Thursday, March 15, 2018

Money in Star Trek

In Trekkie circles there's a bit of a debate about money in Star Trek. Everyone can accept that the Federation does not have a monetary system by the time of The Next Generation. It's explicitly stated as such by various characters. What not everyone agrees on, however, is whether there was money during The Original Series. I'm firmly on the side that there was, mainly from lines said in the show.

One such example is in The Doomsday Machine where Kirk says, "Scotty, you've just earned your pay for the week" when Scott anticipates the request for phasers. In a culture without money, this makes no sense.

This is not to mention ANYTHING Harry Mudd did. Heck, in his first appearance, he convinced the women he was with that lithium miners would make good husbands because they were rich!

Let me tackle this little bit next. This is a scene from Star Trek 4 that many use to say that Kirk doesn't know how much $100 is, so he can't know what money is. Watch for yourself.

The store owner offers Kirk $100 for the glasses and Kirk's response is, "Is that a lot?" Keep in mind that Kirk is 300 years in the past. Would you know whether 2 shillings and 10 pence was a lot for something if you were in the American Colonies in 1718? I know that I wouldn't.

Finally, in Star Trek Generations, Kirk is found by Picard in the Nexus. They go into the house and Kirk remarks, "It's all right, it's my house. ...At least it used to be, I sold it years ago." If there was no money, Kirk wouldn't have "sold" the house. Given it away? Yup. Traded it? Could be. Sold it? Nope.

So at some point between the launch of the Enterprise B and the Encounter at Farpoint, some event occurred that moved the Federation away from money. I don't know what that could be, or how it came about, but something happened. It would have to have been something pretty drastic, though, since money became so foreign within just a couple of generations that people can't even wrap their head around the concept.

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  1. I'm not totally convinced that there is no longer money even in TNG. Picard tells the people from the 20th century that pursuit of financial gain is no longer a driving force. He never states that money no longer exists. Besides that we see the bridge crew playing poker (granted we could assume the chips are all just tokens and no money is exchanged in their friendly games...), but also in DS9 we see Federation officers playing dabo in Quark's where they gamble with latinum. How do they acquire latinum if there is no longer a form of currency?

    Not trying to poke any holes in your post and sorry if it seems like I'm being confrontational about it. More the musings I've had on the topic for some time that I find confusing. Sometimes it feel like whoever was continuity editor for the franchise was partially asleep at the wheel.

    1. I agree with you're points that there is money in the TNG timeline. The Federation, however, didn't have any. EVERYONE else did, but the Federation had, somehow, moved beyond it. That would make trade with other cultures really difficult, though. Everything would have to go on the barter system, which is probably why the Ferengi were the big bads in the first season. :)

    2. It's really almost like the "brokeass Federation" idea got shelved somewhere in the middle of season 2 or 3, or just got put so far in the background that everybody kinda just forgot about it. "Riker gets money or the equivalent thereof for his shoreleave on Risa. Because the story demands he can acquire a fertility idol for Picard. Who cares how, right?" Or, again, somehow O'Brian and Bashir afford to pay Quark for use of the dart board and holosuites. Maybe they do work out a bartering system I can just see Miles refusing to hand over 3 bottles of whiskey for 2 hours defending the Alamo, stating it is an unfair trade.

      Honestly, the more I think about it, the more I sort of want to see a detailed description of how exactly things like that work.

    3. I like how it's handled in Star Trek Online. You have what are called Energy Credits for the Federation. You use those to "replicate" items that you want. The more complex the item, the more energy credits it takes. To play Dabo in the game, you can bet Credits, but you're paid out in Latinum, so that could be a way for Quark to make a profit. He would have all of the Credits that he's built up from Starfleet playing Dabo, and he gets the Latinum back since they want to use the holosuites.

  2. So essentially it is like exchanging your money through Customs. I can get behind that. And energy credits helps explain using the replicator in your quarters. You are only allowed X credits per cycle, otherwise you might replicate stuff ad nauseum and drain resources, etc. Makes sense on both ends.

    1. Also, I think I hit the wrong button earlier, but I did happen to think of "The Royale" where Riker, et al, understand money and gambling but never state that they are aware of how much things should cost, even though Riker does seem to know how much is enough spread around to look like a big shot (though that could be learned from watching others gamble). Either way, the energy credits thing sounds more and more plausible and would serve as a base for an exchange rate for the Federation dealing with other cultures.

    2. And then you get people like me who only replicate what I really need at the time, so my account has over a million credits on it, plus a bunch a latinum because the occasional Dabo game is fun. :)

    3. I assume holodeck/holosuite sessions might be incorporated into your allotment of credits. Or at least the rental fee. But maybe I'm overthinking.

    4. Most likely you'd get X hours per week in the holodeck as part of your standard allotment. Otherwise, Barclay would have a HUGE bill at the end of the year.

    5. Unless there is some kind of allotted time blocks for the Holodeck to prevent overbooking.

      And are there official holodecks for work-related issues. What if Riker needs to give Deanna a bridge officer's test while Geordi is banging the holographic Dr. Brahms?

    6. Most likely they have one or two holodecks set aside for official use only, like the trail of Riker from "A Matter of Perspective" or some type of training.

  3. I still can't wrap my brain around Star Trek's assertion that money doesn't exist in the future. Everything in life has various levels of value and if you eliminate money, then everything is valued as equal.

    In a society where everything has equal value, nothing has any value.

    1. First, the Doomsday Machine. Kirk telling Scotty he earned his pay for the week doesn't necessarily mean he's getting paid money. It could just be a saying that lingered in the language even though it no longer has any meaning.

    We still use such phrases. We tell people to "hold their horses" when we want them to be patient and not leave, but horses haven't been a common mode of transport for 100 years.

    So use of that phrase doesn't necessarily mean money exists.

    2. The Lithium Miners in Mudd's Women. They were clearly working for money. I don't know when the first "no money in the future" thing started, but I don't remember anything said about it in TOS.

    You also forgot to mention the Trouble with Tribbles where Uhura was definitely planning to buy one before Cyrano Jones gives it to her.

    However, Star Trek IV is a bad example for proving that money existed in the 23rd century and you've made my point for me. If I went to England, I wouldn't know a pence from a pound and I don't know how the Euro works. Are there lower denominations like we have coins for partial dollars? So I can get on board with Kirk not knowing the value of $100.

    However, two moments in that scene strongly suggest money doesn't exist in the 23rd century. Immediately before going into the pawn shop, Kirk says, "They're still using money. We have to find some." This indicates there is no money in the future.

    Also after the dinner with Gillian, when the check comes, she says to Kirk, "Don't tell me they don't have money in the 23rd century."

    Kirk says, "Well, we don't."

    That's pretty clear.

    Even in the TNG era, Crusher, in Encounter at Farpoint, tells the vendor to bill her account on the Enterprise. So there is some form of currency.

    In a society without money, how does a Federation citizen travel to visit a society of one that does? How can O'Brien buy a drink at Quark's if he has no money?

    In DS9, Sisko's father owns a restaurant in New Orleans. How does that work in a moneyless society?

    All the people we have met in Star Trek are on ships where their needs are provided for and don't need money, but I don't think a highly intellectual man like Jean-Luc Picard is very in touch with John Q. Public living on Earth.

    So there's my rambling. I don't think I've proven anything other than Star Trek is wildly inconsistent with the issue.

    1. I take the Kirk lines in TVH as meaning "physical money", which many people today seem to be getting away from (which baffles me).

      I agree, though, it's very inconsistent and I don't think any real thought was put into it other than "Wouldn't this be nice?" Once you start digging into it, it breaks down.

  4. But even non-physical money is still money. He acts a though the concept is foreign.

    1. Unless you don't think of it that way. How many people that swipe their phone over something to pay think of it as actually costing money? And that's to say nothing of the Amazon convenience stores where you just walk about and they charge your account.

  5. I always looked at the antique store scene as Kirk understands the concept of money, but with different denominations of currency whether $100 was a lot of money 300 years ago, might not be something he knows. Within the federation money doesn't seem to exist, but there may be some kind of external currency, with so many other species using a currency based economy. Still the whole thing is far too vague.