In short, there's no need to call the Federation a communist society simply because they don't appear to operate under capitalist principles. What's needed is an entirely new term to describe the entirely new system.
“Communist” is precisely
the correct term to describe the economic system we have observed, and can infer from observation.
Let’s ignore for a moment the canonical limitations of replicators, and grant them to be the magic boxes that many no-limits Trekkies regard them as. Could a single individual, or small group of individuals, build and maintain one? How about an institution the size of a small retail store? No?
Well then, how do you give people these magic boxes? The same way our current society deals with the fact that assembly lines are not possible in a world of small cottage industries (a society which, I might add, is effectively post-scarcity for all necessities, and many luxuries of life, at least in the West): namely, by maintaining large institutions, which are large enough to utilize economies of scale.
In modern Western society, these large institutions have taken the form of either large corporations or socialist direct government control of production and distribution. However, a corporation that sells devices that free customers from ever buying anything again is a self-defeating venture. An analogous example is television and radio: once the device is sold, the seller cannot control what and how many available programs are used, thus only making a profit on the device itself, when the customer may end up devoting thousands of hours to its use.
There are three possible viable solutions to the analogy of television, and to the no-limits replicator: make the device so expensive up front that a profit is still made, make a profit on advertisement via the device, or make the consumer pay a large amount for the device over time.
The second option, discovered virtually by accident in the 1930s-50s, is of course the basis of the commercial (broadcast) radio and television industries. However, it seems rather unfeasible when used on replicators. Advertisements seek to entice one to buy a product or service
, and the no-limits replicator has just destroyed all but the extreme luxury market for products. Are unsolicited advertisements for plumbers and new hovercars provided with ones replicated breakfast going to be enough to support the Replicator Industry? Hardly.
When was the last time you saw a television set that sold for the price of a luxury car? If Option One were feasible, you would be able to say you had.
Want examples of Option Three, the only viable option? Here are two: home mortgage, and the BBC.
In short, you can either sign a lease for a replicator priced like in Option One, or the Replicator Industry can be socialized, and you pay for it via the compulsion of government taxation.
Consider the socio-political power involved in a device like the replicator: it provides what effectively every human being that ever lived spent their lives trying to gain: a comfortable material living. Such power is not
going to be sold lightly. Expect a ‘free market’ world with replicators to be one of Technopunk-esque corporate neo-feudalism, based on what is essentially the financial slavery of those who have signed a lease for such power. Ignoring several issues that make me doubt the workability, much less stability, of such a society, does this sound like Trek’s Federation to you? No? Me neither.
Socialization it is, then. The government, then, controls the replicator system, which is to say virtually all of the production of everything. Why does this sound familiar? Ah, yes. Such top-down governmental control of the means of production is, in a nutshell, Marx’s Communist stage of society.
Communist by definition. QED.
Note that this society is Communist regardless
of its system of government. Democracy or dictatorship, as long as you get everything from it, that government runs an ideal Marxist Communism.
Of course, when one tosses a realistic view of simple human nature into an analysis of a situation where all power is concentrated in the hands of a few governing officials, one is very inclined to look for signs of an underlying authoritarian basis for the society in question. An examination of Star Trek canon, as is done on the main site, tends to confirm this justifiably strong suspicion. This describes the society’s government, however, not
its economic system.
Trek canon does not support the notion of this no-limits replicator, and I trust that any other board members that have the patience to address you in detail will discuss canon replicators, and the likley Communist nature of a society based on them. However, your post leads me to believe that you’re laboring under the notion that Trek replicators are no-limits black boxes. As such, I’m answering this notion in my post.
Apologies to all for the long-winded nature of this post. I simply wished to demonstrate then even removing practical limitations on canon replicators, such technology requires a Communist society even in theory.