians - will someday stand together in peace... around my Dabo tables.
posted by Teakettle at 7:20 AM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Overthinking a plate of tribbles.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:21 AM on November 19, 2013


Why is there money at all, for example?

Well, you couldn't have money-grubbing Space Jews without it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [14 favorites]


Take a mental journey for a moment with me: what if, one day, technology reaches the point that a small number of humans — say, 10 million — can produce all of the food, shelter and energy that the race needs. This doesn’t seem like insanely wishful thinking, given current trends. There’s no rational reason why the advances in robotics, factories, energy and agriculture could continue unabated for long periods of time. Of course I’m not saying they will, but rather, they could.

The robots work for free. The people who own them will still want their pound of flesh.
posted by three blind mice at 7:23 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quark is my favorite Deep Space Nine character for precisely this reason: He clearly doesn't have access to the Federation post-scarcity economy, and therefore is beholden to a whole litany of pressures and concerns that most of the rest of the cast doesn't have to worry about.

It is a little sad how predictably I fixate on the one non-magical rogue in any given adventuring party.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:24 AM on November 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


Did someone say Space Jews?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:24 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Does Picard's family own vineyards just for kicks?

No, they own it because synthehol sucks.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:26 AM on November 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


The idea that money only exists to buy commodities is highly suspect. There would be a significant bartering market for luxuries which would pretty naturally lead to a scrip of sorts.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:28 AM on November 19, 2013


Anyone who has met Kivas Fajo can tell you that.
posted by Teakettle at 7:30 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The idea that money only exists to buy commodities is highly suspect. There would be a significant bartering market for luxuries which would pretty naturally lead to a scrip of sorts.

What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck (leaving aside the whole, "barter leads naturally to money" Econ 101 myth [thanks, Graeber]).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


- Why is there money at all, for example?

- Well, you couldn't have money-grubbing Space Jews without it.
The comparisons to Jewish stereotypes came in after they were ditched as villains and became comic relief. The staff writer who most enjoyed writing Ferengi episodes was Ira Steven Behr, a Jew, and all four major Ferengi characters are played by Jews.
I'm not sure where TV Tropes gets the definitive "staff writer who most enjoyed writing Ferengi episodes" factoid, but Behr has been credited with making the Ferengi the enjoyable comic relief characters in DS9.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2013


Psst! It's just a TV show--it's not real!
posted by entropicamericana at 7:32 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's just a TV show--it's not real!

LIES!!!

It is also a series of films.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:34 AM on November 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yes, the Ferengi were an utter failure as a creative element of the Trek franchise until the episode where someone - and it may well have been Behr - hit on the idea of putting one in a Hawaiian shirt. Suddenly, magic!
posted by Naberius at 7:35 AM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


DS9 makes it pretty clear that, in the Federation, money isn't necessary for survival, or even to live a pretty fulfilling life. The Federation does, however, interact with many other societies, such as the Ferengi, who do use currency, and therefore some of them see fit to acquire and save money for such interactions. (There are almost always Starfleet personnel at Quark's dabo tables, for example, and Jake works at acquiring some in "In the Cards" so that he can buy his dad a Willie Mays rookie card.) You could think of this as the equivalent of an MMORPG "freemium" system in real life; if you're happy with replicated wine, then no prob, but if you want the real stuff you might have to scrape together some latinum to buy a bottle of Chateau Picard.

If you accept that money does exist in the Federation--as clearly it does, at least as far back as Star Trek III, in which McCoy attempts to charter a private vessel in order to get to the Genesis planet, and I'm pretty sure that TOS' "Mudd's Women" also featured currency transactions, possibly also "The Trouble With Tribbles"--then you could have a system in which, even if the Federation has no currency of its own, it might acquire some in order to facilitate trades with cultures that do have it, and Federation citizens are free to acquire currency of their own. Thus, "The Federation doesn't use money" is true in about the same way as "Vulcans don't have emotions", which is to say that it's not really true in a literal sense.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:37 AM on November 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


Star Trek is definitely not what you should look at for a post scarcity economy. See, Accelerando by Charles Stross or any of The Culture novels by Iain M Banks for infinitely better takes on social issues and interactions that take place beneath a back drop of post scarcity.

But these societies are all post resource scarcity. It isn't very often than an author will delve into the rabbit holes of post novelty scarcity (usually via Infinite Fun Spaces or recursively copy&pasta souls to run around virtual worlds making stuff happen that one could then observe and share with other people who had millions of mini-me's running around panopticon simulations).

Monetary economies could become novelty economies or morality economies, or money could remain in a vestigial sense to curb truly excessive aggregation of materials (like building an everest sized mountain of plastic). You'd have enough money to never want for anything short of a mega-yacht nor need to wait longer than a few days (or hours, or minutes) to receive the desired item.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think, based on the article, that Federation Credits are Bitcoins.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Horace Rumpole: "Why is there money at all, for example?

Well, you couldn't have money-grubbing Space Jews without it.
"

I didn't know this was a trope. Momus' song has more context for me, now.
posted by symbioid at 7:38 AM on November 19, 2013


Like most super hyper advanced science it works best with writers and film editors that can cut away dramatically at just the right moment to avoid the actual realities of the situation.

Why does everyone in these societies NOT have their own space yacht? (or seagoing yacht for that matter). Don't look behind that screen... it's too technologically advanced (and it upsets the Morlogs).

Reading Ian M. Banks Culture books, and the cost of a fancy unusual thing to a charactor seemed to be determined persistent whining and kvetching for that thing, or that the humans were essentially a kind of pet of the singularity level computer "minds" that ran the giant space stations. Not that I'd have any problem being a pampered pet of a singularity.
posted by sammyo at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quark is my favorite Deep Space Nine character for precisely this reason: He clearly doesn't have access to the Federation post-scarcity economy

I wish DS9 had actually gon further on that front, because we didn't really see that followed through on entirely. Because here's the thing: Quark does seem to have access, at least on the station, to the knock-on effects of that Federation economy; DS9 gets a makeover that no one ever talks about paying for once the Feds show up, Quark's inventory problems tend almost entirely to be related to grey- and black-market items, his bar infrastructure headaches are along the lines of "my (magical free food producing, Federation-provided) replicator is on the blink and hasn't been fixed yet by the (salaried Federation) guy in charge of fixing it", etc.

He's never priced out of his lease on the promenade, and in fact basically gets a handshake deal from the guy running the place (and ergo from the Federation by proxy) that he gets to keep his real estate and his profit for the price of acceding to a little bit of Play Nice blackmail in the pilot.

Quark deals with scarcity only insofar as he steps outside of the relatively comfortable sphere of Federation influence on the station.

It is also a series of films.

And the occasional fan-written comic resynthesis.

posted by cortex at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck (leaving aside the whole, "barter leads naturally to money" Econ 101 myth [thanks, Graeber]).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man
Kinda missing the point though? Some things are luxuries precisely because they are "the real thing." It's now easy in real life to get cheap synthetic diamonds that are chemically and optically indisinguishable from or even superior to natural diamonds (unless you happen to have the equipment handy to do spectroscopy) yet natural diamonds still have the cachet and the vast majority of the market.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:41 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


When everything can be replicated endlessly, then the thing that is scarce is authenticity. The knowledge that someone did personally put knowledge and labor into what you're consuming. Not just the experience of consumption, but retaining the experience of interacting with the creator, carefully selecting what you're going to consume, preparing it. We're already doing some of that with our artisanal bacon and our Etsy shops, why should we be surprised that people in the Federation would feel similarly?
posted by Sequence at 7:48 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I always assumed replicated food and items where kind of terrible but functional and the Federatiion largely exists so they can dole out holo deck time. That's the trick, give them enough holo deck time as recruits and make them bored with the impossible delights of pansexual excess so by the time they're done they're completely over feeling any of human emotion other than dutiful, rule-book following efficient curiosity.
posted by The Whelk at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


Psst! It's just a TV show--it's not real!

Psst! It's just a stage play/movie/epic poem/painting/topological abstraction/political concept/words -- it's not real!
posted by kmz at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, the truth is, we really don't know. Different writers seem to imagine it different ways. And some writers have more difficulty even wrapping their head around the concept than others *coughronmoorecough*.

Basically, the society of the UFP was a blank slate. There was a complete collapse of the society we know, and as society on Earth was rebuilding itself from the ashes, it was influenced by alien ones, and by technology that altered everyday life as we know it on a massive level. IMO, writers who believe that couldn't possibly change the way humans think or act *coughronmoorecough* are at best a bit naïve.

My personal impressions:

They way I've always seen it in the best Trek episodes is that people are remunerated for their work, but not in the same fashion we are today, and that's as much as we truly need to know.

It's not so much the misquoted 1 Timothy "Money is the root of all evil," but the actual 1 Timothy, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." People make a living through their efforts, but the point is to make a comfortable, satisfying living, not to stockpile more wealth than they can use just so they can play "I'm richer and therefore better than you are." They don't have to live in fear and hoard against the day the bottom falls out. They don't have to hoard for their children, because they can be confident that if they give their children a decent start in life those children will be able to take care of themselves in the same manner.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


but not everyone would have the same replicators.

i think it's Diamond Age where the replicators are different for poor people. and you need to have money of some sort to buy the higher quality stuff from it.
posted by sio42 at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2013


What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck (leaving aside the whole, "barter leads naturally to money" Econ 101 myth [thanks, Graeber]).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man


Besides what Wretch729 said, also note that real life personal relationships / interactions and possessions are vastly more valued in the ST universe than their holodeck counterparts to the extent that enjoying the holodeck a lot leads to diagnoses of mental illness and/or even social pariah status.
posted by Bwithh at 7:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought Barclay received that diagnosis on the basis of being a strange manchild named Barclay
posted by The Whelk at 7:57 AM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Some things are luxuries precisely because they are "the real thing."

Ah, yes, I see. Thank you. I don't necessarily agree with the artisanal bacon thing, because presumably the replicator could make it 100% exactly the same, molecule for molecule. Of course there will probably always people who will claim to be able to tell the difference...
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


As long as money begets power, the powerful will not allow money to wane.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:59 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's now easy in real life to get cheap synthetic diamonds that are chemically and optically indisinguishable from or even superior to natural diamonds (unless you happen to have the equipment handy to do spectroscopy) yet natural diamonds still have the cachet and the vast majority of the market.

This is patently false. Colourless diamonds are quite a different thing from the huge cachets of yellow diamonds with their associated nitrogen impurities. Gem quality stones are very difficult to grow and even Gemesis only has a 1.78ct gem which is also G colour quality. The biggest E colour quality (no D quality here) is 1.01ct. Oh and you're still paying $4K/ct.
posted by Talez at 8:00 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can't replicate dilithium.
posted by Joe Chip at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


...the extent that enjoying the holodeck a lot leads to diagnoses of ...

I expect we can program even the most sophisticated computer to not have an "ewww" subroutine.
posted by sammyo at 8:01 AM on November 19, 2013


cortex: Don't forget the time Sisko literally tells Quark that the Federation has never collected rent from him (he threatens to do so, including the back rent, in order to induce Quark to negotiate with the newly-formed union at his bar).
posted by dhens at 8:02 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, what I said previously. Also2, WRT jobs and why people still have them, aside from either self-actualization, Making the Galaxy a Better Place ethics, or Whuffie, there's also the side-benefits from the job itself; I always figured that people joined Starfleet simply to be in Starfleet and to boldly go wherever. The post-scarcity aspect of the Federation doesn't scale up to being able to replicate starships; not only is there a practical upper limit on how big you can make a replicator--the "industrial sized" replicators are only about as big as a smallish walk-in closet--but also there are several unobtanium-type elements that can't be replicated that are essential to making a starship, not to mention latinum, which is why it's used as a medium of exchange. (This is from the TNG and DS9 tech manuals.) That's how you don't end up with a trillion people on Risa. Finally, here's a pretty good rundown of references to money in the franchise.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:07 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, I figure Starfleet self-selects for thundering do-gooder dorks who are unimpressed by material wealth.
posted by The Whelk at 8:10 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, I figure Starfleet self-selects for thundering do-gooder dorks who are unimpressed by material wealth.

That's only for ranks up to Captain. Admirals are selected for corruption, venality, and general villainy.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:14 AM on November 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


It could probably be molecule for molecule the same, but the thing about artisanal bacon is that it isn't molecule for molecule the same. Every time you get it, it's going to be a little bit different, because it's going to depend on exactly how the pigs were raised, how the bacon was cured, whatever. That's the authenticity part. If you buy a bottle of Chateau Picard this year and one next year, they will be different. It may well be that a lot of people can't really taste the difference there, either, but it does in principle exist.
posted by Sequence at 8:15 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: " What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck (leaving aside the whole, "barter leads naturally to money" Econ 101 myth [thanks, Graeber])."

People routinely assign value to things they can't easily obtain, that require extensive time, skill or effort to create, or that simply have a specific cachet. Create a replicator and people will declare that replicated "X" isn't as good as real "X". Businesses will create trends, buzz and increased perceived values based on potential profit. Even if the created product is superior to the old one. Look at the GMO debate. Look at the developing countries/poor communities baby milk scandal, which has been going on for decades.
posted by zarq at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck .

Well we already have replicators of a sort in the form of manufacturing plants, so we've got a pretty good picture of what the physical luxury objects might be: handcrafted and even more importantly unique.

But the most important luxuries are experiences. Simulating Club21 down on 1st street does no good if the reason Club21 is hot is because of the celebrities you could run into there. The Egyptian pyramids are architecturally rather boring and tedious to walk around -- but they're old, feel in your bones old -- and that makes scheduling a visitor slot 5 years in advance a worthwhile thing. Holodecks are infinitely superior to television, but they still aren't the Real Thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


All this talking about money is all well and good, but we're no closer to getting me my teleport.
posted by arcticseal at 8:17 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Great post. The Medium article (and this thread) have got me thinking about the surprising degree to which our present-day world is extrapolatable (...extrapolable?) to what Trek showed.

Case in point: I thought about how horrifying it would be if every strip of replicated bacon I ever ate was exactly the same shape—and then I remembered Chicken McNuggets.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 8:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the most important luxuries are experiences.

This is why my theory on the Wadi game of Chula in DS9 is that it's a networked spectator sport, not just a self-contained game for the players. It's one thing to have a national sport that everybody in your culture knows and plays; it's another entirely to send ambassadors out into unfamiliar places, and places unfamiliar with your game, and then simulcast their first-encounter-as-mindfuck-game experiences. That's some serious pay-per-view right there.
posted by cortex at 8:23 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wager that The Federation does not manage and regulate currency for it's population like our federal governments do now. The Federation as a governing entity may need currency, but it's people do not (at least, Earth people do not). I picture The Federation holding several "off planet" accounts, through which it conducts trade using Latinum. Access to these funds by individual citizens is regulated. Citizens and corporations also have their own accounts. Let's face it, The Federation is Marxist.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:36 AM on November 19, 2013


I would be joining Starfleet for the travel and the healthcare. I want these crappy arms/legs/hips replaced with sexy gleaming replacements, even if I DO have to wear red on EVERY Away party over the next 4 years. If I can actually run and shoot effectively, I can be a badass.
posted by Samizdata at 8:46 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Create a replicator and people will declare that replicated "X" isn't as good as real "X".

Yes, I remember a number of occurrences of this phenomenon in several series.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The medium article is good, I'm not sure about the precise idea of his behind the scenes energy accounting system. Every time you replicate a hot chocolate it deducts 300 kilojoules from your account? It's probably more like if you ask for something that would take gigajoules of energy you'll need to get some kind of institutional approval; one of the perks of working would be having access to that institutional power. You can have all your basic needs fulfilled, but if you want to do anything beyond that you need to align with a powerful institution or conduct inter-civilization trade (eg Vash selling Gamma quadrant artifacts so that she could live out a nice quiet life, presumably in luxury).
posted by Joe Chip at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't necessarily agree with the artisanal bacon thing, because presumably the replicator could make it 100% exactly the same, molecule for molecule. Of course there will probably always people who will claim to be able to tell the difference...

And those people will always pay a fortune for MonsterBacon (TM).
posted by The Bellman at 9:08 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Captain Oldskool here. Back when Star Trek was just Star Trek: A TV Show and not Star Trek: The Franchise nobody ever specifically stated that money was obsolete.

And there was plenty of direct evidence to the contrary:

Requiem For Methusela: Flint's planet had been "purchased thirty years ago by a Mister Brack, a wealthy financier and recluse."

Mudd's Women: Harry Mudd is criminal with a record of smuggling, transport of stolen goods, and purchase of a space vessel with counterfeit currency.

I, Mudd: Mudd had escaped Deneb after being found guilty of selling fake Vulcan patents.

Trouble with Tribbles: Cyrano Jones has "for the past seven years . . . obtained a marginal living by buying and selling rare merchandise, including, unfortunately, tribbles." Uhura: "Cyrano Jones said that a tribble is the only love money can buy."

Of course all of this takes place (as does all of Star Trek) far from Earth. Maybe we are to believe that money is superfluous on Earth, but for those restless few who want more out of life (more risk, adventure, gain, whatever) and aren't cut out for Starfleet, there are riches to be won and lost on the edges of the Federation.

In any case, the "no money in the Trek Universe" idea is a retcon introduced during the 18 year break between the end of Star Trek and the beginning of ST:TNG*.


*Which as far as I'm concerned makes it non-canonical.
posted by Herodios at 9:10 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am trying to remember that (TNG) wormhole episode where Riker has to do the negotiating - I remember being surprised that the different government factions were not offering straight-up dollar (latinum) amounts but were rather naming specific things ('my dilithium mines on planet x') etc.

Seemed like it would make any sort of trade cumbersome.
posted by rosswald at 9:13 AM on November 19, 2013


Herodios, replicators weren't introduced until after TOS. The post scarcity economy wouldn't become reality until replicators became widely available.
posted by cmfletcher at 9:17 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


The post-scarcity aspect of Trekonomics is really interesting, and a definitely compelling sketch of a possible future. Still, I always find the level of discussion a bit frustrating and repetitive [i.e., what does "no money" mean? why do people work?]. The really interesting questions aren't about why people produce resources -- it's not particularly crazy to think that it's because otherwise, they would be bored and lonely, and besides maybe the Federation Council has decreed they don't care *what* you do, as long as you do something. The real issue -- what gets us from here to there -- is about the allocation of goods and services. In Voyager, how did Barclay get that sweet-ass loft, and instead of whom? Presumably, many people have a preference for "real" food and wine -- so are you more likely to get a meal at Sisko's in the 24th Century, or subsidized housing in New York City in the 21st?
posted by voiceofreason at 9:20 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always figured that the post-scarcity nature of the Feds was the reason why starfleet had such a good pick of people. Except for admirals, they're all portrayed as being ludicrously competent. It's easy to see why. With no money or economy, unless you're a great scientist or artist, there really isn't anything to achieve anymore. There's an episode of TNG where they thaw out some frozen people, and at the end the rich tycoon gets told that there isn't any money anymore, and that instead of running a business he should focus on inner personnel development. What this means is that basically there's nothing to do. If you are ambitious there's really no way for you to satisfy your ambitions except boldly going where no one's gone before. So a Starfleet career is seen as really valuable for anyone who wants to do something, because it's the only thing you have to do. Which seems like a pretty realistic problem. If no one in our society worked at all, how many would get into trouble just because they were bored?
posted by unreason at 9:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


sequence: "It could probably be molecule for molecule the same, but the thing about artisanal bacon is that it isn't molecule for molecule the same. Every time you get it, it's going to be a little bit different, because it's going to depend on exactly how the pigs were raised, how the bacon was cured, whatever. That's the authenticity part. If you buy a bottle of Chateau Picard this year and one next year, they will be different. It may well be that a lot of people can't really taste the difference there, either, but it does in principle exist."

I figure there can be error bars baked into a given "recipe" for a replicator formula to make sure that a foodstuff doesn't taste EXACTLY the same each time, like a food photocopy. Or, for example, wine dorks could hack the base formula for a "white table wine", I envision a loooooooong bar of sliders for all the various flavour notes one could select. "Little less cabbage, little more cat urine" etc.


This has also taken my brain to interesting places about the difference between replicator pancakes and replicator wheat flour, salt, sugar, oil, and eggs made into a batter and cooked into disks on a hot surface. You could get the replicator to toss up a raw steak...but what cut? how much marbling? what breed of cattle? were the cattle grass fed? etc.
posted by hearthpig at 9:24 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is why we have holdecks. I assume Earth is like 99% crazy dismemberment orgies that we would be pressed to classify as "entertainment."
posted by The Whelk at 9:25 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Now this makes me want to see a TV show based in the Star Trek universe based on people on earth not in Starfleet, to explore these ideas further.

Also, how come Enterprise hasn't come up in these discussions yet? It's the only series I haven't watched yet, but due to it being set earlier it must have more details about the transition from scarcity to post-scarcity economics, right?
posted by Joe Chip at 9:28 AM on November 19, 2013


"There is absolutely, obviously, still private property in the Federation: most obviously Joseph Sisko’s restaurant in New Orleans and Chateau Picard, evidencing that not just small possessions are allowed but that the land itself is still privately owned. One could argue that these aren’t really Sisko and Picard’s to own, but they are routinely referred to as “his” restaurant and vineyard so we gotta go with Occam’s Razor here and assume they do, in fact, own them.

It's important to pay attention to the specificity of these cases. Chateau Picard is essentially a heritage vineyard, deliberately eschewing modern production techniques to deliver the authentic French wine experience."


I've occasionally wondered about that. With Earth as the center of UFP and Starfleet operations, there has to be an incredible premium on real estate. Sure, a lot of it is probably farmed out to Mars and space stations like McKinley, but we've seen that space is so scarce that they're building cities on the ocean floor.

Sure, Occam’s Razor is sharp, but then again, there was a complete collapse of society in between the days when the Picards were growing grapes by hand and cooking on a woodstove because they had to and the days when they were doing it to be deliberately old-timey. It must have been hard to hang onto it all and keep it going in the interregnum.

I can imagine a situation in which the government says, "Eh, M. Picard, this land and its traditions are important to you, and having this heritage product continue into modern times would be important to our cultural identity, especially as we continue to explore the universe and more extraterrestrials come to visit Earth. We'd love to have your family be the stewards of this land and keep on doing what your ancestors did."

By the way, who's running the damn vineyard now that the hacks who wrote Generations gratuitously killed off Robert and René? marie seemed to spend most of her time in the kitchen, but I guess once Robert died she was free to get a replicator and take over the business.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:29 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"there's no money here, everything is done for personal amusement or development."

"But that's awful! I've never examined my life before! I have no inner drives beyond avarice! What am I do to?"

"Fantasy football?"
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'd really like someone to break down how the Federation was able to churn out enough ships between the Battle at Wolf 359 and the end of the Dominion War. Their losses were staggering.
posted by drezdn at 9:30 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reallocating of research staff and material. Recalling of all 'deep-space' and other far-flung vessels. Commandeering of civilian ship production facilities. Help from the Klingon, Vulcans, etc.?
posted by rosswald at 9:39 AM on November 19, 2013




You could consider any American inner-city underclass wastelands (or I guess suburban wastelands now that the millennials are moving into the inner city and driving the former inhabitants out) as regions that already have a post-scarcity Star Trek economy. It's just that the replicators are really shitty.

There are already vast swaths of society where people don't work (because nobody considers it worth paying them to work). What do they do? A lot of them don't really do much of anything. But a lot of them try to rise above in ways that can pay off in a combination of material wealth and social capital. Some participate in the underground drug economy (okay, building a criminal empire is probably not what we'd like them to do, but it is definitely seen as a way to elevate your status within that community, not unlike being a successful business executive in the above-ground economy). Others strive to become highly accomplished at things like hip hop or sports. Part of the payoff if they succeed is indeed an escape from poverty and a higher standard of living, but well below that bar, there is also a payoff in terms of the admiration of others, and social status.

So yes, people will still work. The same way upper middle class kids work for free on open source software projects for the experience and well... the whuffie. The trick is how to get them to work at crap jobs that don't pay anything when the marginal income isn't really worth the trouble. That's a market failure. It's not like nature demands that we be able to get our offices cleaned overnight for peanuts.
posted by Naberius at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Herodios, replicators weren't introduced until after TOS. The post scarcity economy wouldn't become reality until replicators became widely available.

Then replicators and post-scarcity are non-canonical.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:42 AM on November 19, 2013


Question, do we get belly hiding jumpsuits?
posted by The Whelk at 9:46 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Question, do we get belly hiding jumpsuits?

No such thing; that's why they switched to two-piece uniforms and lo, the Picard Maneuver was born.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Actually on TNG is was more Intergalatic spanx ( and padding for poor egg noddle Wil)
posted by The Whelk at 9:50 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


All this talking about money is all well and good, but we're no closer to getting me my teleport.

And you're not going to get it here. They have *transporters*.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:00 AM on November 19, 2013


So a Starfleet career is seen as really valuable for anyone who wants to do something, because it's the only thing you have to do. Which seems like a pretty realistic problem. If no one in our society worked at all, how many would get into trouble just because they were bored?

Don't some people boldly go as colonists to recently terraformed/discovered planets? There was Tarsus IV when Kirk was a kid, when the Federation sent a bunch of colonists there, and then a fungus wiped out the food supply and famine and genocide ensued. Presumably the colony (and others like it) had limited access to replicators, and so would require relief supplies. I can see how being the first group of people to a new world would be an appealing thing, especially in a post-scarcity economy where you might not have much else to do. And possibly it's one of the few ways to get actual land, considering that Earth or other highly developed planets might not have much available.

Anyway, I too have spent some time wondering what humans on Earth do, other than join Starfleet or some other skilled profession like doctor, engineer, etc. There's probably a need for at least some people to work at shipyards and other skilled building and manufacturing, if only to supervise the robots, and there are probably still farmers and ranchers to meet the demand for non-replicator food. The Federation's got to have a bureaucracy, so surely there are clerks and admin types needed. And there's still a market for bars and restaurants, so there's still some aspect of the service economy. But what about everyone else?

I'm not the type of person to get worked up into a moral tizzy about people not earning their benefits or minimum income or whatever, but I have to admit to feeling some disquiet about a post-scarcity society where no one has to work. Everyone outside of Starfleet can't possibly be leading lives of leisure, so what, exactly, are they doing with their lives other than seeking self-actualization?
posted by yasaman at 10:06 AM on November 19, 2013


Unreason: What this means is that basically there's nothing to do. If you are ambitious there's really no way for you to satisfy your ambitions except boldly going where no one's gone before. So a Starfleet career is seen as really valuable for anyone who wants to do something, because it's the only thing you have to do. Which seems like a pretty realistic problem. If no one in our society worked at all, how many would get into trouble just because they were bored?

For a fascinating exploration of how that works out, see Iain Banks' Culture novels, particularly Player of Games and Look to Windward which explore normal life within the culture. Drug Glands, immersive games, crazy sports, an endless scope for study, Contact division, and Special Circumstances
posted by memebake at 10:10 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll take less cat urine in mine, please.
posted by Flunkie at 10:12 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


For more Iain M Banks post scarcity stuff see A Few Notes On The Culture (previously)
posted by memebake at 10:20 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drug Glands, immersive games, crazy sports, an endless scope for study, Contact division, and Special Circumstances

Watched my first episode of Toddlers and Tiaras last night. (newly married. you have to adjust).

What is that whole kiddie beauty pageant subculture, I ask you, but a bunch of people filling their time because they have no work to do and nothing else that really matters to them and lets them feel a sense of achievement?
posted by Naberius at 10:20 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, I too have spent some time wondering what humans on Earth do, other than join Starfleet or some other skilled profession like doctor, engineer, etc. There's probably a need for at least some people to work at shipyards and other skilled building and manufacturing, if only to supervise the robots, and there are probably still farmers and ranchers to meet the demand for non-replicator food. The Federation's got to have a bureaucracy, so surely there are clerks and admin types needed. And there's still a market for bars and restaurants, so there's still some aspect of the service economy. But what about everyone else?

The arts. Education. Publishing and broadcasting. Ecology and life sciences. Sure, technology makes all those fields require fewer workers, but they can't be completely automated, and we've seen people working in all those fields.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:26 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's always space heroin.
posted by kmz at 10:28 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Ah, yes, I see. Thank you. I don't necessarily agree with the artisanal bacon thing, because presumably the replicator could make it 100% exactly the same, molecule for molecule. Of course there will probably always people who will claim to be able to tell the difference..."

A speaker wire economy?
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the Star Trek economy is based upon the fact that everybody knows the world is full of stupid people. This allows the ruling class to keep both the pistols and the pesos, which doesn't seem fair.
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:33 AM on November 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


For that matter, let me call your attention to this brand new post on the Blue!

Oh yes, people will find ways to pass the time...
posted by Naberius at 10:38 AM on November 19, 2013


The arts.
Yes, this is surely the explanation, or a large part of it. Given the ridiculous number of times that we've seen crew members put on utterly schmaltzy poetry readings, oboe concertos, vocal with wacky alien lute accompaniments, one-act one-life form plays, travelogue presentations, and on and on, which never fail to captivate their audiences despite their utter schmaltziness, leads me to the opinion that the Federation is filled with people who have the free time to learn whatever artistic skill they want without needing to worry about the fact that they don't really have any particular talent for it.
posted by Flunkie at 10:38 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yes, this is surely the explanation, or a large part of it. Given the ridiculous number of times that we've seen crew members put on utterly schmaltzy poetry readings, oboe concertos, vocal with wacky alien lute accompaniments, one-act one-life form plays, travelogue presentations, and on and on, which never fail to captivate their audiences despite their utter schmaltziness, leads me to the opinion that the Federation is filled with people who have the free time to learn whatever artistic skill they want without needing to worry about the fact that they don't really have any particular talent for it.

Don't forget all the damn conferences.
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 10:41 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's also spending your free time in orgy rooms holodecks.
posted by kmz at 10:43 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right now, I'm making my way through DS9 -- which has somewhat limited the bounds of the post-scarcity thing, since a lot of the alien cultures don't have access to it -- and one thing jumps out at me over and over:

The Ferengi have all this sophisticated financial stuff, are ultra-capitalist, etc.

BUT THEY STILL USE HEAVY PRECIOUS METALS AS CURRENCY.

There are copious scenes of Quark physically counting out his employees' pay, or "doing the books" by physically making piles of hard currency. In another episode, Quark is struggling to evacuate the station with an enormous and brutally heavy suitcase of money.

I mean, seriously, the Ferengi never developed credit, or checking, or even fucking PAPER?

This makes way less sense than the post-scarcity Federation stuff. Which we quickly find out only applies to Starfleet officers living in hoity-toity places like the Enterprise, anyway.
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wish someone would create a webcomic to explain this. Maybe 15-18 frames, using screengrabs. Heck DS9 would be perfect. If one is lazy you could just use TNG screengrabs and have them pretend to be DS9 characters.
posted by pibeandres at 10:45 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


No, they own it because synthehol sucks.

In a world where mind-altering substances are forbidden, they would quickly become currency.

Which I think implies that France is the 24th century equivalent of Medellin, and the Picards are drug lords.
posted by Sara C. at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Surely the Ferengi have developed credit, but the wise man doesn't partake. After all, Rule of Acquisition 111: "Treat people in your debt like family: Exploit them."
posted by Flunkie at 10:50 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


What sort of luxuries? I am having a hard time imagining anything that couldn't be provided by either replicator or holodeck

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, an antique copy of A Tale of Two Cities, illegal Romulan Ale, and 400-year-old eyeglasses.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:52 AM on November 19, 2013


I admit, I've generally assumed that along with spending a lot of time in orgy rooms holodecks, humans at least have devoted a fair amount of time to figuring out just how to have sex with any and every alien species possible.
posted by yasaman at 10:53 AM on November 19, 2013


Turkey Glue, it is impossible for me to see the phrase "United Federation of Planets" and not hear that song in my head.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:53 AM on November 19, 2013


Star Trek is a television show which, when it shows glimpses of its economic system, those bits and pieces are apparently contradictory.

While fun to explore, this is probably not a good basis on which the author of the Medium piece can build a new utopian system, except to say that, as a general rule, most utopian visions hand-wave the harder details, and so it is in typical company in that regard.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:56 AM on November 19, 2013


Herodios, Why are you insistent that everything from TNG onward is non-canonical? Gene Roddenberry was involved in the first few seasons where replicators and a handful of other TNG technologies were introduced. If it's just because you don't like the shows it doesn't discard them from the trek universe.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2013


He's never priced out of his lease on the promenade, and in fact basically gets a handshake deal from the guy running the place (and ergo from the Federation by proxy) that he gets to keep his real estate and his profit for the price of acceding to a little bit of Play Nice blackmail in the pilot.

It was actually mentioned in an episode I watched this weekend (the one where Rom starts a union, I forgot the title already) that the Federation doesn't charge Quark rent or any utilities, maintenance fees, etc.

Which is a sort of interesting way to handle the kinda-sorta post-scarcity except kinda not phenomenon.

The Federation/Starfleet exists in a post-scarcity world. Money is meaningless to them. It would probably be more of a bother to set up an accounting department and process fees from people like Quark than it would be to just let folks operate businesses on space stations rent free.

But on the other hand, because of the prime directive, Starfleet/The Federation can't just zap everyone into the post-scarcity world. And then of course you've got people like the Ferengi who presumably wouldn't want that world even if they had access to it.

So you get this arrangement where, by dealing with Starfleet/The Federation, you get a foot in the door of that post-scarcity life.

That said, you'd think that a market around space station real estate would spring up in response to the competition for these highly sought after business opportunities. I mean, aside from inventory and staff Quark has basically no overhead. There should be lines of enterprising folks from across the sector conspiring to get rid of him, curry favor with the Federation, do ANYTHING to get a slice of that pie. It should be like the interplay between all the various gold claim holders and hangers-on in Deadwood. Or if not that, there should at least be several layers of agents and rent-seekers standing between someone like Sisko and someone like Quark.

In fact, in a real-world Deep Space Nine, Quark probably would have immediately realized the potential of this situation and become that sketchy middleman "landlord" rather than simply running a bar.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I admit, I've generally assumed that along with spending a lot of time in orgy rooms holodecks, humans at least have devoted a fair amount of time to figuring out just how to have sex with any and every alien species possible.

The Doctor: Relax, he's a 51st century guy; he's just a bit more flexible when it comes to dancing.
Rose: How flexible?
The Doctor: Well, by his time, you lot have spread out across half the galaxy.
Rose: Meaning?
The Doctor: So many species, so little time.
Rose: What, that's what we do when we get out there? That's our mission? We seek new life, and, and...
The Doctor: Dance.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just remembered that Kirk says in STIV that they don't have money in the future where he comes from, so I guess that's a datapoint in figuring out when Federation society moved to post-scarcity. I guess you could handwave that the transition was happening rapidly while the Enterprise was out on deployment.
posted by COBRA! at 11:03 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Herodios:

Important things to know:

- TNG and the rest of the series (aside from Enterprise) take place about a century after TOS. It's certainly possible that this new post-scarcity system came about at some point during the jump between TOS and TNG. Especially since replicators are rarely seen on the original Enterprise.

- The Enterprise (TOS) spends most of its time exploring the far reaches of known space, where obviously most of the people they come into contact with are still living in a market-driven economy, regardless of what's going on back at Federation HQ. It's also mentioned that nothing like this voyage has ever been attempted before, so one could reason that they don't have the hottest new tech that could fail easily or require maintenance beyond the crew's abilities.

- There's a lot of offhand verbal reference to the idea that replicators are pretty new to the average person in the 24th century. Lots of older people ragging on the idea of eating replicated food. A widespread belief that what comes out of the replicators is inauthentic. People saying things like, "My mother never let us eat replicated food." So clearly this can't be a technology that people are entirely comfortable with, yet.

Coming outside of the in-universe narrative aspects of replicators and the economy, one important fact occurs to me that makes post-scarcity totally canonical.

If anything, the post-scarcity non-conflict stuff was stepped back following the first few episodes of TNG. In the first 5-10 episodes of TNG they really try to drive home the differences between the world of the Enterprise-D and 20th century America. The common cold has been cured. Money no longer exists. Eternal peace on an almost galactic scale has been achieved.

But, very quickly, the writers discovered that you can't make an interesting TV show about a group of people who don't want anything, fear anything, have any interpersonal conflicts, or have any limitations at all. So they began to step it back, until you get to DS9, where we're dealing with a group of characters who mostly are not living in that post-scarcity world at all.

During the years Roddenberry was closely involved with the post-TOS franchise, it could be argued that they hammered home the post-scarcity stuff too hard. If something is non-canonical, it's DS9's market-driven fringe.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


-The arts.

--Yes, this is surely the explanation, or a large part of it. Given the ridiculous number of times that we've seen crew members put on utterly schmaltzy poetry readings, oboe concertos, vocal with wacky alien lute accompaniments, one-act one-life form plays, travelogue presentations, and on and on, which never fail to captivate their audiences despite their utter schmaltziness, leads me to the opinion that the Federation is filled with people who have the free time to learn whatever artistic skill they want without needing to worry about the fact that they don't really have any particular talent for it.


Well, in a society where even people who don't have a talent for the arts and only pursue them as a hobby secondary to their true vocations are encouraged to develop what skills they have; yeah, I have no trouble at all believing that people with a real aptitude and calling can find an audience and make a profession.

The fact that people will go to see rank-amateur live music and plays when they're performed on a starship instead of sitting in their quarters and playing computer games or wanking makes me think that when they get back home there's a good chance they'll seek out the pro-quality stuff, too.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


what humans on Earth do, other than join Starfleet or some other skilled profession [...] what, exactly, are they doing with their lives other than seeking self-actualization?

Just fucking around, I assume. The real question about Trek post-scarcity economics is, once you credit this (and it's an inference almost unsupported by on-screen evidence, as we meet very few non-Starfleet Federation citizens onscreen), how on earth do they staff Starfleet? Why would people give up their lives of freedom and pleasure to join a rigid hierarchical quasi-military organization like Starfleet in the first place? Of course the canonical answers are ambition, altruism, curiosity, and self-actualization, but that psychology hardly seems enough to explain the number of young people who are willing to submit themselves to the indignity of decades of order-following in a rule-bound, deeply moralistic organization.

You have to assume that the Starfleet Academy recruitment process really draws out a strain of Puritanism, both in irrational commitment to a work ethic and in high-handed self-congratulatory moralism, in Federation culture. Perhaps this is the true reason why humans are so overrepresented in Starfleet.
posted by RogerB at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's certainly possible that this new post-scarcity system came about at some point during the jump between TOS and TNG. Especially since replicators are rarely seen on the original Enterprise.

Yes, my understanding was that replicators did not exist in any meaningful sense in TOS but had been invented (or at least brought into widespread use) by the time of TNG. I'm pretty sure I recall in some (probably not canonical) source on the original Enterprise (blueprints, tech manual, I had them both) that the food slots you see in old TOS are not actually replicating the food at all, but are the endpoints of a turbolift like dumbwaiter system that physically carries food prepared quickly (but not instantly) by robotic kitchens deep in the bowels of the ship.

Mind you, given that I think we have post-scarcity today - just, like the future itself - very unevenly distributed, it's not hard at all for me to think that a system where robots can do that is sufficient to be called post-scarcity even without replication technology.
posted by Naberius at 11:15 AM on November 19, 2013


Just remembered that Kirk says in STIV that they don't have money in the future where he comes from

Then again, we're not far from not having "money" right now, in 2013.

I have approximately $1.72 on me in cash right now. And yet I'm perfectly able to move through life, buying lunch, gassing up my car, grocery shopping, etc. with my debit card.

Of course plastic-and-data-based quasi-virtual currency still exists, and I'd imagine that something like this is supposed to exist in the Trek universe (insofar as there is still a market economy in any sense). But, no, of course nobody carries cash in the 23rd century.

Then again, I haven't seen STIV: Save The Whales in years, so maybe he is referring to money the abstract concept rather than physical currency.
posted by Sara C. at 11:19 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and once you realize that Starfleet is solely representative of the most fussbudgety Puritan components of Federation society, it helps explain the aesthetic bankruptcy of all those on-ship performances as well. It's not that the entire Federation contains no one serious about art, it's just the starship. They're listening to terrible chamber music and putting on lame Shakespeare readings because Starfleet officers are cultural conservatives, trying to preserve a sense of canon and continuity out there on the frontier, insensible to the avant-garde stuff happening back home offscreen.
posted by RogerB at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Naw, it's physical currency; he says it as he's sticking poor 20th Century Love Interest with the dinner tab.
posted by COBRA! at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if I time traveled back to 1986 and ended up on a dinner date, I'd have to say we don't have money in the future, too.

Unless I was buying my date a hotdog or something, I guess.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Man, I'm gonna start saying I'm from a money-less future from now on and never have to chip in ever again!
posted by The Whelk at 11:25 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


You have to assume that the Starfleet Academy recruitment process really draws out a strain of Puritanism, both in irrational commitment to a work ethic and in high-handed self-congratulatory moralism, in Federation culture. Perhaps this is the true reason why humans are so overrepresented in Starfleet.

I don't think that can be it, or at least not only it. Just as there are nerdy, idealistic overachievers now, so there will be nerdy, idealistic overachievers in Star Trek times, and I imagine it's those people who are intrigued by Starfleet. Also people who want off of their backwater planet, people who sign up for a whatever-year hitch to get out and see the galaxy, people who want to hang out with aliens, etc.

And I figure in a post-scarcity economy, higher education in general won't be so competitive, and obviously not expensive. There are probably different tiers of higher education past high school: "vocational" (learn how to make this thing, run this machine, etc), professional (doctors, lawyers, etc), and "just for the sake of higher learning." Starfleet Academy would be the highest tier, and would surely have some cachet and appeal just for that.
posted by yasaman at 11:26 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Naberius, there's a scene in a TOS episode where Nurse Chapel gives a bunch of kids some kind of token or disc to put into the food dispensers. And the tokens/discs/thingies are like programs or orders or recipes for specific food items.

But it's hard to say whether the food dispensers are dumbwaiters and the chits send information to a central dispensary/kitchen, the food dispensers are sophisticated microwaves and the chits contain some element of the actual food in question that needs to be reconstituted, or whether it's more along the lines of the replicators and the chits tell the replicator what to make.
posted by Sara C. at 11:27 AM on November 19, 2013


Yasaman, that's true. In a post-scarcity economy, academia would be HUGE.
posted by Sara C. at 11:28 AM on November 19, 2013


Like every THRID person you meet has a doctorate in late 20th century video game narratives.
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 AM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


In regards to replicators and when they are introduced, we also have the famous kitchen scene in ST VI, which would seem to suggest that there's at least a preference for fresh-cooked meals rather than replicator fare, if there even is a functioning replicator.
posted by dellsolace at 11:32 AM on November 19, 2013


In a post-scarcity economy, academia would be HUGE.

And surely Starfleet would be the main avenue for a lot of off-planet research. In that sense, I'd imagine there are plenty of people who, even if they're not crazy about becoming part of a rigid, quasi-military government organization, are willing to do it to pursue their research.
posted by yasaman at 11:33 AM on November 19, 2013


There are probably different tiers of higher education [...] Starfleet Academy would be the highest tier, and would surely have some cachet and appeal just for that.

Right, that's exactly what I'm talking about. In a post-scarcity society, only the hyper-conservative and puritanical would need a hierarchy at all, much less fight for years and decades just to be at what they see as the very top of the hierarchy. So Starfleet Academy creams off the most pathologically ambitious, unnecessarily hypercompetitive overachievers (along with the truly selfless and the truly driven students of topics that can only be researched at the edges of Federation space, who are unfortunately forced to hang in with the Puritans) — and that leaves everyone else in peace on their home worlds to get on with their studies and their art-making without competition.
posted by RogerB at 11:34 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


At some point it was mentioned that Jadzia has like a zillion degrees in random shit. And not the Dax symbiont, but pre-joining Jadzia. This always sounded sort of stupid to me, because someone Jadzia's age in the 21st century would only just barely be old enough to have a single doctorate, let alone several in different areas. But I guess it actually does make a little sense.
posted by Sara C. at 11:35 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want a picture of the future, imagine a replicator stamping out boots — forever.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:44 AM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I recall in some (probably not canonical) source on the original Enterprise (blueprints, tech manual, I had them both) that the food slots you see in old TOS are not actually replicating the food at all, but are the endpoints of a turbolift like dumbwaiter system that physically carries food prepared quickly (but not instantly) by robotic kitchens deep in the bowels of the ship.

In Charlie X, the chef clearly tells Kirk that he put meatloaf in the ovens, but now they are full of turkeys (it was Thanksgiving, you see). That chef? None other than Gene Roddenberry in his one and only (offscreen) acting role.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:48 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really ugly boots, too.
posted by Sara C. at 11:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Forgot to mention:

The Federation does, however, interact with many other societies, such as the Ferengi, who do use currency, and therefore some of them see fit to acquire and save money for such interactions. [...] even if the Federation has no currency of its own, it might acquire some in order to facilitate trades with cultures that do have it

This strikes me as such an interesting opportunity to do some real science fiction writing that it's a shock that no one ever figured out how to fit it into any of the Trek shows (I think largely because of the rightward militaristic drift of the writing staffs in the era of Ron Moore and after, but no doubt that's a separate topic). Imagine the work of the Starfleet specialists in exo-economics: how do they do the diplomatic and trade work required by the Federation? Do they slowly, inadvertently become acclimated to the scarcity mentality, causing them problems in their everyday life in the Federation? And how do they even pay lip service to the Prime Directive while at the same time they're intentionally using the economic might of the Federation to manipulate the greed of scarcity-bound outworlders for their own benefit?
posted by RogerB at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


In Charlie X, the chef clearly tells Kirk that he put meatloaf in the ovens, but now they are full of turkeys (it was Thanksgiving, you see). That chef? None other than Gene Roddenberry in his one and only (offscreen) acting role.

Yeah, I was confused about this when watching the whole series back to back. Sometimes (especially early on) it seems as though there's a commissary or a mess hall of some kind. Other times, you've got a magical food-dispensing box. Sometimes mass preparation of food is implied, and other times you can have what you want, to order.

Maybe the food dispensing boxes with the tokens are a novelty and a privilege for the visiting kids in that one episode, but most of the crew actually goes to the mess hall and is fed mass planned chow-style meals?

Then I remember that, until some point in the run of DS9, there was no real concept of episode to episode continuity with regard to this sort of background detail, on pretty much any TV, ever.
posted by Sara C. at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013


While we're on the subject, can anyone identify a classic-era SF story that I would have sworn was by Heinlein, but which I can't seem to track down in his catalog?

The story: Aliens decide to conquer earth, in the same way they've conquered thousands of other planets, by letting us destabilize ourselves, then come in and mop up. So they leave one duplicator (IIRC) on the steps of the New York Public Library. It's a box with two attached grids. Put something on one grid, press the button, and you get an exact copy of the object on the other grid. Put the box on the first grid and you get a whole working duplicator setup.

The protagonist works in a New York department store and talks about the night when people came into the store and started duplicating shit. And economics professors from Columbia were spending all their money in the sporting goods department and fleeing to the hills.

But of course since humans are the grittiest, most crotchety beings in the universe, we never just fold up and die. By sunrise we have somehow worked out a functioning duplicator-based economy and the world doesn't end. The aliens are like, whoa, and decide humans are not to be fucked with and go far away. Happy ending.

I read this in high school and would love to find it again to figure out just what kind of working duplicator economy it posited, (and whether it made even as much sense as Star Trek's) but have never been able to track it down again. Any ideas?
posted by Naberius at 11:52 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Academy creams off the most pathologically ambitious, unnecessarily hypercompetitive overachievers

So they ship off the Eve Online players to play real spaceships while everyone else has a party back on Earth. Utopia indeed!

Although, do you really want first contact with an alien race handled by Captain Tracy Flick? No wonder the dominion wanted to subjugate the alpha quadrant.
posted by cmfletcher at 11:56 AM on November 19, 2013


This strikes me as such an interesting opportunity to do some real science fiction writing that it's a shock that no one ever figured out how to fit it into any of the Trek shows (I think largely because of the rightward militaristic drift of the writing staffs in the era of Ron Moore and after, but no doubt that's a separate topic).

It strikes me that this might be an interesting topic for a science fiction story or novel, but ill-suited to an episode of TV. And way off-format for TOS or early TNG.

I mean, most people think money is boring.

Even DS9, which did play with the idea of exo-economics and world-building around the idea of money where earlier series did not, takes a pretty light approach and tries very hard to keep it visual. Hence Quark counting piles of hard currency, which obviously makes no sense.

The episode where Quark's family gets audited because it's revealed that their mother is playing the stock market is a pretty interesting one, actually, and one of the better Ferengi episodes. My favorite little bit is the way that everything is an economic transaction, which means you pay an admission fee to enter someone's home as a guest, you buy a seat in a waiting room, etc.

Certainly DS9 (embodied by "the writing staffs in the era of Ron Moore and after") is the only show that even tried to talk about this stuff in an engaging way that people were meant to care about.
posted by Sara C. at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


During the years Roddenberry was closely involved with the post-TOS franchise, it could be argued that they hammered home the post-scarcity stuff too hard.

In Michael Piller's book Fade In (you can find an online PDF with a quick search; the book itself was never in print), he talks about "Roddenberry's Box", the sort of mindset that Gene had about what life would be like in the 24th century, the limitations that that put on TNG's writers, and how the more clever writers could work around that, at least until Roddenberry's hands were pried off the controls when his health started to go. Apparently, he'd reject a script or a story idea with gnomic pronouncements such as, “In the Twenty-Fourth Century, no one grieves. Death is accepted as part of life.” This is probably one reason for the big turnover of writers in the first couple of seasons.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:59 AM on November 19, 2013


I actually have that pdf and keep intending to read it, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

That said, the "Roddenberry's Box" critique is a bit pot calling the kettle black, as Michael Piller seemed to only ever want to talk about baseball.

Seriously, the man was just NOT ever meant to be a sci fi writer, and I know instinctively why he and Roddenberry wouldn't have clicked and why Roddenberry would have rejected his pitches left and right.
posted by Sara C. at 12:03 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


That said, you'd think that a market around space station real estate would spring up in response to the competition for these highly sought after business opportunities. I mean, aside from inventory and staff Quark has basically no overhead. There should be lines of enterprising folks from across the sector conspiring to get rid of him, curry favor with the Federation, do ANYTHING to get a slice of that pie.

Witness Martus Mazur, upstart competitor to Quark's who does some damn risky stuff in attempting to acquire said slice, in DS9: "Rivals".
posted by Z. Aurelius Fraught at 12:06 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Lampshade:

Jake Sisko (quoting Picard): Hey, watch it. There's nothing wrong with our philosophy. "We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity."

Nog: What does that mean exactly?

Jake: "It means... it means we don't need money!"

posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:07 PM on November 19, 2013


The relationship of cheap replication to post-scarcity being a thing only in certain localities, while lack of cheap replication is still a major factor on the fringes, has been made explicit, I think multiple times. Either the Bajorans or the Cardassians, but I think both, had issues based on the fact that they had a limited number of industrial scale replicators. I think the Bajoran government had some sort of internal squabble about how to best assign their limited industrial replicators to various competing needs, and I think the Cardassians got a desperately needed donation of industrial replicators from the Federation after Cardassia was attacked by the Klingons.

Quis replicadiet ipsos replicades?
posted by Flunkie at 12:15 PM on November 19, 2013


Sara C.: "The Ferengi have all this sophisticated financial stuff, are ultra-capitalist, etc.

BUT THEY STILL USE HEAVY PRECIOUS METALS AS CURRENCY.
"

The Ferengi use of precious metals is because Gold, like BitCoin, is a literal crypto-currency of the universe if one was to take the analogy of atoms = coins. "Mining" is done by the equivalent of GPUs: stars going supernova.
posted by wcfields at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, seriously, the Ferengi never developed credit, or checking, or even fucking PAPER?

Credit and checking = people promising to pay you later. Even if there's not anything in the Rules of Acquisition about that, there doesn't need to be. When transwarp technology exists, credit is idiocy.

Paper is worthless. It decays, it burns, it loses value, it depends on governments continuing to exist. It can be faked very, very easily with a standard home replicator stocked with cellulose and a small selection of metallic oxides. And, again, paper money is not currency; it is the promise of currency. No dice.

Gold-pressed latinum, on the other hand, is a tangible commodity with real value, pressed in worthless gold.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:27 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Yeah, if I time traveled back to 1986 and ended up on a dinner date, I'd have to say we don't have money in the future, too.

Unless I was buying my date a hotdog or something, I guess.
"

Well, think about going back to 1986 now with our bills — the only one that hasn't changed is the single, which, yeah, great for hot dogs, but people had enough trouble with adopting new $20s that thinking that past folks wouldn't just call 'em bogus is a stretch.

"Like every THRID person you meet has a doctorate in late 20th century video game narratives."

Yes but the Thrid planet economy is all based on mushrooms that make you bigger and give extra lives, so it makes sense.
posted by klangklangston at 12:28 PM on November 19, 2013


Sys Rq: " Gold-pressed latinum, on the other hand, is a tangible commodity with real value, pressed in worthless gold."

And bonus, latinum can be stored in a spare stomach. If you have one.

No wonder Morn's hair fell out.
posted by zarq at 12:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


My point re the Ferengis and latinum is... they haven't come up with any financial innovation that allows their money to be portable?

I mean, isn't that, like, a key component of getting to, like, a Renaissance level of financial systems?
posted by Sara C. at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2013


No, gold is essentially worthless, as it can be replicated just like virtually anything else. The important thing is the latinum, which cannot be replicated. The only purpose of the gold is that it's a good storage device for the latinum; which is naturally liquid, and which therefore was an extremely inconvenient currency until some enterprising Ferengi discovered that gold could render latinum conveniently solid in the form of slips, strips, bars and bricks.

As for why the Ferengi continue to use it instead of paper or whatever: This question is obviously asked only by people who are not thinking like a Ferengi. "Let me get your proposition straight here: You're saying I give you my latinum? And in return, you give me a small piece of paper? Oh, right, right, and you promise that I can get my latinum back from you any time I want just by giving you the paper back?"
posted by Flunkie at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Vast though the Culture may be - thirty trillion people, scattered fairly evenly through the galaxy - it is thinly spread, exists for now solely in this one galaxy, and has only been around for an eyeblink, compared to the life of the universe. There is life, and enjoyment, but what of it? Most matter is not animate, most that is animate is not sentient, and the ferocity of evolution pre-sentience (and, too often, post-sentience) has filled uncountable lives with pain and suffering. And even universes die, eventually.

In the midst of this, the average Culture person - human or machine - knows that they are lucky to be where they are when they are. Part of their education, both initially and continually, comprises the understanding that beings less fortunate - though no less intellectually or morally worthy - than themselves have suffered and, elsewhere, are still suffering. For the Culture to continue without terminal decadence, the point needs to be made, regularly, that its easy hedonism is not some ground-state of nature, but something desirable, assiduously worked for in the past, not necessarily easily attained, and requiring appreciation and maintenance both in the present and the future.


- Iain M Banks
posted by memebake at 12:34 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're whole society is based around obtaining wealth it helps to have a currency you can stack in giant piles or swim in like Scrooge McDuck. Rolling around on a bed with a PADD showing a bunch of zeros just isn't as much fun.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Should have previewed - "No, gold is essentially worthless" was in response to gold being Bitcoin-mined from supernova GPUs, not in response to the later comments about the relation between gold and gold pressed latinum).
posted by Flunkie at 12:36 PM on November 19, 2013


Naberius:

Are you thinking of "Business as Usual During Alterations" by Ralph Williams?
posted by Hactar at 12:39 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Winnah! We have a winnah!

Thanks Hactar. My memory has hashed up some of the details over time, but I do remember the warning they left on the machine. That is the one.

Now to figure out if it makes any damn sense!
posted by Naberius at 12:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My sister and I used to write comedy sketches on the premise that the replicators were just a front for a team of disgruntled Starfleet cooks, based on everyone we'd ever worked with in a restaurant. (The inspiration was that TNG episode where the replicators "malfunctioned" and served somebody a mug of corn and sausages or something.) They would get pissed off at somebody's la-di-da fussypants order, and there'd be another "malfunction."

The head cook would talk into one end of the loudspeaker sounding like Sal from Futurama, and it would come out the other end sounding like Majel Barrett at a tea party. They'd always have some mystery ingredient that was just about to go off, that they'd have to sneak into everyone's order. The only one who never complained was Riker, as long as he got both his oatmeal and Jell-O full of lumps and made with vodka, just the way Dad used to make 'em. Every sketch, there'd be some new trainee who died in a freak dishwashing accident.


It's not that the entire Federation contains no one serious about art, it's just the starship.

Exactly. The plays Beverly directs aren't amateurish because there's no such thing as good theater in the Federation; it's because she's a ship's doctor directing amateur theatricals in her spare time, starring engineers with social anxiety.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, gold is essentially worthless, as it can be replicated just like virtually anything else. The important thing is the latinum, which cannot be replicated. The only purpose of the gold is that it's a good storage device for the latinum; which is naturally liquid, and which therefore was an extremely inconvenient currency until some enterprising Ferengi discovered that gold could render latinum conveniently solid in the form of slips, strips, bars and bricks.

Yes, but isn't gold the absolute worst material in the world to use for this purpose?

ITS SUPER HEAVY.

Which means you can't take it with you when the invaders come.

ITS BIG.

Which means that you have no hope of starting a bank unless you have one hell of a gigantic vault.

Want to do some international shipping, colonize a relatively uninhabited part of your continent, or for fuck's sake, be a sci fi character and leave the planet? I hope your boat/train/spaceship is really huge, really secure against thieves, and can handle the weight of all the worthless heavy containers you keep your money attached to.

Shit, if you have a business that employs more than a few people, you've got to start looking into vaults and shoring up the floors in your accounting department. Which had better be onsite.

There's a reason we switched to paper currency around the time we started to develop things like banking, joint stock companies, and trade based global empires. And there's a reason we use abstract digital currency now. Big piles of heavy metal just aren't efficient for doing sophisticated things with your money.
posted by Sara C. at 12:44 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, here is my official retraction:

I just finally opened the Michael Piller "Fade In" pdf, and from his chronology on DS9 it seems like he's not entirely to blame for the show's baseball obsession. I think the episode where the crew forms a baseball team isn't until after he left.

Though there's still plenty of baseball to blame him for.
posted by Sara C. at 12:50 PM on November 19, 2013


Sara C.: " Yes, but isn't gold the absolute worst material in the world to use for this purpose?

Not really.

ITS SUPER HEAVY.

We have antigrav units.

Sara C.: " Which means you can't take it with you when the invaders come. "

We have transporters.

Although... canon has it that latinum can't be replicated. So if it can't be replicated, how can it be put through a transporter?

I hope your boat/train/spaceship is really huge, really secure against thieves, and can handle the weight of all the worthless heavy containers you keep your money attached to.

In addition to the aforementioned transporters and anti-grav units, the stuff weighs nothing in space. Shipping it from system to system wouldn't be a problem. Establish your bank on an asteroid (or a space station, or a space ship, or something else space-based) which only maintains a minimal G and you'd be fine.

There's a reason we switched to paper currency around the time we started to develop things like banking, joint stock companies, and trade based global empires. And there's a reason we use abstract digital currency now. Big piles of heavy metal just aren't efficient for doing sophisticated things with your money."

Oh, definitely. But still, there are ways around it in a space-faring culture.
posted by zarq at 12:53 PM on November 19, 2013


Perhaps it's a technological issue. Gold might be the only element capable of safely and reliably storing Latinum. I've always imagined Latinum as a liquid or gas that would dissipate without the gold pressing process.

I suppose you could have a digital currency like a bitcoin backed by Latinum but who would be the bank in that situation? The Federation has no interest in running a galactic currency and the Ferengi are a minor power in the quadrant with a negative reputation when it comes to trustworthiness. If I were an interstellar trader or worked the lunch shift at Quark's, I'd insist in payment in hard currency.
posted by cmfletcher at 12:54 PM on November 19, 2013


Gold being super heavy is not particularly relevant to a Ferengi. It's just the price you pay for having your latinum solid. I'm sure if some lighter material could be used to solidify latinum, Ferengis would drop gold in a heartbeat, but until then gold it is. The difficulties involved in using it for large transactions are also largely irrelevant.

Latinum is what matters. Latinum is all that matters. Being out of breath due to carrying your latinum? Sure, that sucks, but if the option is not having my latinum, well then that's just crazy talk.

Also, I think the objection is a bit overstated; they don't completely forgo simpler currency. They often transfer money by datapad in an instant. There are probably companies that make a good deal of latinum by moving latinum from seller to buyer, essentially in the background of the instant datapad transaction.
posted by Flunkie at 12:58 PM on November 19, 2013


canon has it that latinum can't be replicated. So if it can't be replicated, how can it be put through a transporter?

Is it ever?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:01 PM on November 19, 2013


zarq: "In addition to the aforementioned transporters and anti-grav units, the stuff weighs nothing in space. Shipping it from system to system wouldn't be a problem."

It would still have MASS, though.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know, actually watching Quark interact with latinum, all the problems inherent in hard currency are in evidence.

If the whole Ferengi currency were based on gold-pressed latinum, which in reality is sitting in some kind of weightless anti-grav vault, and in everyday life everybody uses far more convenient promissory notes or electronic transactions, that would make sense.

But watching poor Quark try to flee for his life as he struggles under the weight of a suitcase of gold is some bullshit. That would make sense if the Ferengi were unsophisticated savages who'd only just discovered capitalism. Or if they were magpies with no head for finance.

But if we accept that the Ferengi have built their culture entirely around commerce, there's no way their everyday currency could be based around a bulky heavy metal.
posted by Sara C. at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, the problems are evident. But they are also, to a Ferengi, completely worth it.
posted by Flunkie at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2013


Oh god I can't believe I'm arguing about the Ferengi on the internet.

It's like I'm 14 all over again.
posted by Sara C. at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


But they are also, to a Ferengi, completely worth it.

Not really, because when the Jem'Hadar come, you are now penniless.
posted by Sara C. at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2013


Chrysostom: " It would still have MASS, though."

Well, sure. But realistically, would that matter?
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on November 19, 2013


No, you're not penniless, you're dead, as you aren't going to leave your latinum merely because a Jem'Hedar is going to kill you.
posted by Flunkie at 1:10 PM on November 19, 2013


Sara C.: " If the whole Ferengi currency were based on gold-pressed latinum, which in reality is sitting in some kind of weightless anti-grav vault, and in everyday life everybody uses far more convenient promissory notes or electronic transactions, that would make sense."

I'm guessing they do, although I don't know if it's widespread. I remember waiters at Quark's bar using hand held PADDs to presumably deduct funds from a customer's account into the bar's.
posted by zarq at 1:11 PM on November 19, 2013


But if we accept that the Ferengi have built their culture entirely around commerce

But that's just it. It's not that the Ferengi have built their culture around commerce; it's that commerce is their religion, with all the irrationality that comes with any religion.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Flunkie: "No, you're not penniless, you're dead, as you aren't going to leave your latinum merely because a Jem'Hedar is going to kill you."

Rule of Acquisition #125: You can't make a deal if you're dead.
posted by zarq at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2013


would that matter?

I'd argue no, that matter wouldn't matter -- the logical extension of the inertial dampeners (the plot device that keep everyone on board the Enterprise from being squashed flat every time the ship makes a turn) is that there exists technology capable of arbitrarily negating inertia in anything (not just people), at least on a ship-size scale, so mass is irrelevant to acceleration. Whether or not that technology exists (or can exist) on a smaller scale -- say, an inertia-dampened suitcase -- is something that's never addressed.
posted by cjelli at 1:13 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sara C.: " It's like I'm 14 all over again."

Isn't it AWESOME? :)
posted by zarq at 1:14 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, you can't make a deal if you're dead, but the Blessed Exchequer is not going to let you into the Divine Treasury if you have abandoned your latinum.
posted by Flunkie at 1:15 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I remember waiters at Quark's bar using hand held PADDs to presumably deduct funds from a customer's account into the bar's.

But those waiters then get paid in strips of latinum.

Which is stupid, for myriad reasons I think we all understand.
posted by Sara C. at 1:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But that's just it. It's not that the Ferengi have built their culture around commerce; it's that commerce is their religion, with all the irrationality that comes with any religion.

That was always the impression I got, as well - going back to my earlier quote about money vs. the love of money. They seemed to me not only to enjoy what money could buy, but to fetishize the article itself. Almost primarily so in some cases.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:19 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if all other materials are of minimal value due to replicators, how does the wealthy Ferengi show off his bankroll? Any poor fool with small lobes can get the clothes, jewelery, and possessions with some time in front of a replicator so that's not really a status symbol.

The wealth isn't wealth unless it enables you to purchase something the poor can't get.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:19 PM on November 19, 2013


No, you're not penniless, you're dead, as you aren't going to leave your latinum merely because a Jem'Hedar is going to kill you.

But then your children can't inherit the latinum, because now a Jem'Hadar has it.

Meanwhile, if the actual latinum was in an anti-grav bank vault floating in space, A) you can flee knowing that your interplanetary checking account is intact, and B) even if you are violently killed, you can still leave your belongings to an heir without the heir being personally on site to take possession.

cmfletcher, the Ferengi seem not to have access to replicators. Or at least not unlimited access to the point that everything is free. The replicators in Quark's bar seem to barely be up to replicating palatable food, let alone rubies. My guess is that they either don't have this kind of technology because they're not in the Federation, or because they've realized that the replicator spells the end of their entire society and rejected the post-scarcity world.

Which I guess sort of makes them the Space-Amish.
posted by Sara C. at 1:22 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I saw multitudes
to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:23 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But then your children can't inherit the latinum, because now a Jem'Hadar has it.

If my children really wanted to inherit my latinum then they should have killed me first.
posted by cjelli at 1:29 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


"But watching poor Quark try to flee for his life as he struggles under the weight of a suitcase of gold is some bullshit. That would make sense if the Ferengi were unsophisticated savages who'd only just discovered capitalism. Or if they were magpies with no head for finance. "

I always assumed that he would have some amount of local hard currency, while his primary holdings would be electronic elsewhere. Essentially, the money under the mattress or in the cookie jar, only expanded to include the day-to-day operations of his bar.

And that his employees would generally be less concerned about currency, that would make it something that was worth more to him than them so he could underpay them or barter it back quickly.
posted by klangklangston at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "Is it ever?"

Guess what I found....
(Read the comments)
posted by zarq at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always assumed that he would have some amount of local hard currency, while his primary holdings would be electronic elsewhere. Essentially, the money under the mattress or in the cookie jar, only expanded to include the day-to-day operations of his bar.

And that his employees would generally be less concerned about currency, that would make it something that was worth more to him than them so he could underpay them or barter it back quickly.


Yeah, but this isn't reflected in how this is all treated on the actual show. We see Quark willing to risk his life in order to save his hard currency (implying that it's not chump change, it's his fortune), and we also see him counting out employee pay in hard currency despite the fact that it makes no sense to do things that way.
posted by Sara C. at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2013


I am pretty sure that SSgt. Crapgame was the First Ferengi.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:38 PM on November 19, 2013


Sara C., you can make the same space-amish argument as to why they stick to gold pressed latinum as a currency. They stick to good old latinum, keep the females from commerce, and hope that replicators never make it to Ferenginar or it will destroy their way of life. If they don't, they might start liking root beer.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


But then your children can't inherit the latinum
You really, really are not thinking like a Ferengi (or at least not like a non-Rom Ferengi). Your family is to be exploited. That's what they're there for.
posted by Flunkie at 1:43 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are you thinking of "Business as Usual During Alterations" by Ralph Williams?

Wow, is that a non-Heinlein story...
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:53 PM on November 19, 2013


So we're positing that the Ferengi aren't capitalists at all?

I mean the whole POINT of amassing wealth is to get more than you, yourself could use in one lifetime. You then leave this massive pile of money to the next generation. That is the whole point of capitalism.

That said, it would be awfully funny if Ferenginar was just money-grubbing shop-owner class rubes all the way up, and there were no upper level plutocrats at all. Just strivers who've been led to believe that, if they strive hard enough, then someday, maybe, they will see evidence that these mysterious plutocrats exist.

I always assumed that Quark is meant to be a somewhat unsuccessful Ferengi, grubbing along in the lower middle class with his little bar while the big dogs are i-bankers and hedge fund managers. But maybe he's actually super-successful, and none of the Ferengi are doing any better than a pile of gold and a bricks-and-mortar inventory based business.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


or we could just be over analyzing a plate of gagh.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean the whole POINT of amassing wealth is to get more than you, yourself could use in one lifetime. You then leave this massive pile of money to the next generation. That is the whole point of capitalism.
This isn't even the case for all human capitalists, so it seems strange to me to say that it is "the whole point of capitalism", but putting that objection aside:

No, that's not at all the point of capitalism to a Ferengi. The point of capitalism to a Ferengi is to accumulate as much latinum as possible, so that when you die, the Blessed Exchequer allows you into the Divine Treasury, wherein the Celestial Auctioneers will allow you to bid for a new life.
posted by Flunkie at 1:59 PM on November 19, 2013


This isn't even the case for all human capitalists

um what

show your work, please.
posted by Sara C. at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2013


Gates and Buffet spring to mind but they are the exception not the rule.
posted by cmfletcher at 2:01 PM on November 19, 2013


Tell Me No Lies: "Wow, is that a non-Heinlein story..."

Well, Heinlein DID introduce basically free power to his Future History with the Douglas-Martin solar reception screens.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:01 PM on November 19, 2013


Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffet will be leaving their children more than enough to live on for the rest of their lives, and probably the lives of their grandchildren, too. They are billionaires several times over. They could give away 99% of their wealth and still have more money than it's really possible to think about on an individual human life scale.

Also notice that no human capitalists are interested in not making any more money, some of them just like to give some of it away to good causes.

I mean, it's not like Bill Gates declared all Microsoft products open source and in the public domain. He just gives a tidy proportion of his wealth to charity.
posted by Sara C. at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2013


Sara C.: isn't gold the absolute worst material in the world to use for this purpose?

ITS SUPER HEAVY. Which means you can't take it with you when the invaders come.

ITS BIG. Which means that you have no hope of starting a bank unless you have one hell of a gigantic vault.


You are assuming that the "gold" used in gold pressed latinum is in a form that is similar to what we could consider "solid gold", or even the gold alloys used in jewelry.

In Who Mourns for Morn, Quark is dismayed to find that the cargo container he believed to be full of gold-pressed latinum to in fact contain only "worthless gold". To emphasize how worthless the substance is without being impregnated with latinum, the gold crumbles apart in Quark's hands.

So, it seems to me that there isn't very much gold in GPL at all -- it's in some kind of crystal or matrix structure such that it is light and brittle (without the latinum to hold it together), and the density is in fact super low.

That, on it's own doesn't help with the size issue at all, but given how value-dense latinum is (the couple hundred ml that Morn spits up is enough to wait 7 years and kill people over), the bank vault problem is easily solved by storing large amounts of latinum in pure latinum form.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Really? I'm not sure what work I have to show. You're saying there aren't capitalists to whom capitalism is very important because it allows them to have things they want? The only thing that capitalists are concerned with -- all capitalists -- is leaving money to their descendants? Of which they may have none? And even if they have some, that they may not leave their money (or not all of it) to?

But again, in any case, a Ferengi accumulates latinum so that he will be resurrected, and resurrected well. Not to give to his or her children. Might a Ferengi think that the kids getting the latinum is nice too? Sure, maybe, I guess. But it definitely is not the main goal, and certainly not "the whole point of capitalism".
posted by Flunkie at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whether there's a lot of gold in GPL or not, it's still demonstrated on the show to be bulky, heavy, difficult to transport, and not amenable to things like accounting systems or payroll. Hence my critique.
posted by Sara C. at 2:06 PM on November 19, 2013


The only thing that capitalists are concerned with -- all capitalists -- is leaving money to their descendants?

Yes, the entire point of amassing more than, say a million or so dollars, is to have something for posterity.

That's what "independently wealthy" means. It means never having to work because your family has so much money that it grows on its own.

If capitalism wasn't about amassing huge fortunes to leave to your descendents, it just... basically wouldn't be capitalism. People would be happy to click along being sort of upper middle class-ish, and nobody would have much more than anyone else.

That said, I like the idea that, in Ferengi culture, you can take it with you.
posted by Sara C. at 2:10 PM on November 19, 2013


Whether there's a lot of gold in GPL or not, it's still demonstrated on the show to be bulky, heavy, difficult to transport, and not amenable to things like accounting systems or payroll. Hence my critique.

Cash can be bulky, heavy, and difficult to transport, but some people trust it more than the banks even though banks and electronic commerce totally exist in our world.

I don't see why it would be much different for a frontier barkeep from an accumulation based society.

I think it's entirely possible for Quark to maintain electronic accounts (especially for charging his Federation clientele) but still keep a large reserve of cash that he wants to take with him when the unreclamated waste hits the ventilation shaft.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


You then leave this massive pile of money to the next generation. That is the whole point of capitalism.

um what, indeed. This is pure ideological myth, a vast and silly oversimplification of the actual psychology and mechanics of wealth. And really this is the most interesting and funniest thing about the Ferengi — though it's still a kind of elementary satire: the way that they twist late-capitalist humans into such ideological knots, trying to figure out some distance between us and them. Sure, we're rational economic actors — it's those aliens who are in thrall to an insane, irrational religion of exploitative accumulation!
posted by RogerB at 2:12 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


If capitalism wasn't about amassing huge fortunes to leave to your descendents, it just... basically wouldn't be capitalism. People would be happy to click along being sort of upper middle class-ish, and nobody would have much more than anyone else.

There are lots of upper-middle class people who work to become rich people, whether they have descendants or not.

I'm sure some capitalists are all about providing for the next generation, but there are plenty who really just want to take care of themselves.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:15 PM on November 19, 2013


And really this is the most interesting and funniest thing about the Ferengi — though it's still a kind of elementary satire: the way that they twist late-capitalist humans into such ideological knots, trying to figure out some distance between us and them. Sure, we're rational economic actors — it's those aliens who are in thrall to an insane, irrational religion of exploitative accumulation!
One of my favorite Quark moments -- perhaps one of my favorite Trek moments -- was Quark explaining to Sisko that the "distance between us and them" is less than Sisko and hoo-mons in general are comfortable even thinking about.
posted by Flunkie at 2:18 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


RogerB, it's not about being a rational actor or not.

The thing that separates being a capitalist from living under feudalism, or living in a communist planned economy, or being a hunter-gatherer, is that some people have capital. That's why we call it capitalism. The whole point is to own things. Ideally, to own so much that your money/property/etc. translates to real world power. The point is to have so much that you don't have to sell your labor on the market, you are the one buying and selling the labor of others.

Now, I guess we can say that the Ferengi aren't capitalists as we understand it, they're just magpies who worship shiny gold. That's not the way they're presented on the show, but sure, we really never see the Ferengi operating at the top of the financial food chain, so yeah, it's true, they could all be shop owners with Louboutins and Maybachs in their eyes.

But, no, you can't really get all slackjawed at the idea that the point of capitalism is to amass a bunch of capital. That's why we call it capitalism.
posted by Sara C. at 2:21 PM on November 19, 2013


This:
I mean the whole POINT of amassing wealth is to get more than you, yourself could use in one lifetime. You then leave this massive pile of money to the next generation. That is the whole point of capitalism.
posted by Sara C. at 1:56 PM on November 19 [+] [!]

is not the same as that:

the idea that the point of capitalism is to amass a bunch of capital. That's why we call it capitalism.
posted by Sara C. at 2:21 PM on November 19 [+] [!]

Can you explain for the Pakleds among us how "amass[ing] a bunch of capital" is the same as "leav[ing] [a] massive pile of money to the next generation"?
posted by sparklemotion at 2:28 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


why must every star trek thread turn into the Sara C vs. everyone show

ps I love Quark he is the best
posted by danny the boy at 2:46 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because the whole division is between people who have to sell their labor, and people who do not.

Presumably, it goes down like this.

Quark works super hard and I don't know maybe innovates in some area, invents a thing, stumbles upon a lucrative new market for something, what have you. He becomes immensely wealthy via the work of his brow. Or, as economists would say it, selling his labor.

When Quark dies, he leaves his vast fortune to Nog. This frees Nog up to retire from Starfleet, and he hires a savvy financial advisor to put that fortune to work in the market, spreading things around and only living on a certain portion so that there is a principal which is always growing. Nog and his descendants trailing off into the indefinite future are now not selling their labor. They are independently wealthy.

This arrangement, where some people will never have to work because they belong to the Owner Class and have vast fortunes that multiply on their own, is called capitalism.

Of course, going back to the original topic of the FPP, within Federation circles, this entire dichotomy, of Workers and Owners, is obsolete. Nobody sells their labor. Nobody works for their living. Everyone is an honorary member of the Owner Class by virtue of the post-scarcity economy.

But if you're a Ferengi? It's got to be better to be an Owner than a Worker. That's the whole point of being a Ferengi. I mean, again, unless we posit that the whole Ferengi wealth thing is a sham, and all Ferengi are bourgeois toilers slaving away to keep the shop open.
posted by Sara C. at 2:47 PM on November 19, 2013


But then your children can't inherit the latinum, because now a Jem'Hadar has it

Or to rephrase it: Now there's a Jem Hadar with a bunch of latinum, somewhere near Ferengi space.

Good luck, little Jem Hadar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:49 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I mean the whole POINT of amassing wealth is to get more than you, yourself could use in one lifetime. You then leave this massive pile of money to the next generation. That is the whole point of capitalism.

So folks unable to have children or who choose to not contribute to the root cause of most of our species' problems (overpopulation) but who otherwise believe in an, "economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the goal of making profits in a market economy" are not capitalists? I'm confused. Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 2:50 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


just in case the latinum debate is still on-going, Memory Alpha says...
Latinum is a rare silver-colored liquid used as currency by the Ferengi Alliance and many other worlds. It cannot be replicated. For ease of transaction, latinum is usually suspended within gold as a binding medium to produce gold-pressed latinum.

I think the form determines whether or not it's easy to transport, though I don't think they ever touch on inflation and percentages, which is usually an issue with precious-metal-containing currencies.

Usually when I think of money and Star Trek, I think about TNG episode Neutral Zone which is not a great episode but does involve an explanation to humans, previously suspended in animation, of how life works and what the hell happened with money. It's worth noting that it's a really early episode and I think DS9 does a much more interesting job of showing what and how and why civilizations conceptualize value.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


When Quark dies, he leaves his vast fortune to Nog.
I think this will be my last comment on this subject, because it's getting progressively more bizarre to me.

Leaving his vast fortune to Nog/Rom is not important to Quark. Or at best, it's a nice side benefit. I'm not sure how more plainly this can be said than it already has been said.

The weird "show your work if you disagree with the notion that the sole solitary point of capitalism is to leave money to your children" was... weird. Then it morphed into "the only point of capitalism beyond achieving a middle class existence is to leave money to your children", which was also weird. The "they are not capitalists as we know it because they have a reason for accumulating capital other than the reason that I imagine to be the only possible reason why someone would want to accumulate more capital than would be necessary to achieve a middle class existence" thing continued the weirdness. When it became "LET ME MANSPLAIN TO YOU WHY YOU SHOULD NOT BE SLACKJAWED UPON FINDING OUT THAT THE REASON WE CALL IT CAPITALISM IS BECAUSE OF CAPITAL", well, that was really weird.

But now it's like you're just willfully ignoring stuff that's been said: Quark does not particularly care about leaving money to his heirs. Or at the very least it is not the primary reason that he accumulates capital. If you want to say that that makes him somehow "not a capitalist", well, OK then, I think that's kinda weird, but whatever, fine, say he's not a capitalist. But just ignoring it?
posted by Flunkie at 3:04 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Horace Rumpole: "Why is there money at all, for example?

Well, you couldn't have money-grubbing Space Jews without it.
"

Wrong series. Severe geek fail, but beyond that... Star Wars' guiding philosophy is to Star Trek as the Old Testament is to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:21 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was mentioned upthread, the Ferengi believe that your judgement in the afterlife is based on an balance sheet of wealth acquired during your life. In a sense, every bar of latinum saved is an indulgence purchased. In Ferengi belief, you do take it with you to bid on your next life at auction. That's why parts of the corpse are sold off, it's the last few strips you earn and will help get you a better life next time around. The possessions you own would factor into your worth but most material goods don't have the value of latinum. One of the few things you can't get at the press of a button.
posted by cmfletcher at 3:23 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Underpants Monster: "It's not so much the misquoted 1 Timothy "Money is the root of all evil," but the actual 1 Timothy, "For the love of money is the root of all evil." "

Nit: You've also misquoted it. It's actually "Radix malorum est cupiditas", which is better translated as "The root of evil is greed." Very close to "love of money", but in fact a broader idea: coveting material things of any sort is wrong.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:30 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Talez: "It's now easy in real life to get cheap synthetic diamonds that are chemically and optically indisinguishable from or even superior to natural diamonds (unless you happen to have the equipment handy to do spectroscopy) yet natural diamonds still have the cachet and the vast majority of the market.

This is patently false. Colourless diamonds are quite a different thing from the huge cachets of yellow diamonds with their associated nitrogen impurities. Gem quality stones are very difficult to grow and even Gemesis only has a 1.78ct gem which is also G colour quality. The biggest E colour quality (no D quality here) is 1.01ct. Oh and you're still paying $4K/ct.
"

Maybe so, but I can get you optical-quality (A-grade equivalent) sapphire for under $10/lb.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:32 PM on November 19, 2013


Samizdata: " If I can actually run and shoot effectively, I can be a badass."

But DO NOT become the best at it, or the very next threat will outshoot you easily, to prove its superiority. Learn from the much-beaten-up Mr. Warf: being the "badass bar" sucks.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If capitalism wasn't about amassing huge fortunes to leave to your descendents, it just... basically wouldn't be capitalism.

It seems that pre-Ghosts Ebenezer Scrooge was a staggeringly unsuccessful capitalist because he didn't have any family or heirs.
posted by XMLicious at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "It's actually "Radix malorum est cupiditas", which is better translated as "The root of evil is greed." "

Well, it's actually, "ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία."
posted by Chrysostom at 3:36 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


>>Well, you couldn't have money-grubbing Space Jews without it.

>Wrong series. Severe geek fail, but beyond that... Star Wars' guiding philosophy is to Star Trek as the Old Testament is to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair.


You know, IAmBroom, you could at least bother to read down the page a bit before declaring others to be "fail." (Fail fail.)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:52 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because the whole division is between people who have to sell their labor, and people who do not.

Right, but passing on wealth to your descendents or others is not required for that division to exist. Plenty of childless people with no plans for having children work hard so as to have the capital to no longer work, successfully or not. They're not doing it for their children, they're doing it for themselves. That inheritance might also be a motivator is certainly also true, but it's not inherent to capitalism or to capitalism. Inheritance does help with the aggregation of capital, but that's confusing the means for the end.

Quark works super hard and...becomes immensely wealthy via the work of his brow. Or, as economists would say it, selling his labor. When Quark dies, he leaves his vast fortune to Nog...Nog and his descendants trailing off into the indefinite future are now not selling their labor. They are independently wealthy.

But if Nog had enough money to be independently wealthy when he inherited Quark's fortune, then surely Quark could also have quit his job and lived off his investment income. Are you saying that the fact that Quark worked a day in his life means that he's not a capitalist? If you can work, strike it rich, then live off your income and be considered a capitalist, then why is the inheritance aspect necessary?

I think Grand Nagus Zek is an interesting case here, given that his willingness to pass on his title to his son is contingent's on his son's ability to make money (essentially); simply being related isn't sufficient justification.

There's also a whole other discussion to be had about whether the Ferengi as presented in TNG & DS9 are representative, or whether we're seeing that at a rare moment of social upheaval and change -- they talk about their society as being monolithic and largely unchanging, but over the course of both shows the Ferengi are clearly undergoing some radical cultural shifts, explicitly so in some of the later DS9 episodes.
posted by cjelli at 3:52 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


unreason: "If no one in our society worked at all, how many would get into trouble just because they were bored?"

Star Trek V gives a good example, at least, of the trouble starship captains can get into when bored: they go climb cliffs and make bad movies.
posted by jiawen at 4:11 PM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


"This arrangement, where some people will never have to work because they belong to the Owner Class and have vast fortunes that multiply on their own, is called capitalism."

No, that's actually much closer to aristocracy or feudalism. That's a totally bizarre reading, imputing goals to capitalism in a way that don't fit at all. Beyond using market forces to profit, there's no teleology to capitalism, especially none requiring inheritance and ownership classes. If you had a 100 percent death tax and redistributed all money equally to all babies born, you could still have capitalism so long as you had individual actors seeking to profit through a market mechanism.
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


"For the love of money is the root of all evil."

It's actually "Radix malorum est cupiditas", which is better translated as "The root of evil is greed."

You sank my battleship!

Well, it's actually, "ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία."

You got chocolate in my peanut butter!

Let's go get a pitcher of Romulan ale and play New Testament Mad Libs!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:34 PM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe so, but I can get you optical-quality (A-grade equivalent) sapphire for under $10/lb.

Because it can be made in a furnace versus the rigmarole required to make a synthetic diamond.
posted by Talez at 5:59 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the benefits of latinum, particularly if you are a Ferengi, is that you can store value without having to record it. If there is a record of how many credits you have then Liquidator Brunt will know what to seize. If there is a record of your technically illegal, but not really hurting anyone transactions, then Odo can use it as evidence to bring you in front of the Star Fleet magistrate. Not to mention the Ferengi at the bank who would look over every one of your transactions to figure out how he could personal profit by leveraging against you. But, trading goods for hard currency is a time test business model for many an entrepreneur who prefers to avoid johnny law and the tax man.
posted by chrisulonic at 6:34 PM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


IAmBroom: "Samizdata: " If I can actually run and shoot effectively, I can be a badass."

But DO NOT become the best at it, or the very next threat will outshoot you easily, to prove its superiority. Learn from the much-beaten-up Mr. Warf: being the "badass bar" sucks.
"

I am planning to be just badass enough to survive the term as a redshirt that bought me the functional limbs. Nothing more.
posted by Samizdata at 10:00 PM on November 19, 2013


jiawen: "unreason: "If no one in our society worked at all, how many would get into trouble just because they were bored?"

Star Trek V gives a good example, at least, of the trouble starship captains can get into when bored: they go climb cliffs and make bad movies.
"

Odd numbered Star Trek movie.

I have no pity for you. You should have been warned.
posted by Samizdata at 10:02 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Darmok trading pogs.
posted by drezdn at 4:45 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tell me more about this $10 1lb sapphire.

I like sapphires
posted by Joe Chip at 8:29 AM on November 20, 2013


Odd numbered Star Trek movie.

I think STV is the first movie that firmly established the even-good/odd-bad pattern; so when STV was first released, you wouldn't have known to expect a bad movie because it's odd-numbered.

The issue is that STIII is actually a decent movie. It suffers by comparison to the two movies on either side of it, which are both better than it, but it's still a solid entry in the franchise. So after only the first four movies, you have:

ST:TMP - bad (the basic plot is fine, but the plodding slowness kills it, and the costume design doesn't help either)
STII:TWOK - awesome!
STIII:TSFS - good, albeit less so than STII or STIV
STIV:TVH - good, funny

So it would be a pretty big stretch at this point to discern an even-good/odd-bad pattern. It's only with STV (and then even more so with STVI) that that's firmly established, and it's a bit of shoehorning to call STIII a "bad" movie just to fit that pattern.

ST:Generations (VII) suffers something of the same fate: pretty good movie, not as good as any of the evens to that point; Kirk deserved a better death, but other than that I have no major complaints. A bit of a stretch to call it "bad" to fit it into the pattern. But it's not an unreasonable stretch, up through ST:Insurrection (IX), to say that the best odd movie (probably III) is not as good as any of the evens.

ST:Nemesis (X) was the one that definitively ended the pattern in any case; not the worst of the bunch, but clearly worse than some of the odds.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:01 AM on November 20, 2013


Boy, I don't know that I could stretch into calling Generations even pretty good. The Red Letter Media takedown was pretty solid.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:03 AM on November 20, 2013


Yeah, I think First Contact's the only TNG movie that's decent, and even then you have to tell yourself that it's happening in a different timestream from the series because a million little things are different.
posted by COBRA! at 10:08 AM on November 20, 2013


Well, I can accept that maybe I'm in the minority on Generations then, but I'll stick by STIII, and my main point stands: prior to the release of STV, you wouldn't have known to expect V to be a bad movie based on an odd/even pattern, because the pattern didn't detectably exist yet.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:17 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then there is Krugman on interstallar trade. (PDF)
posted by QIbHom at 10:20 AM on November 20, 2013


Yeah, I think First Contact's the only TNG movie that's decent, and even then you have to tell yourself that it's happening in a different timestream from the series because a million little things are different.

Except the Beard. The Beard Remains The Same. (Except in Insurrection, which is truly a disturbing universe.)
posted by entropicamericana at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of Peter David's TNG books had a fun explanation for why Riker originally grew the beard. Apparently Picard, Pulaski and Troi had forced him to take shore leave, and while he was gone Riker grew the beard as revenge. He knew that Picard would never say anything, but Riker just knows that his captain is thinking, "It is cosmically unfair that my first officer has more hair on his face than I have on my entire head."
posted by zarq at 10:30 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Remember the time Riker's dad came to the Enterprise and it turned out he had once hooked up with Pulaski?
posted by Sara C. at 10:35 AM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Riker must be related to Kirk somehow, they clearly have the same p*ssyhound gene.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2013


Remember the time Riker's dad came to the Enterprise and it turned out he had once hooked up with Pulaski?

"The Icarus Factor!" I just watched it last night. Of course, it's a safe bet that Riker's dad hooked up with pretty much everybody. (Doctors would be especially attractive because they could give you the hypospray for the Space Clap.)

But I guess that was one of the points of the episode. He had to accept the qualities that he got from his shitty father before he could truly embrace himself as his own self-determined man. You're stuck with the ingredients you were given, but you can make them into something different. It's something I've been working on myself lately, so it really struck a chord with me on rewatch.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:56 AM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Riker must be related to Kirk somehow, they clearly have the same p*ssyhound gene.

Given Kirk's exploits, half the quadrant is probably related to him.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:00 AM on November 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sara C.: "There's a reason we switched to paper currency around the time we started to develop things like banking, joint stock companies, and trade based global empires. "

The piles of doubloons littering the ocean floor would like a bit of your attention.
posted by wierdo at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


By 2475, nearly 40% of all humans will have Kirk, Riker, Paris, Bashir, or Dax DNA.
posted by drezdn at 3:45 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dax DNA

[joke re: worm insertion]
posted by Sys Rq at 4:49 PM on November 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


*cough*
posted by cortex at 7:22 PM on November 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


*Spoilerish* I haven't read it personally, but apparently in the DS9 books that take place after the series, Quark considers leaving the station when the Bajorans join the Federation because of a potential move to a cashless economy. *end spoilers*
posted by drezdn at 4:17 PM on November 23, 2013


Joe Chip: Tell me more about this $10 1lb sapphire.

I like sapphires

The end-cuts off of sapphire boules are fairly useless to the industry (or were in the '90s; maybe they've found a use since), so they tend to be junk material.

Boules are commonly 1" to 6" wide cylinders, and may be several inches long, but with ends that taper to a point. So, the wastage kinda looks like a Hershey's Kiss. Made of sapphire. (And always clear - AFAIK there's no industrial use for colored sapphires, and there's no big wastage in colored fake sapphire for the jewelry trade).

Oops! I forgot red sapphires, aka rubies. They're cheap! At one point I had a perfect 1/4" red ruby sphere on a ceramic stick. Gave it to a gfrd's kids; it was a magic wand tip, obviously. Into their treasure box it went...
posted by IAmBroom at 5:05 PM on November 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "Remember the time Riker's dad came to the Enterprise and it turned out he had once hooked up with Pulaski?"

Seriously? Sad. If there was a TNG medical officer I would admit to hooking up with, it is and always will be Beverly Crusher.

Because, you know, Wesley's mom's got it going on...
posted by Samizdata at 2:01 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


entropicamericana: "Riker must be related to Kirk somehow, they clearly have the same p*ssyhound gene.

Given Kirk's exploits, half the quadrant is probably related to him.
"

And that's why I loved Kirk. If he couldn't beat it by getting his shirt ripped off then using two handed downwards chops, he'd boink it. Fight or f*ck: The Kirk Story.
posted by Samizdata at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because, you know, Wesley's mom's got it going on...

But half her charm was that sort of aloof, unattainable air. And, as much as I loved and continue to love Wesley, the look on his eager little face as he chirped, "Are you gonna be my space uncle?" probably put the kibosh on a lot of second dates.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:37 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Underpants Monster: "Because, you know, Wesley's mom's got it going on...

But half her charm was that sort of aloof, unattainable air. And, as much as I loved and continue to love Wesley, the look on his eager little face as he chirped, "Are you gonna be my space uncle?" probably put the kibosh on a lot of second dates.
"

Look, kid, here's 50 FedCredits. Go to the arcade or McReplicator's or something. Mommy and Dashing RedShirt CyberSamizdata's got some adult talking to do.

Have fun. Until tomorrow.

Seriously, Bev, I COULD arrange an airlock accident. Or there's always Honorary Security Officer on the next Away Team....
posted by Samizdata at 10:00 PM on November 28, 2013




Guys, everyone knows the only ways to Dr. Crusher's heart are to be a dying trill, a regency era alien ghost being, or kill her husband.
posted by drezdn at 11:16 AM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


...or kill her husband.

Ah, the ol' "Klingon Divorce."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:02 PM on December 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


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