Star Trek vs The Dismal Science

Bloomberg has an interesting article up called Star Trek Economics: Life After the Dismal Science that seeks to shed light on what life might be light in the post scarcity world. I’ve always found the problem an interesting one because it seems, even in Star Fleet they still gamble for replicator rations. Replicator rations would seem to have most if not all of the necessary ingredients to be money and is probably a harder currency than we have today. So I wonder really how post economics it really is. Still, interesting read.

I grew up watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (easily the best of the Star Trek shows). There’s one big, obvious thing missing from the future society depicted in the program. No one is doing business. There is almost no one buying and selling, except for a few species for whom commerce is a form of traditional religion. Food and luxuries are free, provided by “replicators” — machines capable of creating essentially anything from pure energy. Recreation, provided by virtual reality, is infinite in scope. Scarcity — the central defining concept of economics — seems to have been eliminated.

Is this really the future? Is it possible? Is it something we want? Periodically, economists and economics writers struggle with this question. Back in 2013, Rick Webb and Matt Yglesias theorized that as society gets richer and richer, capitalism and free markets will still exist, but will simply recede into the background. Others have described Star Trek not as a socialist paradise, but as a libertarian one. A writer named Manu Saadia is even writing a book about the topic.

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