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Star Trek: How We Will Abolish Money

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My wife and I are avid fans of Star Trek (no surprise there right?). Having grown up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and continuing on to Deep Space Nine and even a little Voyager, but recently we’ve been watching the four seasons of Star Trek Enterprise. It’s the one with Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer of the NX-1 Enterprise (there it is to the right) and the only one set in the near future. I have no idea how the seasons were received when they aired but we’re really enjoying them because it’s not set hundreds of years into the future, only a hundred and fifty. In future Earth, we’ve developed warp drives, transporters (though we’re not comfortable using them), and have made contact with alien species (no universal translator, just a really good translator).

One of the interesting aspects about Star Trek is how it treats money. Even a mere 150 years into the future, there is no concept of money. People do their jobs because they take pride in their work, satisfaction in their accomplishments, and work hard because they don’t want to let down their peers or their society but receive no monetary compensation. While they get all of their needs satisfied (food, shelter, entertainment), no one is saving for retirement because there’s nothing to save.

It was always difficult for me to see the logical jump from society today to anytime in the future where money is obsolete. Entire industries exist solely because money exists (mortgages, finance, banking to name a few) and you can bet your last dollar they’ll do anything it takes to make sure money keeps on existing. So how are we supposed to get from our money driven world to one where money has no meaning?

By having social norms overtake market norms. It’s an idea I first read in Predictably Irrational. In one of the chapters of Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely talks about how in the workplace we’ve replaced a bit of the market norms with social norms. In the days of Ford and the assembly line, workers punched in and punched out. They worked for the paycheck, trading in their time, effort, and expertise for money. It was a clear trade, punctuated by the sound of time card machines. As we’ve moved away from a labor based economy to a service based economy, social norms have begun to replace market norms.

I have friends who work 40+ hours a week but are compensated for only forty, the extra being spent “to get the job done right.” I routinely worked a few hours over forty myself to get the job done because I didn’t want to let my team down (I was very fortunate to be on very strong teams that didn’t find ourselves under the gun or behind on deadlines). I didn’t work those extra hours out of the goodness of my heart but I also didn’t do it for direct compensation. I worked those hours because I knew I had an obligation to both the project’s clients and my teammates. It was the social norms, not the market norms that compelled me, and so many others, to work without direct monetary compensation.

It’s an interesting idea and while it clearly doesn’t explain everything, it’s the first time I’ve read of an idea that will even take us in that direction. Eventually social norms can overtake market norms, a social support infrastructure will be put into place, and we’ll have abolished money, developed warp drives, met alien species, and find ourselves cruising among the stars!

{ 52 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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52 Responses to “Star Trek: How We Will Abolish Money”

  1. Nick says:

    Don’t forget that in all the ST series we are dealing with a military unit. The closest contemporary situation is probably that of a nuclear submarine crew on a long mission (although not as long as Enterprise’s “5 year mission to boldly go…”).
    In this situation all normal needs are met without the need for a medium of exchange.
    Only in DS9 do we see the civilian support infrastructure and so there we see Quark’s bar.
    I suspect that outside the military there would be some form of allowing replicator credits above subsistence level as a reward for work.

  2. Advance says:

    Money is not the problem. Money if used properly is an excellent tool in measuring the value of human weath (good and services). What damages our system is the 6000+ year old system of charging for the use of it. Money interest must be abolished and a new modern system instituted. With a modern money system free of interest the humans on earth will be able to not only do an excellent job managing the earth. They will also become excellent managers of our Solar System and begin steps to interact with older more advanced creatures in the Almighty God’s Creation

    • Aaron says:

      Money was an excellent idea in the past when humans lived in real scarcity, but nowadays scarcity is faked for profit. There IS NO scarcity. Money is the source of the problem. All other problems associated with money are symptoms of the system. Money serves those who have lots of it and not people who dont. Essentially, money creates elitism.

  3. Reid says:

    Abolish money, abolish crime….. just because it hasn’t been supported in the past, due to the criminals who expoit it for control, removing money from the human condition will solve all the problems that it allows. War, crime, murder, etc… yes it will open up new circumstances but to be afraid to choose to do so is not a reason not to try. Money = walls between humans and we can never become one for the benefit of all until this happens. All arguements against are from those who fear change and are spineless greedy who stand to lose all the wealth they have gathered. Just beacuse you worked so hard to get all you have only means you played the game and were good at it, but it doesn’t mean your a good human. And it doesn’t mean that your ideas are best or should even be heard, Money allows bad things to continue and bad people with bad ideas to be heard. Its time to start over and wipe the slate clean so the human race can move on forward away from the senseless separating conditions money allows.

  4. Reid says:

    One more note, those who still use the argument of Socialism, Marxism, Communism, and any of the like… are those who should not be contribuiting to any discussions whatsoever. Keep your closed, shallow, narrow minded mouth shut, just because you have this fear and are ignorant, to higher thinking only means you have a long way to go to become evolved. Stay in your cellar and keep teaching the this fear with your nose in the bible, ha ha there are still people who believe in the bible, or educate your self, grow your brain, and become welcomed into the world of the intelligent.

  5. AGKIII says:

    The human Race will never truly evolve until the need for money is subsided. If you think back about two hundred or so years ago, people didn’t invent the things that make our lives better for money or recognition… they invented them so they would do what they do: MAKE OUR LIVES BETTER. From the telephone to the toothpick, to the modern day bathroom the the great United States of America, all these were created for the sole purpose of the betterment of mankind. Bell didn’t create the phone to get paid, he invented it so he didn’t need to get his lazy ass up go into the next room to tell his buddy to get him another beer.Duh! lol All joking aside, the reason we haven’t landed on Mars yet is because it costs about $10,000 for a bolt and $20,000 for a screw. MONEY GETS US NOWHERE. And yes, I have a lot of it…

  6. nick says:

    Hi, I hope you are supporting, encouraging and promoting the 2012 strike to abolish money.
    If I can help you in anyway promote the above, then please dont hesitate to contact.
    All the best,
    World Citizen
    Free Man of the Land

  7. Aaron says:

    Money isnt a natural resource, neither does it represent one. It is made out of thin air, instantly making it fraudulent. At this current time we have the technology, know-how, and resources for things like space exploration, 4000 mph maglev trains, fully automated production, clean geothermal energy, electric cars, buildings that unpack and build theirselves using memory alloy, fully automated food production, and so much more. The problem is we don’t have the money. Money acts as a barrier to these resources that are so abundant they should really have no monetary value. Money creates the need to compete with each other. This leads to stealing, war, poverty, violence and probably close to 95% of the worlds problems. Also about 95% of laws will become obsolete with no money.

    The reason governments and corporations dont allow for clean energy, electric cars, sustainability, efficiency, and abundance is because its not profitable. Corporations plan obsolescence because its profitable. This is simply inefficient and wasteful.

    As soon as the world pressures the governments into a phasing out money the sooner we will be free.

  8. Nick Rougier says:

    As long as we don’t convert to bartering (money in another from) abolishing money and replacing it with a meritocratic volunteer society is the utopia that has eluded Humanity for thousands of years. If a man had invented cancer and heart disease it would not have been as ruinous to Humanity as a man who had invented money.
    Even today there are people all over the world tending to staring children in the Horn of Africa, rescuing earthquake victime who work for pittance, where money has no relevance, the motive is purely humanitarian. The act of charitable giving is another example that we CAN do it.
    I believe Humanity has to accept that money was a tragic wrong turn in human history (as was religion but that’s another story) and start all over again. You have to do it carefully to ensure that unlike communism people cannot live without incentive and some form of comparative reward otherwise nobody would ever bother to excel and secondly you need a way of deciding who gets extra material reward in a way that does not provoke protest. As soon as poissble you computerize it such that its done on exact caluclation. And you also have to prevent people from taking more resources than they need without some Draconian rationing regime setting in. Thirdly you need a stick following behind to stop others from being idle happy in the knowledge that they geed all the necessities that they need. Lastly you must maintain all the sacred human rights of freedom of speech and protest, of information and democracy. Politics will however lose a lot of its meaning also because all politics has EVER been about is “Who pays how much for what” and in order for a meritocratic moneyless society to work you need the State to be as small as possible which it inherently would become without money. The only bureaucrats are those who monitor what needs to be produced and who gets extra reward. You would have to replace the zillions of people currently working in banking, insurance, personal loans and mortgages, trading and broking, foreign exchange – there would be no more financial services industry.
    The best way to start such a system is in a microcosmic way so that these above mentioned problems are encountered on a microcosmic scale, can be more rigorously studied and more easily solved, like a project. You start with a small group of skilled people who can provide the key necessities – construction, food, building supplies and healthcare. They freely set up a miniature society to offer their skills for the benefit of each other. The farmer provides food aplenty first so we can all eat. Then the constructors set to work building nice homes to a minimum standard for all. In turn they get treated for any illness by the doctor, their children get educated by the teacher and the doctor and teacher get nice homes built. There must be no bartering -that’s just money again leading to all the crime and envy that goes with it. The doctor and teacher’s services are froever available and the builder gets any and all food he wants forever so there need be no comparative value by what he provides to what others provide.
    So ultimately we have a row of fine houses for all to live in. As there’s no money there is no restriction on how nice the houses can be so that this society is not infested with rotten housing estates and run down areas. They are all luxurious homes of an agreed minimum standard in terms of size/space, decor, style and facilities. Now that everyone has been built such a home the car maker is happy to provide everyone transport, the interior designer gets to work, the furniture maker and the weaver to make us all a variety of clothes. It just goes on from there.
    To propel society forward you need one more carrot – a recognition of Excellence. For that student who excels in their studies, for the researcher who makes a stunning breakthrough, for the volunteer who works over and above what they officially do. That needs a bureaucracy and consensus. In the microcosmic example the miniature community have a periodic meeting where they all agree that John has excelled – saved someone who was falling off a ladder, developed a brilliant sewer system, whatever and merits special reward. John, like eevryone has already registered what he would liek his special reward to be were he to earn it. No money. So it’s provided by whatever skilled people it takes. Special condieration is given to those who conserve, who take strictly only what they need and waste the least. There shoudl be a Conservation Award handed out ofn a regular basis. That way society moves forward in technology and living standards. It is therefore important that while the minimum standard of home be luxurious by today’s standards (like a 3 storey galleried town home) there be more luxurious homes made and more upmarket food stores for those who simply work and don’t lay up idle. While they still get all the basics, the idle only get that. Quickly they will be looked down upon in society. Those who work hard, get promoted have special luxury Cards issued by the hierarchy that entitle them to eat at the finest restaurants, take their provisions from more upscale stores and drive nicer cars. You can have three or more levels of cards – the layabouts don’t even have a card. Pretty soon there’ll be few if any of them especially if they were born after this society was universal. Only those who used to live in a world of money might be layabouts. They’ll die out soon enough. Antisocial people, truants, yobs, thugs and muggers, drug dealers, burglars only exist because of money and most abusive husbands and parents only do also. Drunkenness, Rape and crimes of passion are about the only crimes I can think of that would inherently exist in this society without any secret police or barbaric punishments. Naturally if convicted these are recorded on your Card.
    In our society such fundamental change only comes with cataclysmic crisis forcing society to think again. The debt crises afflicting the world today hasten that time. When capitalism crashes, as it is on the brink of doing, people will realize that we have exhausted every ideology on the entire political spectrum from communism through the fascism and every moderate position and combination in between and they have all failed. Only then will they see that the problem is not ideology, it is money. I believe that money was the single worst invention mankind ever made and that had he not done so and just helped each other by now we would be colonizing other star systems and living to 150. I beleve that had a hyper-advanced alien race visited earth 100,000 years ago at the Dawn of Man and noticed the emergence of the human species they would we utterly shocked to revisit the planet now and see how little distance it has come. After over 100,000 years of evolution and 30,000 years since we stopped being nomads and settled 8 out of 10 on the planet are starving or under-nourished, disease stricked, living in shanty towns, poverty, oppression or war zones. It is an absolutely despicable state of affairs and a rotten performance by a species that could have been so much more. Money and Religion are both responsible for this anaemic growth in human society. The above deals with one. We have to start humanity all over again and simply accept that we went wrong – very very wrong.

    • Dorothy Denis says:

      Oh I love your post and couldn’t agree with you more. The point about ‘Recognition’ is very important. And recognition and higher privileges should not only be accorded to those who excelled but also to those who accept to do menial, unpleasant or rigorous jobs – like clearing garbage or cleaning public toilets or caring for the terribly sick. Also, there should be a system of de-recognition for those that fall from grace – because success can go the heads for many and abrasive behaviour spawns disharmony that in turn leads to one upmanship. But with a system of recognition/de-recognition we could ensure right balance in human behaviour. I think too that we could start creating a miniature society on experimental basis where for the time being that a sponsor or the government could back.

  9. russell says:

    i agree that money needs to go the way of the doe doe .the goverments need to be forced to realize this, with the abolishment of money the possiblity of a single world goverment, made up of senitors from each country being elected through democratic means will be achiveable. then the people as a whole will benifit from a war free, poverty free, money free world

  10. Joe says:

    Money is needed. You can’t tell me some guy is going to spend 8 to 12 hours a day fixing cracks in a sewer infested with roaches, rats, and other sorts of disgusting creators all the while walking through tons of bodily waste all for the betterment of man kind.

  11. brokeanddepressed says:

    All I know is, I need some money desperately. Anyone want to give me some money?

  12. Dorothy Denis says:

    I have been mulling over this idea for a few years now. It just one day occurred to me that money had outlived it’s purpose.

    Like minded people should get together and refine our ideas to propose a solid, clear and practical alternative to a money driven society.

    • Subhendu Das says:

      Money less economy (MLE) is a very clear and practical alternative.

      You work free and get everything free. You want a big house, you get it free. You want to travel – it is free. Need a corporate jet, that is free too. All you have to ensure that you work 40 hours a week free.

      We can run the exact same economy, without money. Just go to work where you are going now. Do whatever you are doing. At the end of the week you get a check in your bank for 40 hours. Use that to buy anything you want. It does not reduce. Next week the number gets updated to 40 again.

      Today we do not need to see money. Everything is done electronically. So we do not know what is happening in the computer. We do not know what is that number. So, you change that number to 40 hours. And trust it, just like we are trusting our credit cards and bank accounts.

      There is no need to convert 40 hours and multiply it by an hourly rate. Or you can think of hourly rate of $1/hr.

      In return to your work you get food and shelter and anything you want.

      Perfect economy. For more details see my blog site createmoneylesseconomy (MLE). Or you can write to me at subhendu dot das at excite dot com.

  13. Nathan says:

    Money, or credits… or gold-pressed latinum… or really just representative of time spent being productive. There are existing models of moneyless societies to reflect on, the Native Americans for example. They didn’t have money. They bartered, sure, but everyone had contribute their time to the preservation of society. If you didn’t contribute, you were cast out. Of course, at that time, if you didn’t have the tribe to lean on, it meant you were on your own… which essentially meant you were more likely to die from starvation or some other horrible way.

    But, as society moved forward, we found a way to convert those same intangible hours that we spent hunting, gathering or farming into a physical condition that allowed us to expand beyond basic survival and build technological society. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think society might eventually move beyond the need for money, but for right now it’s unreasonable to think people will just give up hours of their life for no reason. We have to eat after all, and since we aren’t putting in the hours farming and hunting, we have to put it in somewhere else to trade for hours of someone else’s life that is doing the farming and hunting.

    If you mechanize every aspect of food production, transportation, construction and the maintenance of those things… I think you’d reach the point where money isn’t necessary anymore. 3D printers are sort of the first step in that direction. Printing up tools, clothing, food, organs… that will dramatically lower the costs of these things making money less necessary. We won’t see it in our lifetimes, nor would I want to. We’re frankly just not ready for that. We have to develop a lot more technology to backfill the ‘crappy’ jobs first so people aren’t labor-camped into doing them against their will.

    Question though, who is Mudd referring to as rich if there is no money? Gold-pressed latinum? Credits? What is the guy selling the tribbles for if there’s no money? I’ve heard other references to money or credits ‘saved up’. I personally just assumed the Federation was like the military and the Enterprise was like a current Naval Aircraft Carrier, a self contained ‘city’ for all intents and purposes. They don’t charge you for food on a naval ship, but you also can’t eat yourself to death. But, there’s also no need for money on the ship. That’s how I looked at it until Kirk said there was no money in the future, and that brought into question some contradictions for me. But, hey, it’s whatever.

    • TheGoodNews says:

      Consider these:

      “Some collectives did in fact abolish money. They had no system of exchange, not even coupons. For example, a resident of Magdalena de Pulpis, when asked, ‘How do you organize without money? Do you use barter, a coupon book, or anything else?,’ replied, ‘Nothing. Everyone works and everyone has the right to what he needs free of charge. He simply goes to the store where provisions and all other necessities are supplied. Everything is distributed free with only a notation of what he took.” The Anarchist Collectives by Sam Dolgoff.

      “Medical care and medicines are free. Even postage stampes are free. There is no rent. Housing, building repairs, water, gas, electricity-all are supplied gratis, not only to the collectivists but also to the ‘individualist.'” Dolgoff (ibid)

      “In most anarchist collectives money was abolished. ‘Here in Fraga,’ the local paper proclaimed in blazing pride, ‘you can throw banknotes into the street and no one will take any notice. Rockefelle, if you were to come to Fraga with your entire bank account you would not be able to buy a cup of coffee. Money, your God and your servant, has been abolished and the people are happy.'” – The Spanish Civil War by Anton Beevor

      “Many of the normal motives of civilized life-snobbishness, money-grubbing, fear of the boss, etc.-had simply ceased to exist.” – Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

      “As far as my purely personal preferences went I would have liked to join the Anarchists.” Orwell (ibid)

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