The title is The Economics of Star Trek, which the author introduces like this:
The primary goal of this document is to show that the writers and producers of Star Trek are promoting the values and ideals of communism."
Obviously, this is a gross exaggeration. To actually claim that the writers and producers are intentionally propagating communism is a huge claim, and a laughable one. Instead of presenting evidence of TNG's producers handing out Marxist leaflets or whatever it is he thinks they do, he rehashes the Communist Manifesto, and goes on to demonstrate that the Federation is communist.
Note that the claim that the Federation is communist is totally different from the claim that the writers of Star Trek are intentionally promoting communism, but never mind that.
"Communism in the Federation
How many of these ideas were apparently taken to heart by the TNG era Federation? Let us list them one at a time:
1. Abolition of property rights: 100% implemented in the TNG era Federation. While Ferengi traders and various others outside the Federation still retain property rights, the Federation seems to have eliminated them.
- No wealth: Counsellor Troi and Captain Picard have both boasted about how the accumulation of wealth is no longer an incentive. What they don't explain is why. Humans have always been territorial (and so have our evolutionary ancestors), so our desire to accumulate more assets seems more like a basic facet of human nature than a temporary cultural phenomenon. It can be suppressed or modified through education and social conditioning, but such methods are hardly 100% effective. Some greedy people should remain, but not in Star Trek. So if humans in the future no longer desire wealth, then why not? Do they use extremely advanced brainwashing techniques, so sophisticated that no one can resist them? Or have they made the accumulation of wealth illegal, as Marx advocated? The latter seems more plausible. "
Of course, we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that because Picard says something, it must be absolutely, 100% true. In fact, I find that stupid. Also, the idea that the acquisition of wealth is a basic trait of human nature is a very bold claim, which our essayist obviously doesn't back up in any way.
It's not at all impossible to postulate several kinds of society where the accumulation of wealth isn't a very powerful incentive. One that comes to mind is a society where replicator technology can provide for everyone's basic needs at practically no cost.
Also, take note of the ridiculous triple jump of logic:
Picard says "in general, A" -> A is an universal truth in the Star Trek universe -> A must have come about through socialist legistlation.
"- No money: All external transactions are performed with a precious substance known as latinum. No more wire transfers or electronic asset tracking in the 24th century; vast interstellar trading organizations have reverted to something like the primitive "gold standard" that was abandoned long ago! It sounds like Troi wasn't kidding when she said the Federation no longer used money. They have "credits", but they don't seem to be as widely recognized as precious metals, which indicates that Federation credits are not easily converted into other assets (ie- not liquid). Poor or nonexistent liquidity is typical of communist currencies in real life. However, it is not typical of capitalist currencies, all of which can be easily transferred and exchanged between nations without the need for precious metals as an intermediate conversion."
It is not typical of capitalist currencies after the move away from the gold standard, before which "capitalist currencies" operated in exactly the same way as the latinum exchange. Also, even today gold is a medium of exchange. Note that in the author's opinion, a "primitive standard abandoned long ago" is a standard that, in its latest form, was adopted immediately after World War II and abandoned in 1971.
Moreover, the idea that Federation credits aren't widely recognized isn't based on anything except conjecture. Making this a key piece of evidence that the Federation is communist is not far from reasoning that if a country has a red flag, it's probably communist.
Also, how do we know there aren't wire transfers or electronic tracking? Because they're not mentioned in Star Trek. As it happens, Star Trek doesn't devote a lot of time to discussing finance and similar things, so this isn't surprising. Note the leap of logic:
A isn't mentioned in Star Trek -> A absolutely, positively does not exist anywhere in the Star Trek universe.
We'll be meeting that fallacy again several times. I'll be referring to it as the Wong fallacy.
"- Buy and Sell: What was the last time you heard about someone buying or selling something from another Federation citizen? People give one another objects, and they might even barter, but they never use their credits to buy things from one another (at least, nothing substantive such as a vehicle, a cottage, a boat, etc). Kirk talked about Scotty's "pay" and Scotty "bought a boat" in ST6, but of course, that was in the good old days of TOS. Ahhh, memories ... when men were men, women wore miniskirts, and nobody drank synthehol."
When was the last time you heard about your friends buying or selling things to each other? In a TV show about life on a naval vessel, would you expect the characters to be trading in futures? Furthermore, in a society with replicator technology, where as far as I can understand how it works, you can get just about any material object from a replicator slot in your room, why would you be interested in buying and selling things? Trade would most likely be reserved for luxury items that can't be replicated, and indeed the only context in TNG and TOS where trading is mentioned by the characters tends to revolve around luxury items.
Obviously, this is a blatant case of the Wong fallacy. I recall they never talk about underwear in Star Trek: The Next Generation, either. Good grief, they don't even have underwear in the future!
"- Spartan lifestyles: Even on the mixed civilian/military spaceport DS9, no one seems to have anything but a handful of room decorations and sentimental momentoes. Quarters are quite clean and barren even when children live there (and anyone with small children knows how silly that is). This could arguably be described as a lifestyle "choice" rather than the result of government edict, but it is also quite consistent with the growing list of evidence that the Federation is communist."
Rubbish. We've only seen military quarters on TNG, and DS9 is an old Cardassian mining station. This is hardly conclusive evidence to draw on regarding the entire civilization. Also, for an officer posted to a ship, doesn't it make sense to not have a huge amount of personal possessions? And yes, it can very well be described as a lifestyle choice. If the "growing list of evidence" only exists in the writer's head, then this isn't consistent with anything.
"- Goodbye, Wall Street: The concept of an investment portfolio is so alien to them that when a frozen 20th century tycoon was thawed out in "The Neutral Zone", Picard was completely dumbfounded at the man's desire to check on his portfolio. He couldn't even understand the concept, and complained that he couldn't understand what the man was talking about! Obviously, this is typical of a communist state, but hardly typical of a capitalist state. Even before modern stock markets and investment vehicles, the concept of investment still existed. Businesses started with the aid of financial backing, loans, etc. Banks and other financial institutions existed long before NASDAQ. But according to Star Trek, they didn't last into the 24th century."
Given that this piece of dialogue from Picard is the only, and I mean only, insight we get into finance in the Federation, it's reckless in the extreme to draw any conclusions from it. Quite simply, we have no idea how trade and business works in Star Trek because the topic is never addressed in the series. Jumping to huge conclusions from one line of dialogue like this is totally irresponsible and simply stupid. In other words, a Wong fallacy.
I've reproduced the entire section titled Abolition of property rights. Have you noticed that the author advanced absolutely no evidence or cogent arguments that property rights have been abolished in the Federation?
In fact, TNG provides us with plenty of evidence that property rights remain in the Federation. For instance, in "Measure of a Man", a court case is brought by which Data, as a machine, would be property of Starfleet. As he resigns, he packs up private items from his quarters. Commander Riker has a trombone in his quarters, which he certainly treats as his own, and Picard accumulates several items in his quarters over the course of the series. Aren't they their personal property? They sure seem to be.
On to the next point:
"2. State seizure of transportation (leading to reduction or elimination of freedom of movement): 100% implemented in the TNG era Federation. Vehicles in Star Trek are either government property, or they travel outside the Federation (eg. Ferengi vessels, ships from non-member systems, etc).
- They're all company cars: What was the last time you saw a privately owned personal starship? Starships are either government warships, diplomatic vessels, or transports. The only one-person vehicles (apart from non-Federation vehicles such as Quark's ship or Bajor's spacecraft) are runabouts and shuttles, and they are always government property. Some might argue that starships must be very expensive or difficult to operate and therefore impractical for personal use, but Quark's ship disproved this idea."
Actually, I'm not so sure whose property shuttlecraft are, given that Picard gives Scotty a shuttlecraft in Relics, and the captain of the Repulse says he would have been willing to give his medical officer a shuttlecraft. But this is just an aside.
Again, notice the difference between "starships are" (implying all starships everywhere are) and "starships seen in Star Trek are". Nowhere in the series are we told that there are absolutely no private spacecraft whatsoever. In fact, I recall that in TOS Harry Mudd had his own ship; as it happens, in the TNG episode "The Outrageous Okona" we meet Captain Okona who has his own ship. So the author's claim isn't even true, and the Wong fallacy drawn from it fails completely.
"- Empty skies: Where are all of the ships in the skies over Earth? Even over major metropolitan centres such as San Francisco, we see almost no air traffic whatsoever (certainly nothing like the thick swarms of traffic over Coruscant in Star Wars). In fact, in "Paradise Lost", the USS Lakota was the only starship in orbit around the entire planet! Even in that time of crisis, we didn't see anyone leaving Earth to hide out at a safer location until everything blew over, because none of them had any ships! The same is true of all crises through Star Trek history. No mass exodus of personal vehicles even when the populace had early warning and lots of time to prepare."
Again, "we didn't see". We weren't told that no-one is leaving Earth, we simply didn't see anyone leaving Earth. In his words, the same is true of all crises through Star Trek history; we don't *see* the mass exodus of personal vehicles. We also don't see that many places on Earth from which to draw the "empty skies" hypothesis. In all, another Wong fallacy.
Also, am I the only person who thinks there's a fairly large conceptual leap from "few people own vehicles" to "communism"? Given the existence of the transporter, do you really need a car? Also, this is very much a cultural question, but I'll be returning to that later.
"- Big Brother is watching you: All movements are tracked in the Federation. Since no one has personal starships, everyone must book passage on state-owned transports in order to get where they want to go. You've heard it countless times: "I've booked passage to Mars," or "I'm going to try to book passage to the frontier". You never hear "I just bought a ship and I'm going to head off to the frontier" or "I'm renting a ship next month so I can go planet-jumping". The result of this monopoly is that Starfleet officers can easily track every movement of any citizen within the Federation. Any security officer can easily rattle off a list of all the places any citizen has gone, how long they were there, etc. Contrast this to real life, where the bus driver wants exact change but he couldn't care less about your ID. Unless you leave the country, nobody asks to see a passport or identification."
Is traveling between solar systems really analogous to taking a bus? Wouldn't a better comparison be flying across the Atlantic, where I seem to recall several security officers were very interested in my passport and identification, and records of my trip probably still exist?
Also, again, the idea that Starfleet officers can track the detailed movements of every citizen isn't based on anything seen in the series, but is pure hyperbole. This isn't even a Wong fallacy, this is just the guy making stuff up.
"Little red corvette: We don't see a lot of red sports shuttles flying around, do we? This may not sound so bad, but think about it: what is one of the most cherished symbols of freedom, particularly in countries like Canada and America, with our wide-open spaces? Some think it's the Statue of Liberty, some say it's the Constitution, but as for me, I know what my favourite symbol of freedom is. Here's a hint: It's midnight blue, it has leather seats and a gas-guzzling V8 engine, and it sits in my driveway. Yup- my car. And it's not just me; for millions of people, the car is the ultimate symbol of personal freedom. Let me out on an open road, with a full tank of gas and Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" on the radio, and I feel free. However, the effect only works if you actually like your car. An ugly or underperforming car just doesn't give you that same sense of enjoyment, and the lack of stylized or luxury-outfitted Federation spacecraft points to an absence of consumer choice.
Of course, some would claim that the desire for luxury and style is a cultural taste, and might have been eliminated in the "enlightened" Federation. That is a plausible argument on the surface, but in every society, there are those who stray from social norms. Furthermore, the Federation must experience "cultural contamination" from the activities of their Ferengi neighbours, so it can't be argued that the concept of style and luxury is completely unknown to them. It is therefore highly unlikely that we would never see people seeking style and luxury, unless they are prohibited from doing so by law.
Other would claim that style and luxury in transportation are a 20th century phenomenon, but that would be a historical fallacy. Stagecoaches were lavishly decorated before automobiles, and wealthy Romans decorated chariots and other forms of transportation. Even in primitive tribes, the elites of the village wear special decorations."
Under this system of logic, property-owning men in ancient Athens weren't free, because they didn't have customized chariots. His definition of liberty is that all citizens have a pimped-out ride. I'm not going to bother with this one. A massive application of the Wong fallacy, joined to a very, erm, personal definition of individual liberty. If you take the bus, you're a communist.
"-The open road: If you still don't agree that the car represents freedom, just close your eyes and think back to that very first day when you finally got to drive your parents' car on your own. Try to remember the exhilaration you felt as you pulled out of your parents' driveway for the very first time. Remember the exuberance when you were finally out on the open road? After all those years of waiting and anticipating, wasn't it great to finally be free? Just you and your car, with nobody to tell you where to go. Now that is freedom. That is an essential part of the fabled American Dream. Guess what- the Federation killed it. In the Federation, you don't have the futuristic equivalent of a car; you have a nice walk to the nearest loading stop, where you can take your assigned seat on the futuristic equivalent of a bus. Happy motoring."
I don't have a driver's license, and have never driven my parents' car. By his logic, I am not a free citizen.
Onward! Again, notice the absence of proof that the state has seized all personal transportation.
"3. State seizure of communications (leading to reduction or elimination of freedom of expression): 100% implemented in the TNG era Federation.
- Ma Bell is back: The entire subspace relay system is owned by the Federation government, as described in the DS9 tech manual. There is no private competitor. Since all interstellar communications must use this relay network, this effectively gives the Federation government total control over long distance communications. Furthermore, it appears that local communications systems are government-operated as well, since the government was able to effortlessly impose a complete local news blackout during the attempted coup in "Paradise Lost." As another monopolistic Microsoftian measure, all communications start and end with the ubiquitous Federation logo, even on mixed civilian/military stations like DS9. Quark once ran afoul of this monopoly when he wanted to broadcast advertisements for his bar, and had no alternative but to break into DS9's communications system."
There are a lot of stupid things in the different Star Trek technical manuals, and this seems to be one of them. However, let's accept this is true. All it says is that the Federation operates the network. This does not automatically mean that the government controls all communications. Most Western governments own and operate the road system; do the totally control all movement by road? Wait, that can't be right, because earlier, driving a car on a government-owned and operated road was the definition of freedom.
Again, we don't know there isn't a private competitor. Wong fallacy. For Microsoft being a monopoly, see below.
"- Phil Zimmerman would be pissed: High-ranking officers can use secure communications, but no one else seems to be able to encrypt their personal information or communications because any Tom, Dick or Ferengi seems to be able to break into personal files and communications at will. Furthermore, even "secure" communications use such weak encryption that they can be cracked in a matter of hours by a single starship's computer. It is important to remember that no matter how far computer technology increases, encryption strength can always be increased simply by adding bits, so this is not a case of technology overcoming encryption. In real life, the US government tried to force everyone to use weak encryption (or adopt Al Gore's infamous eavesdropper "clipper chip"), but they were foiled by the constitution. Apparently, there are no such restrictions on the Federation government's power."
Again, no-one here is talking about secure personal communications. The personal files in question are personal logs on a military computer, and the secure communiactions are military communications. It simply isn't true that no-one else can use secure communications; we simply never see anyone else using secure communications. This is yet another false generalization in an essay that seems to have nothing but false generalizations.
"- This ... is not CNN: The Federation nearly became a military dictatorship once ("Paradise Lost"). In real life, such a near-coup would be accompanied by an enormous flood of negative news reports, both from television and radio stations and across the Internet. But in the Federation, there appear to be no independent news organizations or reporting mechanisms (or at least, none which can function when the government turns off the spigot). In other words, the meek citizens of Earth sat quietly in their homes and waited patiently for the benevolent Federation to tell them what had happened, because they had no other information source. This illustrates the danger of putting all communications facilities in the hands of the government; if they have control of all communications, then in the blink of an eye, they can eliminate public knowledge of their activities."
Firstly, this is from a DS9 episode, and that's a very silly show. But again, this is all pure conjecture that isn't even based on the events of the episode. This is a 100% Wong fallacy.
She said something, and through an
ingenious system of leaps of faith and
misdefinitions, that becomes proof
that the Federation is communist.
That takes care of the state seizure of communications. Again, no evidence has been presented, but a heck of a lot of false generalizations and really weird definitions have.
"4. Elimination of religion and traditional families. 50% implemented in the TNG era Federation.Nietszche Wins- God is Dead: While the TOS episode "Balance of Terror" began with a wedding in the ship's chapel, no TNG era ship seems to have a chapel at all. Christianity appears to have been purged from society. One of the most extreme examples of this deliberate suppression can be seen in a recent episode of Voyager, the holographic Doctor actually portrayed a Catholic priest and conducted a ceremony, but somehow avoided mentioning the names "God" or "Jesus" entirely! How someone can portray a priest and avoid mentioning God or Jesus is beyond me. Also, while "Bones" McCoy often mentioned Jesus and God, we never hear the name "Jesus" on TNG, DS9, or Voyager. This situation exists in stark contrast to every other civilization, such as the Bajorans, Klingons, Ferengi etc. which all have their own curious religions (always precisely one religion per species; I guess aliens aren't very imaginative in Star Trek)."
We don't see a chapel on TNG era ships. That doesn't mean there isn't one. All of his details are Wong fallacies. We don't know there's only one Klingon religion, for instance.
The basic argument here, that atheism equals communism, is so idiotic that I refuse to even address it.
"New Age mysticism: Oddly enough, while Christianity has apparently been wiped out, popular New Age ideas such as transcendental meditation, seances, tribal superstitions, pseudoscientific quasi-religions and Eastern spirituality are all acceptable in the Federation. This would seem rather contradictory until you ask yourself what kinds of spirituality are popular today in Hollywood. Apparently they don't believe that God made Man in his own image, but they do believe that Hollywood should remake mankind in its image. "
The only acceptable way to portray the religious landscape of the future is by making people in the future Christian. Any other solution is Communist. Good grief!
"Wham, Bam, Thank you Ma'am: Karl Marx's "free love" idea seems to have taken root. Pleasure planets like Risa, whose economies are based entirely on the sex trade, are stark proof that the Federation has decriminalized prostitution and encouraged a casual attitude toward sexual promiscuity (an attitude displayed by numerous characters on TNG, DS9, and Voyager). However, to be fair, the institution of marriage still exists in the Federation. As with all real-life communist states, the Federation probably found Marx's call for the total abolishment of marriage to be unworkable."
If decriminalizing prostitution is communist, ancient Athens and Rome were communist societies. This might be news to some people. Prostitution = communism?!?
Also, in case you're wondering about Risa's economy being based entirely on the sex trade, he made that up. All we know about Risa is that its inhabitants apparently have a very free approach to sexuality. Apparently, that's communism, too.
"They don't play Pink Floyd in the future: Karl Marx advocated state-run education. Enlightened free-market societies also provide state-funded education for their citizens (the principal reason for the growth of the middle class), but not to the exclusion of alternatives such as private schools, learning centres, and home schooling. It would seem self-evident that private schools and learning centres are not permitted in the corporation-phobic Federation, but to be fair, there is no evidence that home schooling has been criminalized. In fact, it has been suggested that Jake Sisko must have been home-schooled before Keiko arrived as DS9's lone teacher, but his father was a single-parent and the station commander, so he hardly had time to moonlight as a schoolteacher! Jake must have been educated by computer with standardized programs and tests, so it's hard to tell either way."
Why would it seem self-evident that private education is abolished? The only knowledge of Star Trek-universe education we have comes from a school on board a naval vessel. This goes beyond a Wong fallacy and is just pure prejudice. There is no private education in Star Trek because I say there is no private education; therefore there is none.
Notice that religion and traditional families have seemingly not been eliminated in Star Trek. First he says religion is dead, then he says religion exists. Apparently, only Christianity counts as religion. Never mind! Move on!
"5. State seizure of industry. 50-100% implemented in the TNG era Federation.The situation with the agriculture industry is unknown, since people seem to prefer real food to replicated food but the Federation lacks the infrastructure to efficiently deliver real food to all its ships and starbases. We would presumably see real food (and agriculture) planetside, but the show rarely strays from starships and space stations so we can't be sure. However, the situation with regards to manufacturing and research is much clearer.No logos: In hundreds of televised episodes and numerous feature films, we haven't seen a single Federation product which bore the trademark of an independent manufacturer, either in military or civilian situations."
Yes we have. Several bottles of wine, for instance. Besides, since almost all consumer products are replicated, why would they have a corporate logo?
"No corporations: There are no known privately owned corporations in the Federation. We never hear a single corporate name, or a complaint about a corporate supplier, or any news of bidding for government contracts. It goes without saying that no one has investments in any of these corporations. And finally, in the DS9 episode "Prodigal Daughter", we found out that Ezri Dax's parents formed a mining company, operating out of New Sydney. Lo and behold, we also found out that New Sydney is a city on a non-Federation world. What a shock. And would you be surprised to hear that their financial dealings were handled with precious substances instead of Federation credits? Gee, I wonder why they left the Federation and moved to New Sydney to set up their company ..."
Who owns the Dytallix Mining Corporation mentioned in TNG's "Conspiracy", then? And why isn't it a corporate name? Or didn't someone do their research?
"You can have any colour you want, so long as it's beige: In the Federation, all starships look the same, and feel the same. They have the same colour scheme. The same interface. The same mind-numbing monotonous style. The same basic design features. According to Star Trek, the future really does look like Microsoft. Of course, some of Star Trek's defenders claim that the unbelievable uniformity of Federation technology is not necessarily proof of monopoly, but these people probably don't think Microsoft is monopolistic either."
All U.S. warships look the same and feel the same. They have the same color scheme. Therefore, the United States of America is Communist.
I also hope that anyone who reads this doesn't think Microsoft is a monopoly. From the Wikipedia article Monopoly:
To demonstrate the above definitions: Microsoft is frequently accused of being a monopoly (See Criticisms of Microsoft#Market power). But while this term is frequently invoked in political discourse surrounding Microsoft, it does not in fact bear the economic definition of a monopoly, as a firm in an industry with only one seller.
Somehow, I can't take his economic insights seriously if I need to point something like this out.
"-No patent office: There is no patent office. We know that none of the scientists in Star Trek perform research for the purpose of obtaining lucrative patents, because everything they discover instantly enters the public domain. There are no royalties to be collected. No fees for the use of someone else's invention. No one ever has to seek permission to use or abuse any form of intellectual property. There are no trademarks or copyrights. In short, intellectual property rights must have been completely eliminated, since the state claims ownership of all research."
The last time I watched the Star Wars movies, no-one collected any royalties or performed research to obtain lucrative patents. Therefore, the Star Wars universe is totally communist. In fact, I've read quite a number of novels set in the Second World War, and I don't remember a single instance of someone collecting royalties. In the 1940s, the Earth was communist. See what I mean by a Wong fallacy?
Honestly, try applying this to any work of fiction you choose. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice doesn't mention sailing ships. Clearly it's set in some ridiculous travesty of a fantasy universe where sailing ships were never invented. They're communists!
Also, notice the juxtaposition: there seem to be no individual patent rights, therefore the state has claimed ownership of all research. This is either a breathtakingly stupid thing to say, or then the author is getting desperate. Those are not the only two logically possible alternatives in all imaginable universes. Then again, someone who thinks Microsoft is a monopoly probably won't understand that...
"6. Citizens are forced to work. Probably 100% implemented in the TNG era Federation.Even though everyone is guaranteed a comfortable standard of living by the state, everyone works hard. There are no beach bums. Therefore, since laziness is an innate human characteristic, we can infer that such penalties probably exist, even if we never explicitly see them in action. An alternate explanation for this conundrum would be the possibility that citizens are conditioned to work through brainwashing techniques, but brainwashing would be no better than the use of force. Some have argued that it's "close-minded" to assume that laziness is innate rather than cultural, but nothing could be further from the truth. In nature, no animal does any work unless it's necessary for survival or reproduction (what's the last time you saw a bird building a nest for anyone but its own offspring?). In society, we are bombarded by constant propaganda pushing us to work to help strangers, but most people still don't do it in spite of all the pressure. Laziness isn't unnatural; it's one of the few natural things left in our society.
What do you mean, everyone works hard? This isn't based on anything we've ever seen on Star Trek, so I'm just not saying anything about it.
That finishes his list of evidence. There's some more to the article, but I can't be bothered any more. This is one of the stupidest things I've read for a good while, and speaks to the author's North American Christian prejudices, but to little else. If people don't drive cars and worship Jesus, they're communists. Viljami, why did you ask me to read this? It's horrible.
I was far more convinced by the argument that the Smurfs are communist. Think about it: a village with a perfect division of labor, even going so far that each inhabitant is named after his profession; the village lives by collective farming, everyone dresses the same, and no-one ever engages in trading of any kind. Now that's a far better argument!