On the Economics of Star Trek


Brad Delong, Manu Saadia, and Adam Gomolin discuss the economics of Star Trek, over at Delong's website:

Adam (to Brad): Off the top of your head, if you were teaching a course on Trekonomics what would you be covering on Week One of the Economics of Star Trek or Trekonomics?

Brad: Week One of Star Trek economics has to be “we’re in a post scarcity society”.

Adam: What does that mean?

Brad: It means that we have as much of the material necessities of life that we need or that in some sense we want. That we don’t have to earn money so that we can then spend it to get what is necessary or even convenient or even luxurious for us, as far as material goods are concerned. The society has enough resources for us go off and see, say, the double stars of Beta Lyrae with their gas streamers pulled off of each other by the gravitational pull of the double star system… if that’s what we want. That we don’t have to scrimp and save and earn up money so we can afford to spend time at the Four Seasons Kapalua Bay. We want to actually go to the Four Seasons and spend. That we do what we want with our time rather than being under the gun of necessity.

Adam: What color and context would you add to that?

Manu: I would also say that the very notion of luxury and the positional value of consumption is radically altered. It reminds me of something Keynes had said…

Brad: …That the economic problem wasn’t the permanent problem of the human race. That within three generations, Keynes was writing in 1930….at least in Britain, we can hand over people who act like the Ferengi with a disgusting shudder, to the specialists of mental disease.

Manu: He said it’s a mental disease.

Adam: Can one conspicuously consume in the 23​rd​ Century?

Manu: What would be the point?

Brad: What would be the point?  On technological progress, satiation and wine

Adam: Well, in world of unlimited scarcity, can there be such a thing as conspicuous consumption?

More here.