Owning stuff is soooo hard — Trekonomics 5 – by Amanda S. Green.


Owning stuff is soooo hard — Trekonomics 5 – by Amanda S. Green.

That sound you just heard was the sound of a book being planted against the far wall. I’ve managed to get through Shrillary’s rewriting of the 2016 election, Lenin’s pile of written excrement and more without doing so. Who knew something talking about Star Trek would be the first book I’ve thrown across the room in a very long time? I knew it was coming. From the first page of Manu Saadia’s Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I knew I should look away, but I couldn’t.

After spending time explaining that the Trek universe has capital but not money, Saadia reminds us that those wonderful replicators aren’t really owned by those who use them. You remember the replicators. They can make you anything you want, as long as it isn’t something unique like a piece of art or that last bottle of wine from the Picard winery. But they can make you clothing, food, pretty much anything else you want. But you don’t own it. Very subtly, we’ve learned the truth – the state owns it.

Guess what, that pretty much means the state owns whatever you create using the replicator. Not that Saadia is going to come right out and say it. After all, that’s not the point of indoctrination. You don’t tell the sheeple the unvarnished truth. You tell them the wonderfully enticing parts and let them discover the darker side of life on their own, when it’s too late for them to do anything about it.

[C]apital, whether in the form of tools or machines or in the form of education or talent, does not yield any exchangeable value.

What? Isn’t this the opposite of the example Saadia gave earlier about that last bottle of Picard wine? Wait. Here comes the handwavium where the goal posts get moved again. You know, if this keeps up, those posts will be better traveled than most of us.

Now Saadia clarifies – or maybe simply muddies the water some more. You see, we’re talking about replicators. People don’t use replicators to create things that can be used to drive their personal capital. Remember, these are the enlightened folks of the Federation. They don’t sully their hands with currency (mainly because they threw out canon and uplifted the Federation in the whale movie). But then, Saadia seems to contradict himself:

You do not derive any excess wealth from the ownership of your home replicator.

Take this statement out of the Trek universe, place it into something written by Bernie Sanders or Vladimir Lenin. Now ask yourself this: what is “excess wealth”? Further, now Saadia says you own the very same replicator he said mere paragraphs earlier that you didn’t own. Which is it?

Confusion and obscuring of facts are wonderful tools to pull the wool over the eyes of the unwitting.

But the writing in circles and moving of goal posts continues. You see, according to Saadia, if you lived on a faraway outpost and had the only industrial sized replicator (and again, after saying no one owned their replicators, he says you own and operate it – Gawd, I had inconsistency), you’d have no reason to charge anyone else on your faraway planet money for the use of your replicator. Why? Because there is no money.

So, what about charging “in kind” for its use?

Well, according to Saadia, you wouldn’t do that. It’s not the way things are done in the Federation. After all, they’re really nice people who are willing to do whatever it takes to improve the lot of everyone in the Federation. Remember, they’d even be volunteering for their turn in the dilithium mines because that spirit of community is soooo strong.

But here’s the kicker – and the proof that, despite his previous comments to the contrary, the state owns the replicators. According to Saadia if you did do something so crass as to demand payment in kind for the use of your replicator, you’d probably find the courts acting to take it away from you.


Your replicator, located on your property and that is under your control and used for you enjoyment and survival. But, if you dare tell your neighbor he can use it if he does something in return, you will see the court swooping in and taking it away from you. But what if your neighbor abuses the privilege – sorry, the right – to use your replicator? Are you still obligated to let him do so? My guess would be yes. After all, you are an uplifted member of the Federation. You aren’t worried about such silly things like ownership, control, personal freedom.

In fact, “private ownership of capital (the replicator) implies service more than anything else.” Your cost, according to Saadia, is only time. Of course, this is a simplistic version of the same sort of argument you get when unions go on strike for higher wages or activists start demanding a “living wage” of $15/hour. They say it will only cost the business owner. They don’t think about the fact those costs will be passed on to the customer and on down the line. The end result is that cost increase will increase the amount of money needed to make that so-called living wage. But that reality doesn’t fit the narrative. Reality rarely does.

But it gets better. Going back a paragraph in the book and you get Saadia’s argument for why you wouldn’t want to own the replicator anyway. After all, ownership would mean you would be responsible for its operation and maintenance. “You must use your knowledge, your capital, to maintain the contraption.” It is a “burden” to you and a “service” to the community.

What. The. Fuck?

Using that same argument, why does anyone want to own their own home? Hmm, maybe they don’t in the Trek universe. Maybe all housing is owned by the Federation. That means no one would have to worry about finding a plumber when the toilets back up, etc.

Remember when Saadia said a program about women going about their daily lives would be boring? Maybe now we have our answer about why we never really saw what happened on a daily basis inside the Federation. Talk about boring. No one is inspired to do anything creative. Why would they? No one is encouraged to use their replicators to form something new and distinctive.

I am reminded of being behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of the old Soviet Union. Block after block of boring, bland buildings. Men and women walking along the streets who were more automatons than humans. They were beaten down. There was little joy seen in public. They didn’t dare. It wasn’t what was expected or encouraged. They had money, but it had little value. Value came on the black market, something it seems the Federation doesn’t have. Creativity behind the Iron Curtain had to be approved of by the State. If not, you faced everything from being denounced to being imprisoned to worse. But, on the black market, you could buy and sell just about anything. It was how many found a way to survive. Smuggling was how works of art, of literature found their way out of the country and into areas where they could be made public.

At least those living behind the Iron Curtain had options. Those in the Federation, I’m not so sure. At least not as long as they remained in Stepfordland.

You see, in the Federation, your first requirement is that you act to better humanity. Then, you can figure out how to better yourself but only so long as that doesn’t run contrary to bettering humanity. Or, as Saadia puts it, “the biggest challenge for every Federation citizen resides in how to allocate his or her talents, time, and capacity for empathy, and how to best contribute to the common wealth.”

Common wealth.

Which answers the unasked question of “if the state (Federation) owns your replicator, who owns what is made from it?” Common wealth. Service. Burden of ownership.

I don’t know about you, but I’m on Team Ferengi all the way. Hell, I might even ask for the occasional trade to the Klingons or even the Romulans. Life might be hard but it would never be boring and it pains me to say it but life in the Federation sounds like a lifelong snoozefest. Maybe being on a starship would help. After all, you do run across the occasional alien planet whose development you can influence despite the Prime Directive. But I have a feeling I’d be tempted to hijack the starship to get as far away from the Federation as possible.

I’ve had a blast reading and snarking this book. Well, I usually have had a blast. I’m not so sure looking at the mark on the wall where the book hit it this morning. But, other than a few variations on the same theme, there’s not a lot of new material. So, I’m going to finish this up over the next week or two. The new material is enough to keep me going and snarking. Since I’ve told Sarah I will not, never or ever, read anything written by Michelle Obama, I’m looking for the next book to snark. I will, however, return to Sowell first. I love me some Thomas Sowell writing.

Now to find coffee. It’s too early for booze – unfortunately.

188 thoughts on “Owning stuff is soooo hard — Trekonomics 5 – by Amanda S. Green.

  1. After this, you have so earned some good Sowell.

    I need to cogitate on all this for a bit and have some coffee before I come up with my insightful, witty comments. See you guys later.

  2. And it is too soon for Comey?

    Lesse. Biden. Clinton/Patterson. Everything else would require searching, and I don’t want that crud in this browser. Does DWS have anything? The new guys running the DNC?

    Could we ask you to play and review video games? I recall you liked Mass Effect. Would Fallout 76 or one of the Kingdom Hearts fit your taste?

    This column of yours is oriented towards books classified as nonfiction?

    1. I have the Comey book but I’m not sure after reading the intro if I can stomach it for long. I have considered the Clinton/Patterson book but only to make fun about the fact the first lady dies (wishful thinking on Clinton’s part?). As for Fallout 76, I’m hesitant on it. I’m not much into MMOs and that is how that particular game seems to be falling out. Honestly, before I try it, I will be doing AC: Odyssey, the new Tomb Raider and Beyond Good and Evil 2, among others. I’ll probably write those up after playing them, but not sure if I will do so here or elsewhere.

      As for the orientation of these posts, they started as geared to books, simply because it gave me a reason to indulge my reading habit. I know Sarah has said she would let me send her posts on other topics as well but, for now, I’m trying to make sure I keep my Thursday commitment to her covered.

      1. We just saw the Clinton/Patterson book yesterday when I picked up my wife from work. She glanced at the display, took a double take, and asked me which Clinton. I answered. Her response:

        “Not on a bet. No.”

        1. Oh, I’ll read it and review it for y’all, I just have two requirements:

          1: copy of the book. A physical copy, so it can be walled.

          2: a bottle of Glenmorangie, not less than 18 year variety. (you’re lucky, i’d love to have some 25)

    1. You, sir, have just sent me running to find not only booze but brain bleach. Are you trying to make me stop writing for ATH?

      1. Why would Barack and Michelle’s kids marry any of Biden’s kids? Or grandkids?

  3. How do we know the Federation is a mythical, made up, Universe? They don’t have a black market! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a civilization that doesn’t have some sort of a black market. If the government tries to restrict a thing, and someone in that society wants that thing, there will be someone who works to provide it. Heck, even things that are easily available have a black market if someone doesn’t like the quality or price of it as available.

    1. Which is why, before they redid canon, we had the likes of Harry Mudd and others. We see the black market operating outside the Federation but, so far at least, Saadia seems to think it wouldn’t exist inside the Federation. As I said, I wanna be a Ferengi.

      1. Some have said that NG/DS9 and the movies are products of Federation propaganda thus they wouldn’t show evidence of the Federation’s Black Market.

        As for Harry Mudd, the real Federation Black Marketeers likely would not accept him as “one of them”. He was a con-man and the Black Marketeers need repeat business to survive.

        On the other hand, Harry Mudd might have been working for (or supported by) the Federation’s Security Police. After all Harry’s victims might not trust the real Black Marketeers to “deliver the goods”. 😈

      2. Sure we did; in the first movie, McCoy’s gift to Kirk was Romulan ale…. and the first words out of Kirk’s mouth were “Bones, this stuff is sooo illegal….”

        1. That was Wrath of Kahn:

          With a flourish, Bones pulls out a bottle of blue liquid.


          Romulan Ale! Why, Bones, you know this stuff is illegal –


          I only use it for medicinal purposes. I got aboard a ship that brings them in a case, every now and then, across the Neutral Zone.

          Now, don’t be a prig…

          (reading the label with difficulty)

          Twenty-two, eighty-three…


          Yeah, well it takes this stuff a while to ferment.




          Here. Give me.

      3. Oh, tangent – apparently they were able to get the cast of DS9 (most if not all) to show up in the new episodes arc of Star Trek Online. Even the guy who played Odo!!!!! And Garak!!!

        And one of the cast plays the game so she was like NO I WANT TO REPRISE MY ROLE FOR FREE.

        Producers: but..

        actress: YAAAAY

    2. with the number of times we’ve seen people chasing after stolen artifacts, and the fact that Fajo’s T-Varon disrupter was illegal, we do know that they do in fact have a black market, and there is somehow a means to pay for these things.

      1. Judging by all the side business Quark does, there’s gotta be a black market somewhere.

        1. Digression: You know, every time I see your name in notifications I keep wanting to read it as “Chulik”–the ogre-like humanoids of the Dray Prescott series (one of my favorites, probably the last great “Sword and Planet” series).

          1. I have read those, but never thought of that. It’s a Ukrainian surname.

            1. Interesting. I would have thought it sounded more like a native American name. But then I speak awful French with a German-New Yorker accent that invariably gets French speakers falling over themselves to talk to me in English.

                  1. That particular cajun got to take a trip to the Riviera and when in the French speaking area was told “You speak old, dead, French!”

          2. “Alan Burt Akers” was actually British writer Kenneth Bulmer, one of those guys who never seemed to develop a following on this side of the Atlantic.

            I really wish he’d written more of the crosstime series he’d started back in the ’60s (The Key to Irunium, etc.) but the fantasy stuff apparently sold better…

        2. Combine that with the fact that Sisko was pretty insistent about keeping Quark on the station and that he generally lets Quark get away with all of his petty crimes, and I think that Starfleet knows that there’s a black market and also knows that it’s necessary to keep society functioning.

          1. Sisko saves the Federation from economic Depression! Partners for Prosperity with the Ferengi!

          2. Quark is apparently back on DS9 in Star Trek Online for a story arc.

            …*notices the popup description housemate put for the game* : “Fly ships into things.”

            …I DID THAT ONLY … okay no. Ramming speed is a perfectly valid tactic. I’m an Engineer my ship can take it!

            (muttermutter patchfasterdamnit)

            1. Okay, having logged into the game SPECIFICALLY just to walk around the new DS9, I went SQUEE to see Odo in the security office, Garak in his shop, and Quark at Quark’s Bar (and it’s no longer an instance zone, yaaay) – and graphics wasn’t the only thing they updated. The Housemate is telling me about the Gamma Quadrant storyline and says it’s seriously good, and they really pulled out all the stops for the music.


        3. Judging by the fact that the Maqui somehow had weapons (and we know that the Federation wasn’t illicitly supplying them, since the Federation was in fact actively trying to shut down the group), there’s a black market.

          Also, wasn’t there a DS9 episode that involved O’Brian infiltrating an organized crime family (I only saw about two minutes of it)? What exactly were the criminals doing if there was no black market?

    3. Original Series Trek had some sort of black market, implied at least. That’s how Bones kept getting bottles of Romulan Ale even though it was illegal in the Federation.

        1. Did you see where some guy figured out how to make “aged whiskey” (I think it was) in record time? the wonders of chemistry!

        2. Of course not. Alcohol is bad for you. And anything that is bad for you is not good. Hence “illegal”. Federation replicators all have safety interlocks to prevent replicating illegal alcohol and only permitting approved “synthohol”. (Yes, I’m mixing my references. 😉 )

            1. I suspect those particular safeties kept breaking on the original enterprise with no explanation…

            2. Yah. Trying to keep Scotty from getting real Scotch whisky – *that*’s going to work . . . not.

        3. Depends on how good.

          Worf replicats something particularly strong in one episode. I can’t remember the name of the drink, but it was in an episode in which the Enterprise rescues a group of low tech colonists, and then gets directed to another group of colonists that survive via cloning. Worf has the replicator produce a particularly strong drink in order to impress one of the low tech colonists that’s onboard the Enterprise.

          IIRC, the fiery young woman stereotype colonist character promptly complains. That’s just a couple of minutes before she talks Riker into letting her visit his quarters to “wash”.

    4. Except… they did. I remember in Star Trek II(?) McCoy giving Kirk a bottle of Romulan Ale that he did not acquire via legal channels. Which sounds like a black market to me.

  4. I am reminded of being behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of the old Soviet Union. Block after block of boring, bland buildings. Men and women walking along the streets who were more automatons than humans. They were beaten down. There was little joy seen in public. They didn’t dare. It wasn’t what was expected or encouraged.

    Back when I was in the Air Force and going through Russian language training (during that brief interval when the AF Russian language school of the Defense Language Institute was sited at Lackland AFB) we were shown a film, made by the Soviet Union to show how great things were in the Soviet Union. After the film we were invited to comment. My comment?

    In the entire film not. one. person. ever. smiled.

    1. Yep. I was never more glad to be back into something resembling an open market in my life as I was after six weeks behind the Iron Curtain. For someone in her early 20’s, it was an eye opening experience. Later trips only served to reinforce what I saw and learned on that trip.

  5. Well, look at how much most of the people own in Trek… basically, nothing, Proof its a socialist dictatorship.

    They try to say people don’t own anything, or don’t want for anything and there’s no means of exchange. What happens when some Odd decides he should own the Picard wineries instead of Picard? How do they let that family stay in possession of such a valuable piece of property, on Earth no less? Do they take the guy off for ‘treatment’?

    1. Guys and gals on U.S. Navy ships and subs have more belongings that any crewperson on a Federation ship.

  6. So his entire book can be boiled down to “The United Federation of Planets is a communistic society populated entirely by non-humans.” They must all be non-human, because humans most assuredly don’t behave as he seems to require them to behave.

    1. Genetic engineering, probably. At some point in the past some group took over and decided to finally create a working communist society. As it can not work with “wild” humans they created a virus which would push itself into the human genome and change a few things, then used it to create a pandemic. There was this flu everybody seemed to get. Then the children being born to them were… different.

      1. Well, pretty clearly the multi-species genetic remapping virus that “conditioned” all the Federation’s founding species to become mindless colony insects is the same thing that escaped across into the Klingon Empire, causing the “We don’t discuss that” feature changes of TOS Klingons. No wonder the Klingons in TOS hated the Federation. The only thing that saved the Romulans was the rigid enforcement of the Neutral Zone. Maybe that’s what the Romulan War was really about.

        And matching this observation up with ST-canon-as-propaganda, it had to have been implemented in the Federation by Data’s pop, Dr. Noonien Soong.

        1. And the Borg is just the future version of the Federation that Q brought back in time for the lolz.

        1. Maybe the future humans are the other survivors of the Genetics war. Khan and his people were meant to be the ‘leaders’ and the rest of the human ‘schmucks’ are the future generations of the humans that were supposed to be the ‘followers.’ That right there might explain why the humans of the Federation are sheep, with the oddballs that think or don’t fit in escaping to Star Fleet or to mining colonies.

          1. And Khan and his people were the losers in a struggle between the would-be leaders.

            IE The Human Masters of the Federation are genetically the same as Khan & his people. 👿

            1. And Kirk is an in-the-closet descendant of the losing Khan faction of losing supermen who missed the escape, living for generations under the radar of the winners.

              This explains why Kirk, rather than transporting Khan et al. directly to the Tantalus Prison Colony, puts Benedict Cumberbatch and his entire ubermensch crew down on Ceti Alpha Three.

              1. I look forward to reading the collaboration. Once you scrape off the serial numbers. 0;)

    2. Yeah. The society he describes strikes me as being like the societies in Cyberpunk; the Common Man would tolerate it for maybe three years.

      1. yeah, the authoritarian government with people running around with cybernetic modifications and military-grade weapons kinda makes me go uhmmmm… that wouldn’t be a stable scenario for very long.

      2. I dunno. Give folks their bread and circuses and it can last much longer. We are finding this out now.

        1. If one wants to build a lasting tyranny, “Brave New World” is a better model than “1984”

          1. Give em their TV, their video games, etc. Make sure that there isnt interest in old things like reading. They not only will not care that their life is a lie and they are nothing more than slaves to the ruling caste but they will push back against anyone that wishes to return to freedom

          2. Yeah, if you want to forgo all the pleasures of, well, tyranny. Brave New World is tyrannized by people cheerfully sacrificing their own lives and happiness and engaging in rigorous self-control in order to let the masses live in excess and mindlessness. Yes, there have been ascetic tyrants, but they lived to compel others to asceticism as well. Or at the very least, to hold them in profound contempt.

  7. > I’ve had a blast reading and snarking this book.

    Yay! I was hoping you’d get a kick out of it…

    > I’m looking for the next book to snark.

    I could send you a copy of “Man of the House” by Tip O’Neill. It shows that the Deep State was well established by the early 1970s, and Barry, Hillary, & Co. were pretty much business as usual, operating in the dark back when “news” was carefully curated by co-conspirators. O’Neill bragged shamelessly about antics that were treasonable, even by the definition used by 18 U.S. Code § 2388. All back-slapping hilarity by O’Neill’s account…

    Or “Games People Play” by Eric Byrne. It was a popular-psychology book back in the early 1960s, somewhat dated now, but still quite useful. Whenever I see virtue signaling, triggering, etc. nowadays, I’m always reminded of Byrne’s book, which is useful for recognizing a lot of the ritualized behavior some people persist in, even when it’s counterproductive.

    Or, if you want, I could send you both… there might not be a whole blog post in them, but they might be useful for supporting material.

  8. Own is such an outdated concept. The true cognoscenti in the hierarchy know that it’s all about control. As in who really decides what can and cannot be done with the “common” wealth of the Federation. The old Soviet Union is a classic example. Who decides? Who sets the five year planning goals? And who gets driven around in the best imported automobiles to the restricted stores and relaxes from the massive burden of decision making at a humble dacha on the coast?

    1. Ah. The difference between “own” and “control” is the difference between “socialist/communist” and “fascist.”

      1. One of them.

        Another is whether you believe that I have more in common with a Unix Admin living in the EU than I do the guy next door who makes a doing something with underground cable.

    2. Illustrated by the discoveries of Thorby Baslim, excuse me Thor Bradley Rudbek of Rudbek at Rudbek, in “Citizen of the Galaxy”. Rather to his dismay, he found that he technically owned lots of stuff, but controlled very little. Yes, fictional, but delightfully illustrative.

  9. These utopian idiots never seem to think of how you will convince people to do the dirty jobs if there’s no money. Who’s going to fix your replicator if it breaks? Of course there would be SOME people who just enjoyed such a thing enough to go around doing so, but there wouldn’t be enough, so who is going to fill in the gap?

    Who is going to perform medicine? Again, there are people with a true vocation for it, but if you don’t get any personal, non-emotional benefit from it, how many will be willing to do some of the nasty things that medical people do as part of their jobs?

    And, of course, one could list similar things all day long.

    1. Recall the joke (retold by Reagan) about the Soviet couple who had managed to save up for a car and placed an order?

      “Your car will be ready for you… in ten years.”
      “Morning or afternoon?”
      “Ten years. What’s it matter?”
      “Plumber is coming in the morning.”

    2. I’ve written a number of books for Steve Jackson Games. It gives me a lot of satisfaction, but I never would have actually finished a book if I didn’t have a publisher offering to pay me; without that I could always find reason to do another revision. And discussing what specific sort of book the cash customers are willing to pay for is a big help in focusing my creative energies.

      1. I wrote some stuff for White Wolf and they were shocked i wanted to playtest some of the stuff for miniatures rules…

        1. You know, that would explain a few things about some of the White Wolf games I’ve played.

          1. A lot of rpgs originated out of tabletop wargaming, the sort of the H.G. Wells wrote rules for. But White Wolf is mainly an improv analog of readers’ theater. Having miniatures at all is unusual.

            1. Nope, the minis were for the sci-fi game, which also had a minatures combat game that came out a bit later. (this also explains the doofy weapon designs in said RPG, they were designed to look cool on minis)

    3. That’s the other thing- do the replicator repairmen pick and choose who they want to work for, or is there a centrally assigned schedule? What’s to keep a voluntary repairman from giving preference for the people promising a genuine bottle of Picard vinyard’s finest in return for a faster visit?

      1. Oh, it’s all voluntary – and I’m sure if the repairperson just happens to voluntarily go fix the Federation High Council’s nephew’s replicator instead of yours on a given day, that’s just random chance, not a voluntary choice to allocate the repairperson’s valuable skills and services in return for marketable “favors”.

        And if you don’t voluntarily use your replicator to provide enough for the people who “need” it’s output, especially the Federation High Council’s nephew, whose “need” for replicable intoxicants seems never-ending and who has broken his own replicator again, you could find yourself “volunteering” for a stretch in the dilithium mines.

          1. Of course they tell you that in UFP’s “Boldly Go” propaganda – how else would they get underinformed gullible starry-eyed young Feds to volunteer to go dig holes in inhospitable places as part of their “Federation Civic Duty” obligation?

            This also explains why anyone would become a Starfleet redshirt: “Hey, it might be dangerous, but it’s safer than the dilithium mines.”

        1. Even if the Federation High Councillor couldn’t or wouldn’t do that, the replicator repairman still prefers to visit him first, because the Federation High Councillor can DO FAVORS FOR HIM. Including just choosing to “give him a token gift” as part of “hospitality.”

          Barter is incredibly natural — the other great apes do it, too. There is no way to kill it.

        1. well, my old Texas neighbor had “The Washing Machine That Killed Maytag”, so I am guessing it might say Maytag, but it will be just a label on the Whirlpool Galactic conglomerate’s list of brands.

  10. When I heard that Juanita Broaddrick’s book about her issues with Billy boy had suddenly become unavailable after five months up on Amazon I tried all my usual sources thinking to send you a copy. So far no joy.
    If I do stumble across a copy I’ll send it along, e-book I’m afraid, though with your penchant for walling I fully understand your preference for print.

      1. Apparently the kerfuffle over the book at Amazon has been resolved.

        Given the immense power that Amazon has over us I always tend towards paying attention to such things as reviews and whole books that suddenly disappear.

    1. The author is probably one who thinks that the goal in life is to live in a high-priced condominium with “people” to take care of all the maintenance and what not.

    2. Absolutely! That burden weighs so heavily upon we your betters that we can find no reasonable argument that we should not get a few simple perks to compensate for how we care so very much for those lesser beings.
      You know, just the basics: gated communities, armed bodyguards, imported delicacies, and lavish parties which after all are just opportunities for we the special folk to network and commiserate on the efforts required of us.
      Parody? Well yes, but I’ve actually met more than one of these slugs who really do think like that.

  11. It sounds like this is one of those science fiction futures that descend from the ideas of Auguste Comte. This is the man who coined the word “altruism.” Ayn Rand has gotten a lot of criticism for her denunciation of altruism, but in Comte’s definition, which is what she was referring to, it merits denunciation: Comte once wrote, for example, that Jesus’s saying “Love your neighbor as yourself” showed that Jesus had no moral understanding, because a moral, altruistic person would not love themself at all, but would do everything for the good of others. Comte spent a lot of his time writing about the society of the future, where the Religion of Humanity would teach people to devote their entire lives to selfless service, without a thought for personal pleasure or happiness—he even planned out the specific regional districts his ideal future world would be divided into. So in a sense he was one of the first science fiction writers. . . .

    (But he wouldn’t have approved of interstellar travel, I think. He also wrote that scientific inquiry into the composition of celestial bodies should be banned, because it would never be possible to investigate it. The first research on spectroscopy was taking place during his life, by the way.)

    1. “Comte spent a lot of his time writing about the society of the future, where the Religion of Humanity would teach people to devote their entire lives to selfless service, without a thought for personal pleasure or happiness”

      Sometimes I wonder if people like Comte had ever met any actual human beings. How does someone live, especially long enough to learn how to write (assuming here), and still have such a complete lack of understanding of his fellow human beings?

      1. There was a big wave of that sort of moral thinking starting in the late 18th century. You have Kant saying that morally worthy conduct means doing your duty out of respect for the concept of duty as such, and dismissing anything based on prudence or inclination as having nothing to do with morality (for example, if you risk your life to save a friend, it’s not morally praiseworthy, because your inclination is to prefer your friend to live). You have Bentham and Mill saying that moral action maximizes the utility of humanity as a whole, and you get to consider your own utility, but only as a tiny proportionate share not discernibly different from zero. You have Comte teaching total altruism (though Mill was quick to soften this to include ordinary good will, saying that total self-sacrifice was too much to expect). You have Schopenhauer teaching that human life is pure suffering and the only virtuous course is to devote yourself to relieving the suffering of others. I have no idea where all of this came from, but it was all over Europe in that era.

        1. You have Schopenhauer teaching that human life is pure suffering and the only virtuous course is to devote yourself to relieving the suffering of others.

          …Um, was that supposed to imply going around murdering people?

          1. That conclusion seems to be rare, whether among Christians who think life is a vale of tears and a testing ground for heaven, Buddhists who think existence is suffering, Stoics who think the greatest virtue is self-mastery in a cruel world, or modern philosophers with strange theories of all kinds. There’s always some reason that they don’t draw what might seem to be a logical conclusion.

            1. Based on the phrasing of your original comment, I honestly wasn’t sure he hadn’t gone there.

    2. No “personal pleasure or happiness”? Auguste Comte apparently didn’t know squat about people.

      1. In fact, Comte also provided a list of sciences, which included mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, and sociology—but not psychology, because the study of individuals was not legitimate science and invited an improper ethical emphasis on personal desires. So he actively didn’t want to know about people. Your whole purpose as a human being was to do your duty to the collective human organism, as if you were a bee or a termite.

  12. Two things.

    Thing the First, Saadia doesn’t want to admit to a black market for the same reason that Socialists/Communists don’t want to openly admit to a black market. By definition, if there is a black market, that means that the state isn’t providing all the needs/wants of the people. Frankly, the reality is that all too often, the black market is the ONLY thing that is providing a lot of the basic needs of the people.

    Thing the Second, The Ferengi are a strawman for Capitalists. “Look at these vile creatures. This is what Capitalists are like!” But when you really look at them, Ferengi business practices aren’t really all that bad. Rule of Acquisition number 17: “A contract is a contract is a contract… but only between Ferengi” basically means, don’t break contracts (since we are all Capitalists, and therefore “Ferengi”) I could go further, but you get the picture, so why waste pixels. The ways they go about making Ferengi creepy and evil, usually have little to nothing to do with Capitalism. Things like their treatment of women, odious mannerisms, theft, etc. Note, their treatment of women is a direct poke, as the Left has been calling the Right (Capitalists) sexist for as long as I can remember (probably longer).

    1. A black market implies a market failure. That we have black markets in so-called “capitalist” systems reveals that they are not completely free markets. As to whether that is good or bad is another matter. While, perhaps, the black market in marijuana reveals a failure, a black market in *cathinones might be the better thing. (When the folks who thought Chernobyl was a reasonable idea look at something and go, “Oh crud, that’s WAY too dangerous!”…)

      1. I’ve never really figured out the drug thing. The libertarian / capitalist part of my brain says, “Hey, people should decide for themselves, and besides, the market should take care of it.” The “evil” part of my brain says, “Hey, Zombies… cool! If people are stupid enough to kill themselves to provide me with real-life Zombie(ish) entertainment, who am I to judge?” Note: we’ve had a few instances down here in Florida. Not REAL zombies (I hope), but naked people running around trying to eat people, which is close enough in my book. The logical part of my brain (hopefully the biggest part, which is more realist and less idealist… and less evil) just throws up it’s tiny little brain-hands in exasperation and cries “Why would people DO this to themselves… this is why we can’t have nice things!”

    2. How Dare The Federation criticize the Ferengi’s treatment of women!!!

      That’s their Culture and all Cultures Are Equal!!!!!! 😈

    3. The Ferengi treatment of women on its face makes no sense (which they point out in a later DS9 episode, where the Nagus starts implementing reforms). If their primary motivation is profit, why deprive half of the population from the ability to earn and consume, because you’re cutting your customer base in half.

    4. I’m not the first to observe this, but if you want a creepy little thought exercise, substitute the word “Jews” for “Ferengi” in STTNG canon and observe how their overall treatment ends up looking like Nazi antisemitic propaganda.

      1. Hmm… (looks at Rules of Acquisition and the Torah)… Nope!

        I get your point. A lot of the anti-Ferengi stuff sure does sound similar to the antisemitic propaganda by the Nazis. But doesn’t a LOT of the anti-this-or-that-culture stuff sound similar?

        1. And to be somewhat fair, it absolutely shifted a lot the further away TNG/DS9 moved from Roddenberry’s direct control – see the Ferengi “Evil Capitalists with Whips” in TNG season 1 vs. Starfleet Lt. j.g. Nog in DS9.

          1. Ah, yes. The Ferengi energy whips. I always wondered how the sights worked (they were *ranged*) weapons, as I recall.

            I remember seeing the pilot before hearing anything about the show bible. I didn’t need any hints about the villains, though. The moment I heard the Big Bads called by the epithet used in the Middle East to refer to those evil white men…

  13. The very first thing I want to know about a replicator is whether it obeys the basic mass-energy conservation laws. As in: bottle of wine out requires water and sand (plus other stuff) in. If you want the Enterprise out, you need structural material ingredients like fritzonite and explosium…lots of them…in.

    Otherwise, to me you’re not talking science fiction at all, you’re talking magic and fantasy, and you might as well be discussing the engineering properties of air castle materials.

    And if someone is going to throw around vague, poorly defined abstract terms like “exhangeable value” and “excess wealth”, excuse me, but those are intellectual soporofics and have the principal effect of putting your brain to sleep. On casual inspection, it appears that the author’s brain was thoroughly anaesthetized and the product is a mixture of incoherent rambling and indigestible stodge. Gah. No.

    On the basis of this review, I consider “Trekonomics” to have negative value and to be well worth avoiding.

      1. Of course not. I’m married, and have/had children. There is no “excess wealth”.

    1. It could be that it would be possible to replicate things without feeding it mass, but the energy cost to do it would be yuuuuuugely prohibitive.

        1. “Oh, they’re not ‘using’ all these asteroids at all in their quaint little pre-warp civilization anyway – heck, they can hardly even get remote probes out to them at their current tech level, so us taking…. er, cleaning up all this planetary formation debris won’t impact their society at all, nor be a violation of the Prime Directive. We’ll just clean up this little asteroid belt for them to feed the ravenous maw of the UFP’s replicator addiction.”

      1. You know, even with a pound of matter and a pound of anti-matter; that’s still only two pounds converted to energy and then converted back into two pounds of stuff. Ah! That’s why the Federation works. Nobody has any stuff, so they don’t need to worry about where to put their stuff, or what stuff they need to take. (Thanks George!)

        1. Where’s the free anti-matter coming from? Something isn’t adding right. (conservation laws = accounting, thank you Dr. Feynman)

  14. Well, according to Saadia, you wouldn’t do that. It’s not the way things are done in the Federation. After all, they’re really nice people who are willing to do whatever it takes to improve the lot of everyone in the Federation. Remember, they’d even be volunteering for their turn in the dilithium mines because that spirit of community is soooo strong.

    I’m reminded of a quote (by a Ferengi, natch) that goes a long way toward explaining Saadia’s mind-set here.

    Quark: Let me tell you something about Hu-mons, Nephew. They’re a wonderful, friendly people, as long as their bellies are full and their holosuites are working. But take away their creature comforts, deprive them of food, sleep, sonic showers, put their lives in jeopardy over an extended period of time and those same friendly, intelligent, wonderful people… will become as nasty and as violent as the most bloodthirsty Klingon. You don’t believe me? Look at those faces. Look in their eyes.

    Saadia and his ilk have probably never experienced deprivation of any sort, and his impression of the populace of the Federation are all people who have also not experienced deprivation and so happily take their turn in the mines because happy little brain-washed hu-mons are willing to work in the mines as long as they get their pampered creature comforts on schedule.

  15. As Frank Zappa pointed out, “Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.” Not only that, but people like to own stuff that is better/cooler than other people- even the wokest Bernie Bro is probably carrying the most hippest of phones, wearing the hippest of clothes, and all of which cost far more than the equivalent basics from Walmart.
    Replicators won’t change that, no more than the availability of inexpensive luxury good has.

    1. It’s not just pure positional status competition either. It never is. It’s why every time I hear “We don’t *want* everyone to be able to go to college! What value would a degree have without being a rare distinction?” it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

      We like to own things because we like to have tools to solve our problems and support our existence. Because we like to have control over our lives and environments. Try to deny people this, and you’re denying them independence and ownership of their own lives.

      (In the above example we like to learn things because learning things teaches us how to *do* things. How to solve our problems. (Or is just fun, clarifying, and enlightening.) It doesn’t have to be some zero-sum status scramble, and in a healthy nation it wouldn’t be.)

      1. ” . . . we like to learn things because learning things teaches us how to *do* things . . . ”

        Can’t have that. If people figured out how to do things for themselves, they wouldn’t need we ‘experts’ to figure/do thing for them. Then where would we be?

  16. The lesson here is that if you can’t even make socialism work in a fictional universe where people don’t have normal human desires, then it just plain doesn’t work.

  17. People like to own stuff for a variety of reasons, including the use of the stuff and the itch to collect. I enjoy my TV set, and don’t much care it’s not top of the line, nor do I care what others think of it.

    Suggestions for the next book:
    Walkaway by Cory Doctorow. (This may be too difficult after Trekonomics.)
    The Transparent Society by David Brin (kind of curious to see what he says)
    Or maybe go back to the grand daddy of capitalism:
    The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

    1. I read Walkaway; it was a Prometheus Award nominee. I voted against it. There’s a scene where the viewpoint characters have just come to live among the “walkaways,” and they set down the things they’ve brought with them to get something done. When they come back, they find that everything they’ve brought is gone, and that there are no arrangements to find it, or find the person who took it, and get it back to them; they should just print more. Well, fine, but I value my specific indoor cat, and my hundred shelf feet of books, and my desktop that I have set up to suit my preferences, and my shelf of spices, and various things that I’ve been given by other people over time, and I would be seriously aggrieved to have someone “walk away” with them. . . .

      1. Oh yes, the kitty especially.

        In 2010 our house was broken into and burglarized while we were visiting family. When we got back and discovered the mess, the first thing I noticed was the open door into the garage, and door to the back of the garage. Moments later an orange streak blurred past, and a burden lifted that I hadn’t even consciously realized was there — I’d been afraid that the cat had gotten out, or been injured by the burglars. Stuff I could get over, but if someone hurt my cat…

        And even of the stuff that was taken or destroyed, I find that I was (and to a degree still am) most upset about what had sentimental value. Most of it was garage sale stuff, but there were a few things given to me by friends and family, and it hurt to lose that.

  18. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this (haven’t had a chance to get through all the comments), but the Federation citizens would *have* to have money if they are interacting with any other civilization that has money, such as the Ferengi.

    And the writer of this book is completely wrong that there is no value in products of the Federation, as Picard has frequently made trades on planets that were assuming a form of coin would allow them to transact with the Enterprise.

    The amount of handwavium in the book has exceeded the weight of the book itself and therefore shall fall to the center of the earth.

  19. The thoroughly evil Mr. Houst sneaks into Amanda’ s inner sanctum while she sleeps and plants copies of “Becoming”, “Michelle Obama: Speeches on Life, Love, and American Values”, and “Michelle Obama in her Own Words: The Views and Values of America’s First Lady”; hiding them inside covers of Thomas Sowell’s, “Discrimination and Disparities”, “Basic Economics”, and “The Quest for Cosmic Justice.”

      1. The chance to catch her pre-caffeinated with her mental guards down. Especially if I stick book marks past the intro pages so she thinks she’s picking up where she left off the previous time. It’s insidious! Besides, I’ve gotten fairly good at regluing covers back onto the spines of books since it seems lately publishers have been using cheaper brands of glue.

        1. any tips on regluing the spines? I’ve got stuff from the 90’s that’s falling apart after a couple of reads. Book of the month selections from my Dad’s childhood are still going strong.

          1. I’ve found that plain old white Elmer’s glue has enough flexibility to hold up well. I like to take the stack of pages and put them in a wood vise to square them up. Then apply a thin layer of glue using a small scraper, and then a strip of gauze on top of that. Once that’s dry, take the cover and treat the same, only with just enough more glue to go through the gauze. Put the spine firmly in place (you may have to tamp it a bit to get a good contact everywhere) and use the wood vise to hold it there until it dries.

            I’ve tried sewing a leather or plastic jacket on in addition to the gluing; but I’m not satisfied with the end results. (Probably because I suck as a tailor.)

            Superglues I found were too brittle, even the ones with rubber content. Same problem with wood glues. Hot glue cools too quickly and you can never get a thin enough liquid layer all the way down a spine before the other end was solidified. Something like a hot fish/hoof glue might work, and probably was used in early book binding; but also happens to be highly edible to certain pests. I haven’t tried those double sided adhesive strips with the thin layer of foam in the middle I found in Home Depot; they may be promising depending on the permanence of the adhesive.

    1. You, sir, are tempting the fates. I don’t know whether to simply stop doing the snarks or treat you to some of the really abhorrent writing samples I have come across over the years — samples guaranteed to be bad enough to make your eyes bleed and your brains leak out your ears. VBEG

      1. You know, bad writing samples, and why they’re bad, if not self evident, might be educational.

        And I’m working on making better villains than the horrible portrayal of Lex Luthor from the Batman versus Superman movie.

    2. The lovely Amanda awakes the next morning to discover a particularly large fire in one of her fireplaces…

      1. …the horrible portrayal of ___ from the Batman versus Superman movie.

        Fill in the blank with anything that was in the BvS movie.

        What a massive waste of data storage (like any other movie these days, I don’t think BvS ever saw film).

        1. You know, the most unintentionally hilarious trailer I ever saw was for that movie. Superman has Batman tied up. He goes to unmask him. He lifts off the hood and reveals…Ben Affleck. At which point Superman gets this “WTF?” look on his face, and I think, “Yeah, Supes, I don’t get it either.”

          1. Lex in particular. I didn’t see the movie itself, but the trailers had Lex featured prominently. In most of his appearances the last few decades, he’s a ruthless and incredibly competent amoral businessman. He’s the kind of guy that will come to you with a deal that will help you, or that you have to take – not because he’s holding anything over you, but because he’s genuinely promising to help you with something that you *need*, for very non-sarcastic reasonable rates – and yet you’ll still feel dirty and used when you find out what *he* got out of the deal. He’s the kind of man that can intimidate you without raising his voice. He’s a normal man with no superpowers, and yet supervillains are quite willing to treat him as an *equal* (as much as they treat anyone as an equal).

            The Batman vs. Superman version of Lex, as seen in the trailers, was nicknamed “Lex Zuckerberg” by a friend of mine.

            1. He basically played Lex as the Joker, as someone in it for lolz and chaos over the ruthless super-genius portrayed in the comics.

  20. In the Trek universe what is it that motivates Wesley Crusher to move out of his mother’s basement? Or maybe that’s why we hate him so. He’s a suck up who makes everyone else (all the slackers) look bad.

  21. Hmph. Sounds like this book used more handwavium than common sense. The sad part being that you could do a decent study of a society where the cost of production of most goods has been driven to a trivially low level. (Call it Amazon Ultra-Prime. For a subscription of $5,000/year, you can have anything Amazon sells delivered to your doorstep. No further charges).

    It has some interesting implications for a culture.

    1. This was the subject of a story in Astounding Science Fiction, “Business as Usual, during Alterations.” The author was quite clever about its economic implications and the characterization was entertaining.

      1. Thanks for the reference to that short story. Read it. Liked it a lot.

        What is it about stuff before the 70s: (1958 in this case): Characters as written back then are noticeably more confident, independent, competent, and knowledgeable. Value judgements about human nature are entirely different (and very refreshing). It’s a difference in tone, and it’s one that I like quite a bit.

        1. Try looking at some reviews of some of the old stuff, and the uneasy blend of disdain and hatred for characters like Laumer’s Jame Retief, Vance’s Kirth Gersen, Robeson’s Doc Savage, etc.

          Secret Princes are allowed Super Competence. Ordinary people are apparently only supposed to have Tragic Backstories ahd Emotional Turmoil.

  22. I wonder if by “excess value” Saadia is thinking of (and maybe not quite understanding) “surplus value”.

    1. Think of it as the wealth gap. It’s the amount someone else has that you do not.

    1. Problem with Team Marquis, is they aren’t against the Federation, they are against the Cardasians. The want the Federation within Cardasian territory. Not enough information about the Cardasian’s society to judge.

      1. Team teleport another galaxy’s suns into the star trek galaxy’s suns.

        1. I think I know where you got that idea. There was one Maquis character, Eddington, the former Starfleet security officer on DS9, who made a bunch of speeches to that effect: Starfleet hated the Maquis because they had rejected the Federation’s version of paradise, and thus Starfleet was obsessed with dragging them back (all the Maquis but Eddington in particular) back to the Federation and forcing them to like it.

          Thing is, I was never sure if we were supposed to take Eddington seriously or not. The episode kind of acted like we were, but none of his ramblings matched up with anything that had been shown before or since. I personally always dismissed Eddington as a guy with delusions of grandeur who joined the Maquis and projected his own issues and motives onto the rest of them. However, there are fans who do think he was giving an accurate description of the Maquis and what they believed, and thus claim the Maquis as the “anti-Federation” humans.

          Here endeth the Trekkers lesson on “Far too much minutiae about the Maquis that will make you sorry you ever brought the subject up : – )

  23. Think of it as the wealth gap. It’s the amount someone else has that you do not.

  24. Okay, I’ve got a series of vignettes that may turn into a storyline coming on:

    What would a society where you have something like a replicator *really* look like? Maybe it doesn’t have to work like the Trek replicator – maybe it requires feedstock, maybe it assembles things in tiny factories, maybe it programs trees to grow them. But the key word in replicator is *replicator* – meaning it has all the stuff needed to make more of them.

    We already have a perfect replicator for information: Our PCs (which are, thankfully, still *personal* and under our control despite the keening fantasies of our control freaks.)

    What happens when a government tries to crack down on the uses of a replicator? How long does it take some clever hackers to bypass their clumsy attempt at hobbling a general production tool? How long can the forces of order hold out against rebels who have that sort of tool in their posession?

    Tentative titles: The Means of Production
    Weapons of Mass Creation

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