I was thinking about the way I handled money on an intergalactic scale in my novels the other day. How do you deal with exchange rates among different regions, planets, empires? I figured out a plan: there was a huge bank that spanned the galaxy, with offices everywhere. A being could deposit funds in their local currency, and when they were shopping somewhere else, they just paid it out of their Galactic Bank account, who would take care of exchange rates and such and would just pay the bill in the local currency.
This got me to thinking about Star Trek. I know a lot about Star Trek; more than many people, but not as much as the real hardcore fans. One issue I keep coming back to is money. Kirk stated in ST:4 that they don’t use money anymore, a theme I’ve seen mentioned other times such as by Picard in First Contact.
There are a few problems I see here, and hopefully somebody can chime in with the canon answer or perhaps people can help me reason it out. The Federation doesn’t use money, but many other people do, such as the Ferengi. They were always obsessing about how much latinum they had. What happens when a Federation family, who doesn’t have money, wants to vacation on Bajor? How do they pay for things?
Also, I see a problem with human nature. Author David Weber addressed this issue in his Honor Harrington series, in which an entire star empire is brought to its knees because of their inability to control their funds. Basically, this culture had the idea that everybody should get a stipend without having to do anything. Eventually, 80% of this civilization never bothered to do anything. They stayed in their government built housing blocs, collected their dole, and never did a thing. Nobody explored, built, or produced anything because somebody gave them money to just hang out.
Now, I have to wonder, could we ever get past that? It seems like, other than a small percentage of people who are motivated simply by the desire to learn and grow, most people would like SOME sort of motivation to drive them. I think it is human nature to desire a payoff for your hard work. If, in the Federation, you could simply hang out all day and look for something to occupy your time, what would people do with it? Of course, there would always be the explorers and boundary-pushers, but among everyday folk, what would people do?
Sadly, in our society right now, I think the answer might be a solid ‘nothing’. I’m not talking class warfare here, but simply the idea that if there’s no reward for busting your hump, how many people still would?
I love the idea that we could be free to pursue idealistic goals and better ourselves, as Picard has claimed. If I didn’t have to work in order to pay for our things and as a result was loaded with free time, I have plenty of items on my list:
1. Write, of course. I love doing it, and am thrilled by the idea of creating something, a work that will be here after I leave one day. In my normal job, when I am gone, nobody will ever know I was there. As an author, even an independent one, I leave something behind that hopefully others will enjoy.
2. Learn another language. German, I think. Ja, das ist gut.
3. Restore a muscle car.
4. Learn a martial art.
5. Learn more about world history. Travel to learn about the past.
Oh, I could think of more, but you get the idea. I can honestly say that I would no longer devote my days to video games, though I also must admit that wasn’t always the case. Volunteering somewhere, from an animal shelter to a Habitat for Humanity type program, sounds rewarding as well.
What would you do, if money were not an issue?
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