The Economics of Star Trek (TNG)

8 Jun

“You woke up and found paradise in ashes, your mate dead, your home destroyed. And the midst of this… insanity, you took the only logical action: to remake the universe in your image.” Oh wait… that was a different Roddenberry property. This is the gleaming starships of the 24th Century. Welcome to the socialist utopia of the Federation.

The Wha-or ™ was three generations ago and we have lived without war (a real one), racism, sexism, and other-isms for some time. People work because they want to, pursuing scientific progress, and dealing with the weakest-tea military structure I have ever seen and calling it “rigid discipline.”

Gene Roddenberry should have known better. He was bomber pilot in the Pacific during World War II (that’s a pic of him dead center). But by 1980, he had lived most of his life in Hollywood, and was probably more idealistic than ever. In fact, we know he was, because in the early seasons of TNG, he had strict script control… and most of those episodes SUCKED. Why? Because let’s face it, utopia does not leave a lot of conflict. The Federation is better than us now and Gene was preaching.

There is no money, no religion, just a lot of space and excitement out there. Let’s go find it! And the technology that brought it to you? The replicator. Yes, the replicator is the answer to all of life’s problems. World hunger? No problem. Need a bed? Program it in and you’ll have it in a couple minutes. You have eliminated every need, and along with it, the need to work at all! This allows the best of the best to compete to join StarFleet and discover new worlds and new civilizations.

Okay, on the surface that makes sense, and you see this universe from the best of the best’s perspective; after all, the USS Enterprise is the Federation’s flagship, so they’re the best that humanity has to offer. And yet there’s something wrong here and it’s summed up in this picture–there is Data pouring Scotty a shot of Aldebran Whiskey, an alcoholic drink at Ten-Forward, the Enterprise’s equivalent of the “O” Club. They have waiters here, but that doesn’t bother me. If you want to see the universe, but couldn’t get into StarFleet Academy, I’d volunteer to be a bartender on the Enterprise in a second!

No, the problem is synthahol. You see, in this utopia, whoever programmed the replicators realized that if you let people replicate alcohol, you’d have a bunch of serious drunks wandering the streets all the time. The solution? Eliminate cheap booze and drugs.

But they didn’t, did they? Picard’s brother makes his own wine on his family farm. Picard himself gave the Aldebran Whiskey to Guinan… how? Was it a gift from a non-Federation non-enlightened alien? Did he trade for it? Better yet, in the original series (and the movies), they talk about Romulan Ale, which sounds like you’re drinking the blue fluid from barber shops. Where did that come from? It’s very existence indicates that there’s a black market inside the Federation. Somebody’s trading something for it. It could be favors, it could be sex, it could be replicator access for civilizations that don’t have this wonderful device. They never explain that in this series, so for that, we’ll have to go to my favorite series to explain it all tomorrow.

I really should get into the political corruption, what with admirals screwing each other over, and Federation Military Intelligence running quietly amok, but I’ll leave that for others. What else did I miss in Star Trek that doesn’t match the socialist utopia? Let me know in the comments below!

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