Economics of the 24th Century

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Ah, the all-famous Jean-Luc Picard. What do you have to do with liberty? Perhaps not modern libertarianism as we envision it, but there has been something that I have been thinking about lately, especially with economics, freedom, free markets and the fact that money doesn’t exist in the 24th century.

For those of you not fortunate enough to be familiar with Star Trek, allow me to do a brief run-down.

There is no money in the 24th century, at least within the Federation of Planets, the society in which much of Star Trek takes place. They do have a currency of sorts to use in external affairs, but internally there is no money. People do not get paid for their jobs, do not invest and do not have to fork over money in restaurants.

How are they able to do this? They have eliminated scarcity, a la the replicator. The Federation has a machine that can replicate matter of anything, effectively eliminating poverty. When everyone has everything that they could ever need, what comes next? The betterment of themselves and humanity. That is the goal of humanity and those that live in the Federation.

It is interesting to me to think about a society like this, and especially how one transitions to a society like this, especially from a libertarian perspective. If you take away scarcity, you take away the basis for every economic system I have ever studied. The reason we have competition and trade is because there are a finite number of resources to be distributed evenly. If we all have enough of everything, that takes away our need to struggle over everything. It would be the end of capitalism and the end of Free Markets (at least in materials).

Say the replicator was invented tomorrow.  Is it an invention that we, as free-market loving people would welcome, or would we shun it? Would we still have the problem of poverty, now a problem of spite and hatred rather than a problem of not enough resources? How would the freedom philosophy develop when there is no more competition of goods?

I can’t answer these questions for every freedom-lover, but I can certainly answer them for myself.  I think that I would welcome the replicator as a libertarian, most definitely. The ultimate end of libertarianism is for a better society for everyone. And if there is really one machine that can do all of that, then I say all the better for it. I think it is conceptually difficult to imagine a society without scarcity, but I think ultimately it would enhance freedom for everyone, so I say it’d be a welcome addition.

I wonder, though, what all the policy wonks, writers, advocates, and bloggers would do with our lives (not to mention the economists)…

~V.A. Luttrell