For years, I’ve been a fan of Star Trek, and have used their innovations in many presentations, but I’ve always wondered: how come there’s no money on the Star Ship Enterprise?
Is everything free?
My supposition was that the future world of Star Trek, bearing in mind that it’s set in the 24th Century, is based upon chips embedded inside the crew and these chips wirelessly register consumption and spending on an account tab.
Not the case, as it turns out.
Gene Rodenberry, Star Trek’s creator, instead believed that money no longer existed. He believed this as his view of how capitalism and finance worked was one where he was concerned that people were enslaved by aspirations of accumulating wealth.
From Yvonne Fern’s book The Last Conversation, Gene Roddenberry says that: “Money is a terrible thing. Why do people work at jobs in Star Trek? Why does someone become a baker? Because the family is going to starve to death? No. People become bakers because certain people love the smell of things baking.”
So he didn’t like money.
What would Star Trek do instead?
Work for the improvement of mankind by boldly going where no-one had gone before, and hang the expense.
This is a theme explained and explored on regular occasion throughout the Star Trek series and filsm.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard in states in Star Trek TNG episode The Neutral Zone: “A lot has changed in three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of 'things'. We have eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions.”
This is repeated in the film Star Trek: First Contact, where Picard states: “The economics of the future is somewhat different. You see, money doesn't exist in the 24th century... The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
And reinforced in Star Trek: Deep Space 9. From the episode In the Cards, Jake and Nog are debating buying something:
Jake Sisko: I'm Human, I don't have any money.
Nog: It's not my fault that your species decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some philosophy of self-enhancement.
Jake Sisko: Hey, watch it. There's nothing wrong with our philosophy. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity.
Nog: What does that mean, exactly?
Jake Sisko: It means we don't need money.
Although this was an inconsistent theme at the start of the Star Trek series – there are various references to sales, money and credits in various episodes – by the time that Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) series came around in the 1990s, money was definitely dead.
Ronald Dowl Moore, a writer and producer of several Star Trek series and films, said as much in an interview on AOL chat in 1997: “By the time I joined TNG, Gene had decreed that money most emphatically did NOT exist in the Federation, nor did 'credits' and that was that. Personally, I've always felt this was a bunch of hooey, but it was one of the rules and that's that.” (AOL chat, 1997)
Now at the risk of becoming too nerdy, what’s the point?
It’s just science fiction isn’t it?
After all, Star Trek invented the mobile telephone …
… flat screen HD-TVs …
… microwaves …
So could money disappear and we are all purely motivated by working for human betterment?
If we move to a world of philanthropy, what happens after?
Can the world work without monetary control?
Star Trek facts and quotes sourced from Memory Alpha