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Title: Star Trek’s Federation : a Keynesian Post-Scarcity Utopia
Authors: Grech, Victor E.
Grech, Peter
Keywords: Star Trek fiction
Keynesian economics
Economic policy
Utopias in literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Science Fiction Research Association
Citation: Grech, V. E., & Grech, P. (2015). Star Trek’s Federation : a Keynesian Post-Scarcity Utopia. SFRA Review, 313, 35-46.
Abstract: ECONOMICS IS A social science that studies the factors which determine the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, and the various interactions between these factors. The term is derived from the Greek οἶκος (house) and νόμος (nomos, custom/ law). This is a critical field of study since goods, commodities and resources are always finite and the individual and the group to which the individual belongs must choose how to acquire and allocate these limited assets. Such choices may be influenced by central (such as state) planning, markets or prices and constitute an “economic problem” (Keynes 1930b), as will be explained. The discipline is commonly divided into two separate fields of study. Microeconomics examines the behaviour of the smaller and more basic economic elements such as individuals and their own markets. Macroeconomics studies the behaviour of entire economies that in turn consist of aggregates of individuals. National macroeconomic approaches have varied over the ages and are naturally expected to continue to change in the future. Star Trek is a popular science fiction franchise that comprises over 700 hours of viewing time, “a rolling and seemingly endless adventure, a continual reaffirmation of the Campbellian monomyth”. The series spans the 22nd-24th centuries and includes the United Federation of Planets, a polity of allied worlds, a “(l)iberal, post-capitalist, almost perfectly socialist utopian democracy that embraces a constitutional republic”. In this future most (if not all) of the major problems facing the human species have been resolved and the Earth has since been transformed into a human paradise, with […] a literate and compassionate population that has learned to appreciate life as a grand adventure”. The Federation practices a markedly different economic macroeconomic approach toward the end of the timeline depicted in the franchise when compared to the contemporary era. This paper will review the relevant origins of current economic theory in developed countries, limiting its purview to the works of the economists Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes. This is particularly appropriate as 2016 is Star Trek’s 50th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of Keynes’s death. This essay will also contrast extant economic practices with those depicted in the fictional Star Trek future. It will be shown that the Federation comprises a Keynesian post-scarcity economy, as averred by Keynes in his optimistic predictions. This paper will also demonstrate the contrasts that arise when members of the Federation, through a form of time travel, encounter contemporary individuals who are accustomed to capitalism. This paper will further depict the deliberately exaggerated differences between the Federation and the Ferengi economic systems since the latter constitutes a deliberately overstated and parodic version of capitalism. This paper will also consider the circumstances that lead to persistent inequality to this very day, shaping our society more on Ferengi lines than on those of the Federation. Reference will be made to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) since this authoritative work reviews broad historical global economic trends and suggests possible actions that may mitigate the current economic divides between individuals and nations.
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