How well has "The Economics of Star Trek" essay aged? & Star Trek - The "Leftist" Future

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How well has "The Economics of Star Trek" essay aged? & Star Trek - The "Leftist" Future

Post by Megabot » 2019-05-25 06:33am

It's been almost two decades since the main site essay The Economics of Star Trek has been posted, which argues that the Federation is some kind of crypto-communist dystopia by not only citing numerous comparisons to Marx's work, but also arguing around the point that the supposedly utopian Federation is not capitalist, doesn't have a free market, corporations, commercialism, etc. This mindset falls in line with Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" conservative school of thought which purports that western liberal capitalist democracy is the final stage of sociocultural evolution and something different and better can't possibly arise in the future. The essay seemed to enjoy a lot of support during the site's heyday, but with the recent backlash against capitalism and increasing support of socialism in the younger generations due to the rise of the Trump administration, the increasing awareness of how advances in automation and AI might make a post-scarcity society where few people, if any, have to work that can supplant capitalism like in Trek possible to achieve, I'm curious as to what the board thinks of the essay now with the current political climate being what it is.

On a related note, this video by Renegade Cut, Star Trek - The "Leftist" Future , goes into detail on this subject, about how Star Trek has always been a leftist show that showed humanity transcending capitalism in a society that decouples labor from reward, advocated for diversity right from the very beginning (which makes the "SJW" whining about Discovery from the far-right crowd especially hilarious, but that's beating a dead horse), and in general was "woke" decades before "woke" was even a thing. The video also goes into detail about how a leftist show like Trek could inexplicably attract a sizable conservative audience, due to the Federation appearing to have all the makings of authoritarian government despite its utopian ideals once you take a closer look, with things like a military that has vast autonomy, a unicameral legislature, and a president with untold authority. One could argue that humanity and other Federation member races have socially advanced enough where they can have all the tools of authoritarianism at their disposal but don't abuse them in kind of a "benevolent dictatorship" scenario (with the mustache-twirlingly evil Terran Empire from the mirror universe showing what could happen with a society that hasn't advanced to that point), but all that still sounds like a valid reason why so many far right anti-"SJW" fans are drawn to what's probably the quintessential "SJW" leftist show.

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Re: How well has "The Economics of Star Trek" essay aged? & Star Trek - The "Leftist" Future

Post by Jub » 2019-05-25 01:44pm

I haven't read the essay recently enough to recall it and, honestly, I'm not exactly inclined to go back and do so, but Trek has enough issues that I'm not sure the term utopia applies to it. There's rampant AI slavery, no attempt at the sort of gene therapy or synthetic replacement of bodies and brains to make humanity functionality immortal, a lack of proper expansion and utilization of resources to allow for true post-scarcity. Heck, the fact that they need to trade with the Ferengi or the fact that they are still susceptible to war alone would invalidate the idea that the federation is a utopia.

They are an advanced socialist society with some strange cultural hangups, a distinct underclass of sentient beings, secret police, scarcity, and a lack of understanding of their own technology leading to most of the above. Trek is stuck being Trek when they should be the Culture.

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Re: How well has "The Economics of Star Trek" essay aged? & Star Trek - The "Leftist" Future

Post by FaxModem1 » 2019-05-25 02:16pm

Mike's essay overly ignores a bit of the canon, and makes some presumptions.

1. Civilian ships: He argues that Quark's ship disproves the idea of private transportation being expensive. Aside from the fact that it took it being a gift from his cousin(in actuality a means to try and kill Quark), someone who 'owns his own moon' in order for Quark to be able to afford it. Note how Quark never buys his own ship after that, meaning he either lacked interest, which is false as he had all sorts of business deals planned for it, or he lacked the means to get a new one.
2. No Money: Federation members, such as the Bolians, have banks. And we know that there's money in those banks. There's also how every Starfleet officer is able to purchase drinks at Quark's, presumably with some method of currency.
3. Spartan lifestyles: Mike has clearly never lived on a military base, and isn't used to the idea of not having a lot of permanent possessions due to how often you move, or how military members are used to having their quarters inspected and have to keep things tidy. Notice how Picard's family home and Sisko's family restaurant have all sorts of crap around, mostly because they have time to accumulate, while someone like Sisko or O'brien keep their place relatively spartan because they never know where they're going to go.
4. Empty skies of traffic means no private transportation, in a place where people frequent around on transporters from place to place(Sisko even makes mention of spending transporter credits to visit his folks when he was at the Academy)
5. Abolition of Property Rights: Data has a trial on whether or not he IS Starfleet property. The Doctor has a hearing for whether or not his holonovel is Intellectual Property.
5. Communications. We never really see enough of private comms in civilian life to know how mass communication works.
6. No logos. Aside from Kasidy's transport company, one of the few times we see civilian transports up close anyway.
7. No patent office. Note again, the Doctor held a hearing over whether the publishing company had the right to own his holonovel, or he did, as the author.
8. Citizens are forced to work. We really don't see what happens if a person refuses to work, now do we? Only people working because, more than likely, it's a better option than eating replicated food and just playing on the holodeck all day.

This is mostly because Mike Wong doesn't really delve into much of the canon of DS9 and Voyager, and judges Federation society by how people live on the equivalent of a Navy aircraft carrier. A vast difference in standards compared to how real life Navy personnel live today.

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