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(Note anything below is based on TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise. I havent seen the new stuff. And TOS doesnt include hardly any of the economics stuff so I am excluding.) The social structure and especially economics of Star Trek are not particularly well thought out enough to really use them as any kind of discussion for the real world. Most of this talk that Ive read seems to hang on Picard's speech in "The Neutral Zone", as this article referenced above. But they forget it whenever convenient. Sometimes they do the whole "Oh you use this strange old thing called money," thing. Then a character seems to have no problem getting some money to hire a mercenary for whatever reason when a story finds it convenient. And in "Encounter at Farpoint" Dr. Crusher literally goes to a mall!

Sisko has a whole rant in the first Maquis episodes about DS9 about how Earth is out of touch with the hard realities he deals with. "It's easy to be a Saint when you live in paradise" is (if i remember correctly) his complaint about Earth leaders myopia and naivete. Aside from which.... how does O'Brian buy his drinks at Quark's with no money?

And of course things fall apart even in Federation colonies like Tasha Yar's home of Turkana IV and the endless discussion of "rape gangs" therein.

And I will point out that as far as racism is concerned: The Federation Flagship seems to be overwhelmingly majority human, Earth is sector 001, the Academy is on Earth, Admirals also seem to be overwhelmingly human, etc. Hmmmmm. (Why isn't Vulcan 001? They were really the ones that brought Earth into contact with other planets and species.)

I'm not making an argument that Star Trek is conservative or right wing. Clearly Rodenberry had a progressive view for the future. Which also included fairly open sexuality which may have been viewed as "progressive" then but isn't now. (Riker seems to have no problem bedding underlings. Not much concern about power dynamics!)

Most of this stuff is just the realities of making a show. Why so many humans on the Flagship? Because alien makeup has production costs. Why do they have money whenever they need it? Makes stories easier.

All I'm saying is it's just a show with some vauge, well meaning, ideas. Enjoy it for what it is. If you look too hard from any real world political angle it will fall apart.

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May 21Liked by Stephen Robinson

TBF, DS9 is an intersectional outpost that includes non federation cultures...Even 'earth' members of the Federation have to interact with cultures that still use money...Also 'all needs being met' doesn't necessarily require money...

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May 21Liked by Stephen Robinson

Yes, I have thought this too. But when you look at things there's nothing coherent. Riker goes into a bar in one episode and is surprised to be asked for payment. So obviously he's not THAT familiar with money. But then they also regularly gamble on the ship and they don't act like it's just a gentleman's game. Worf somehow has something to bribe that mercenary to take him to his father. And then DS9, you're correct. But what money is this and how do they get it? Do they get deep space pay in the local currency? Is it held in a bank? A Federation bank? Are there Federation banks? (I'm not as familiar with DS9 do they go over this somewhere? Id be interested!). Even so that doesn't work for Worf since the bribing I'm talking about occurs while he's on Enterprise not DS9. Does everyone get a bar of gold pressed platinum monthly for "outside Federation use"? Thet never say.

As far as basic needs being met. That's pretty vauge. Does that mean a condo and steaks or a tent and gruel? Frankly none of the series I've seen even really talks much about the lives of ordinary Federation citizens so i cant speak much to it. We know that colonies do fall apart and we know that people work sh*tty annoying jobs in the Federation. Waiters in restaurants, clerks in hotels, busboys, etc. So basic needs being met doesn't seem to save people from drudge work. I mean I guess you could say that everyones so happy in the future they don't mind cruddy jobs. Well ok. But that aint much of an economic template for us!

I'm not making any economic argument about the utility of money. Nor about a UBI or whatever. I'm merely saying Star Trek economics is a vauge bunch of often conflicting ideas used when it works for dramatic purposes. And so it's neither left nor right in that regards. It's a TV show.....that doesn't have much to say about economics.

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Ultimately for me even as a big Star Trek fan, I don't need to have that deep a commitment to consistency On that level. Every episode is an individual story, and sometimes the tropes of money And scarcity are necessary to that end.

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I agree. Except when someone writes an article about how Star Trek may have answers to some current political/societal question that, imho, it doesn't have answers to. Then I'll say "no, I don't think it does". That's all.

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Well sure. I completely agree with that. But I thought we were talking more about internal inconsistencies within the Star Trek universe. and I really don't mind the political comparisons or looking at Star Trek as a model. Basically the message is everyone needs to be nice and get along and everybody eat! It's just a simple moral code and framework that is making an ethical statement and not really going into the weeds of the details of how to achieve it. basically, in the future we figured a lot of shit out. End message.

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May 24Liked by Stephen Robinson

My disagreement here is that I think this bypasses the whole point of Science Fiction which is basically "Humans are the same in the same way that I am the same as a human 100,000 years ago. I have different stimula in this world than that guy did and in an SF situation they have different stimula than me. But we are the same, fundamentally. How our fundamentally unchanged humanity reacts to this new stimula is the story" And to say "Well humans just don't act that way any more" i.e. something like "Humans are never jealous anymore" just isn't much of a story.

Now I will say that as I understand it, this was Rodenberry's vision: that future people were perfect. Problem is (aside from my belief that this is not possible, that human nature has no history)....that isn't very interesting! If you watch the documentary "Chaos On The Bridge" they talk a bit about this. And basically they hit a wall with the ability to tell stories because everyone had to be perfect. So they cast it aside. Which kinda brings me back to square one.

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Yes, it’s the definition of “post scarcity.” Luxury is always a scarcity. I suppose you can replicate steak and a great wine. The challenge is that such a society can make humans completely unrelatable to us. It limits the dramatic stakes. In Picard, we see Rafi living in the middle of nowhere — not in a posh estate — to underscore that she’s down on her luck.

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May 21Liked by Stephen Robinson

Right. Post 'some' scarcity, you might say. I'd like a winery in France. How do those get doled out? Cant replicate those. (Maybe they talk about this in "Picard"?) I'd like a cool apartment over looking San Francisco Bay like Kirk in "Search for Spock". Who decides who lives there? Seems like you have to inherit it or earn it......sounds like a society I know! You also can't replicate large machines. If I need to go to planet X I can't replicate a shuttle and fly it there. I have to get passage on freighter, transports etc. (I.e. see Picards archeology Professor in "The Chase").

Anyway, it's incoherent. Its a feeling not a real idea. Can you tell I have no life and have thought a lot about this?

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May 23Liked by Stephen Robinson

I'm right there with you. I love figuring this shit out. Let's see. I think the problem with wineries, and Sisco's Family restaurant, is that they are clearly products of legacy and inheritance. which would be the first things on the chopping block of a post capitalist society. But they do provide value to the rest of the community and world on some level and as long as they're not getting rich off of those enterprises or opening franchises and expanding, there's something to be said about the value of history. I guess the question to ask would be "are either of those businesses exploitative"

OK now we're getting somewhere. Maybe instead of thinking of the Star Trek universe ethos as post Capitalist it's more helpful to think of it as post exploitative. When objective points to that, the use of money in certain circumstances is kind of a sidebar. And I will say again that DS9 Is an outlier both figuratively and literally. Analogous to the wild West or a silk trade outpost in the Byzantine near East. Currency would be necessary simply because some money of the cultures that intersect without outpost use some form of it. I would assume that some form of trade would still exist between Federation and non-federation cultures or even some other federation cultures that still use currency.

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Yes, it’s why we normally only see Starfleet personnel in a setting where there is a hierarchy (Captain Picard has a nicer room than Yeoman Johnson). Time on the holodeck is likely pre-booked/rationed, same as when you can go to Ten Forward (reservations made, etc).

The Picard winery is inexplicable to me.

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May 23Liked by Stephen Robinson

"The Picard winery is inexplicable to me."

Without going too far into the weeds making shit up to support my argument, the sense I get is that the winery is that it has historic value and legacy snd that the Picard family are stewards of that legacy. Like I was saying in an earlier comment, perhaps ST universe as 'post-exploitative' is a more accurate description than 'post-money'

Its also interesting that in the series 'Enterprise' the officer's digs are no better than those of the crew.

And LOL, I don't think crews quarters were ever shown on TOS

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May 21Liked by Stephen Robinson

Right. I think there is (or at least "was" at some point) a way to make it coherent. Whereby Starfleet itself is sort of a warrior/scholar/priesthood with high societal status but is somewhat "communist" within itself, the same way a monastery is "communist". Then when you retire you get some guaranteed package commensurate with rank. But that still leaves the Federation itself as an open question probably with some kind of market economy of some sort (even if not with "money").

Really, despite all the protestations that Starfleet isn't a military, this is basically a military show about a ship in a colonial (even if benevolently colonial) navy. But that doesn't sound so progressive. 😅

Anyway, I'll shut up.

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May 21Liked by Stephen Robinson

*"gold pressed latinum" sorry auto corrected to platinum.

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Oh and I'll say if anyone disagrees with me I'm totally down for a friendly discussion. I'm a complete Trek nerd! (Live long and prosper 😀)

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I can only speak to TOS but it seemed a very JFK/LBJ-era liberal show--racism would be overcome, the talk of crossing new frontiers, the glory of space exploration, and a united world at peace. I guess conservatives have tried to claim that ideology, but it was very liberal at the time (the contrast was the Goldwaterite ideals of laissez faire, individual freedom, racism may go away on its own, and military brinskmanship is the only way to stand up to evil). You hear a lot of conservatives today saying "I'd have been totally on board with JFK-era Democrats, but they moved far left since then". It's doubtful, considering we already know where the most recent right wing hero, Reagan, stood on the issues of the day, and it wasn't with JFK/LBJ, it was with Goldwater.

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I ❤️ Star Trek and I’m here for this fantasy future.

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Not/never mutually exclusive!😐

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Republic has always opposed truth and education. Millennia strong...

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Who radicalized Brianna Wu? When did she start breaking bread with with Jordan Peterson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

So sad to hear Wu has retreated into 'Intellectual Dork Web' views like 'progressives are like the Borg' ; next she'll be complaining about 'all those kids today and their canceling'.

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Good analysis, SER. Any show that's written by dozens of people is going to have shades of points of view, but Gene Roddenberry was promoting a world where humans had transcended race and creed and faction. I don't think the original series had quite gotten to the economics yet but he's the one who created TNG so clearly that was on his mind, too. That's the DNA of the Trek world.

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"but Gene Roddenberry was promoting a world where humans had transcended race and creed and faction"

yep, and he EXPLICITLY made that point

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Epic post SER! Serious golf 👏🏻

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Another of the Bari Weiss 'burn it all down' brigade. Who gets it mostly wrong.

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

She paints her "former movement" with a typically broad brush. There are always plenty of "Fuck The Police/Smash The State" folks to be found on both fringes. The terminology differs, but the thought is the same.

My own anecdote for the debate came yesterday in a Big Lots store. They were selling USA Flag T-shirts with a fresh new look. The Flag was of traditional design. The new twist was the star field and strips were in contrasting camouflage colors. Red, white, and blue were nowhere to be found. Not even the Thin Blue Line got any real estate. The sentiment may not be fully articulated by the purchaser, but the message is spotlight clear: It's time for an authoritarian regime under military discipline.

When I see unironic hammer and sickle merch sold in the box stores, I'll start worrying about the Progressive threat.

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

Awesome and Insightful as always

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

It always amazes me when MAGA thinks Star Trek, or the X-Men, or Captain America are bastions of conservative values. The ignorance of these people is truly flabbergasting.

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

My favorite Star Trek references to terrorism as a means to political power are Ben Sisko‘s interactions with the Maquis terrorists, especially Eddington.

“They died because you filled their heads with false hopes, sold them dreams of a military victory, when what they needed was a negotiated peace.”

“You know what I see out there, Mister Eddington? I see victims, but not of Cardassia or the Federation. Victims of you, the Maquis. You sold these people on the dream that one day they could go back to those farms, and schools, and homes, but you know they never can. And the longer you keep that hope alive, the longer these people will suffer.”

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I'm fairly certain she's never watched even one episode🙄 Gene Roddenberry was as progressive as you could get.

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May 17·edited May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

This is an excellent article, and that conclusion comes from a long-time Star Trek fan (who once saw Patrick Stewart on stage in the Pinter play "No Man's Land" -- he was awesome!). But I'm not comfortable with any analysis that makes such a cut-and-dried distinction between liberalism and progressivism. I prefer Edmund Fawcett's interpretation in his masterful history, LIBERALISM: THE LIFE OF AN IDEA. Fawcett believes that liberalism has historically been a coherent ensemble of mutually supportive values rather than a strict ideology. Some liberals may stress one value more than another; some of the relevant values may even potentially contradict or constrain each other. By this reading, progressivism is the variety of liberalism that honors the coherence of liberal values, but puts special stress on the value of equality. Since I consider myself both a progressive and a liberal, that's the construal that best fits my own beliefs.

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author

Thanks, and I agree with you. I was attempting to address the distinction between liberalism and progressivism that I’ve seen many liberals. I agree that it’s far more complex.

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Thanks for the recommendation. The book sounds good.

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We always get into trouble when we try for absolutes. All ethics are situational.

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only the Sith deal in absolutes

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May 17Liked by Stephen Robinson

In what situation is it ethically okay to discriminate against someone for their immutable characteristics?

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