Anyone who hears the characters in various Star Trek films and series talking about the Federation immediately imagines paradise on earth: a utopia in which nobody has to go hungry, freeze or be bored. Money? There is no longer. War? Only breaks out when another government starts the argument. Even so, many fans complain about the loss of individuality that must come with a political juggernaut like the Federation.
Does the federation even represent a kind of "space communism" which forbids the individual to stand out from his fellow men? You only get really smart from the background if you put the countless scraps of information together into a big whole – because the series are set in the context of Starfleet, which is not to be equated with the much larger federation. So we take a look at the rest of the galaxy and examine how a post-Scarcity federation works. We underpin the whole thing with facts from films and series.
Human nature and space communism
First, a few basic facts: Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek is based on the so-called "post-scarcity assumption". Post-Scarcity means an economy of abundance. In other words, everyone has everything they desire and can accordingly devote themselves to higher goals than preserving their own life. As described in our article "The Golden Heart of Star Trek", Roddenberry was a classic humanist. He took the position that humanity is still in its infancy and that we will surpass ourselves once we have left our puberty behind us. The abundance economy is accordingly to tip the scales that enables us to grow up as a species. In the immortal words of Captain Picard: "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to improve ourselves – and the rest of humanity." (Star Trek: First Contact).
Source: Paramount / CBS
The lack of interest in money immediately leads many fans to jump in their minds: What is the opposite of capitalism in the minds of most people? Right. The first misunderstanding is usually the assumption that the seemingly friendly federation is some kind of communist space empire or "super-socialism". Everyone is the same in the Federation, so obviously the capital is being redistributed! So does Comrade Picard want to convince us to confiscate the means of production of the ruling class? The answer to that is a very definite no.
The reason for this lies in the nature of the affluent society itself. Concepts like communism or socialism only come into play when there are limited resources. At the moment when resources are only available in limited quantities, we need a way to distribute them without having to fight with our fists for water and gasoline in the nearest supermarket parking lot. In the Federation, however, this is not the case, because there are effectively unlimited resources: The generation of unlimited energy is not a problem with the matter-antimatter reactors of the Star Trek universe. Anyone who wants something can simply replicate it. All of this happens without the redistribution of capital or labor – whoever lives in the Federation lives in abundance in the truest sense of the word. Would that be all clear? Well not quite.
The world has enough for everyone's needs, but not everyone's greed.
The second big argument that the federation can't really work is that humans are greedy. In addition, not everything can be replicated in the Federation: If you want a fast sports car, you can have it replicated. If you want to own an original painting by Rembrandt, you can replicate it down to the last molecule, but is it still the original? If you really want to live in Berlin, you can do that via the holodeck, but the "real" living space is limited. Some things will always be rare and we haven't even considered the actual members of the Federation, because talent or creativity cannot of course be replicated either. Anyone who is a talented painter, for example, will produce paintings that have a certain value just because of their rarity.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2021/02/Seltene_Dinge_01-pc-games.JPG" alt = "Not everyone has the ability to prepare delicious food by hand or to create paintings. Despite everything, the value of these items is sentimental – because replicators can exactly copy all of these things down to the molecular level.
At this point you can counter again with Roddenberry's view of the good future man, but the solution is much easier in the end: Even if things like real Romulan ale are rare, they only have sentimental value in a system like the Federation, which is not shared by all members of the Federation (or even by everyone). The restaurant of the Sisko family (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Front) or the Château Picard winery (Spaceship Enterprise: The next century – family encounter) produce rare, handcrafted goods; At their core, however, they represent creative activities that are pursued for purely an end in themselves.
Money rules the galaxy
In the Starship Enterprise episode "The Haunted Castle in Space", "Federation Credits" were mentioned for the first time in the course of a bet. Aha, caught! This means that the federation has money and can therefore be divided into categories such as capitalism and socialism! Not quite. On the one hand, the horror writer Robert Bloch developed the episode. The famous author distinguished himself, among other things, for world successes such as "Psycho", but did not share Roddenberry's view of the future.
When Starship Enterprise: The Next Century took off, scribe Ronald D. Moore admitted in an interview that "Gene had decided (at this point) that credits or money definitely didn't exist in the Federation." Later, the Federation Credits were officially reintroduced into the Star Trek universe – but now as a commodity that is used for negotiations outside the Federation (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – The Card). Simply put, the credits represent a loan that a non-federated buyer may use to federate services, from replicator access to holodeck time to computer cycles.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2021/02/Stolze_Foederation_01-pc-games.JPG" alt = "Anyone who wants to stand out in a paradisiacal society that has everything, takes action one thing: he helps others who may not be as good at it as himself.
Latinum pressed into gold is a second famous Star Trek currency that is often and often used during shows. Even in this case, however, the currency is circulating in areas that do not belong to the federation. Deep Space Nine exists, for example, as a "Wild West outpost" where members of the Starfleet mainly serve. In general, the average federation member knows how currencies work. It may have a wallet and fill it with latinum pressed in gold. In the federation area he will not need the currency in spite of everything, because it is simply worthless and only intended for "external use". The existence of currencies and barter goods does not undermine the principle of the Federation even if Starfleet uses them. Because we remember that Starfleet is only part of the Federation – the one that has the most frequent contact with other cultures.
When everyone is equal, no one is exceptional
The final argument against an affluent society is that a safe standard of living for which we don't have to do anything triggers the apocalypse: everyone just sits in the holodeck and eats replicated caviar so that no one has the skills to keep all the high technology going . However, this view leaves out basic human traits that drive us even without Roddenberry's humanistic view: curiosity and ambition. An affluent society does not block these properties, it is more likely to cause them to explode.
Source: Paramount / CBS
As mentioned at the beginning, mankind no longer has to worry about their daily existence in the Star Trek universe, education is in abundance and the universe is just waiting to be explored. There are always people who set personal goals, people who want to know how things work inside them, and those of us who want to know what the world looks like beyond the next hill. And the achievements of these people inspire their fellows to follow suit.
If you are one of the more ambitious Federation members, the accumulation of money as a yardstick for success does not apply – so great deeds, social prestige and fame have to serve. The Federation reveres scientists, visionaries and explorers as well as artists and philosophers, so pick an area and get started. You have all the time and resources in the world to become a master in your field. Are you looking for danger and want to experience "real" things instead of marveling at them on the holodeck? Starfleet is a manageable organization compared to the Federation and you will get a place on a spaceship if your urge to explore is big enough. There are hundreds of thousands of cultures that have not yet reached an abundance economy, so convince them to join the federation. Help your fellow creatures. We don't know whether Roddenberry's vision for the future will materialize – but it is definitely possible.
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