Star Trek: Economics - Just a thought

The following is in no way organized thought, and is written in as best as I could form it.

Star Trek is a world where most advance cultures reach a point of no longer having ‘want’ or at least as portrayed at times in the show among the federation, but as I think more about that - even though it’s Science Fiction, I notice among shows there are still things as businesses, jobs, and even some bare bones of an economy. Thinking on this, I thought of what would make up an interstellar Economy in a setting such as Star Trek, thus I thought of the first big three figures-

  • Non-replicatable Matter
  • Labor Unions
  • Civilian/Public Technologies

These three are the basics of what I think would be important from an economy from a civilian stand point, seeing as not all people are in Star Fleet or an affiliated Military.

  • Non-replicatable Matter
This has three subcategories:
  • Complex Elements (EX. Latinum, Dilithium)
  • Complex Bio-matter (EX. Some medicine (Like TNG) and perhaps some plants or other bio-matter, that would require extensive and expensive cloning)
  • Complex Processed Matter (EX. Complex foods or Industrial Material - See ‘Thoughs on Replicators’)

  • Labor Unions
This is basic, as is the idea that you need to people to still do duties, such as create things or objects in industries that would be centered around the other two main categories (Non-replicatable Matter, Civilian/Public Technology).

There are two subcategories to this: Legal and Illegal
  • Legal Market (Unions/Workers)
  • Illegal Market (Slaves)

Finally, we have:
  • Civilian/Public Technologies
Much like we have today, there are things common folks cannon LEGALLY get their hands on. Example being high grade military ships, or other technologies.

This would be something similar, if not dominated, to something close to the Auto industry, because as shown, people can travel off planet and as seen in movies (Just here me out here, Star Trek: Into Darkness) there are vehicles and others still in the city, thus meaning people can ‘privately’ own or operate things like shuttles or Freighters, as even shown in game by S.S. class ships, which is a common header for most Civilian ships, I.E. not affiliated with a government.

This must mean there is a market of some sort for these objects.

— Thus, my extent or idea is that there is to some degree and Economoy in the Federation, using things like Energy Credits, used to purchase or trade for objects as stated above (Similar to The Dollar in America), used to denote that you’ve done things in society and are acquiring objects for work.

HOWEVER, due to the freedom and creation of technologies like replicators, ideals like Upper, Lower, and Middle economical classes have been abolished and lead way to the common person.

  • Gold Pressed Latinum
In the show and game we’ve seen things like GPL used and traded for as another form of currency, the thing I can easily equate this to is something like the Euro, a cross-boarder accepted currency that is traded between different cultures. As showed in the Deep Space Nine, Gold Pressed Latinum a very sought after metallic liquid that is pressed into “useless” gold.

So, this has lead me to believe that Latinum is non-replicatable. Meaning there is matter in the Star Trek Universe that cannot be created by replicators and still creates a problem of limited resources among things.

As far as what Latinum is worth, in Deep Space Nine that show 4 forms of Latinum. Slips, Streips, Bars, and Bricks. Slips being the smallest and Bricks being the largest. So. With Latinum being non-replicatable, this means that Latinum must also adhere to the rules of “gold standard”.

For those who do not know what the “Gold Standard” is, there was a time where money (like the American Dollar) was backed by Gold or the worth of gold. This meant one thing, we could not print more money then there was gold in America and that each representation of dollar was backed by an amount of gold.

This is obvious with GPL, as within each gold casing of GPL is an amount of Latinum inside. So, Latinum is treaded with as much care in the interstellar economy as much as a dollar does under a gold standard.

(How much is Latinum worth in value?)
As portrayed again in Deep Space Nine, any mention of Latinum in any form is very expensive.

During an episode:
There was mention of a heist where an amount (1000 Bricks) of Latinum was stolen. This was passively mentioned as an enormous amount and comparable to a trust left to a prince later in the show.

(Warning Spoliers)
Spoiler: Show
- While this may of later turned out to be a lie later, the individual as we know, has been an example of someone who knows his economics and believed this, causing me to believe that this has to be true in some form.

  • Thoughts on Replicators.
Replicators in Star Trek have proved time and again to be the catch all for anyones needs, but in shows there have been mentions of different types of replicators, Industrial replicators, Food Replicators, and Medical replicators. This must mean that replicators are suited to different duties in aligning the molecules of objects for that specific task.

Sometimes Replicators have been proven to not be able to create certain items like Induction Coils, or plating or hulls. To me, this might mean that it not only does it require a certain program or pattern for a replicator to make something, but that there are degrees of resolution, like a replicators ability to align molecules and particles to make the desired object in its entirety.

Going off this thought, that might also explain why people can be found complaining about the taste of some food from replicators. Meaning bigger, stronger, (and in some cases ‘expensive’) replicators may be able to produce better tasting food or more complex foods rather then just aligning proteins, meaning being able to handle multitude of flavors among the different and varied foods in the Star Trek Universe.

-- If you think I missed anything or have thoughts, please post comments below! --

(And Yes. I know there are gonna be a bunch of typos in this.)
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This response is going to be somewhat brief. I will try to come back to this after a bit, when I have some more time. It's a cool topic of conversation, and one that I think gets glossed over a lot in Trek fandoms.

I think you're largely correct, following information gleaned from both hard and soft cannon sources, though I feel compelled to address a small quibble I had with a bit of verbology used in your opening thoughts. Federation citizens, and to a lesser degree, those of most of the large, interstellar empires, are freed from "need", not "want". That which they require for basic survival, in large part, is provided for them. Food, shelter, medicine. Those things that they would want beyond the staple, they may need to strive for.

In fact, that seems to be the staple of the Utopianism that the Federation is based on; the personal desire to become bigger, better, greater. The strive to become more than what you are. Otherwise, I think you hit the nail largely on the head.

It does seem, however, the further you go from the "core" of the Federation, the less stability there is in what "needs" the Federation can provide. One would assume that is also true for the other interstellar empires, though that may or may not be the case.

EIther way, I absolutely concur that there is a thriving market for trade inside the Federation, both deep in the core and out on the fringes; further, I feel like those markets would be extraordinarily diverse. I see things like fresh-grown fruit and non-replicated (not non-replicable, but specifically those items not created with a replicator) luxury items as a boom trade in core Federation worlds, while industrial items, medicines, and infrastructure items being large target markets the further from the center of the Federation you go.

In soft cannon sources (the Tech Manuals and the Worlds of the Federation Okuda books), they reference the fact that the Federation /does/ actually use credits as a currency, but it is almost exclusively a nationalist currency used for interstellar trade. It's very seldom used by individual Federation citizens in common trade practices with other Federation citizens. Generally, if there's some kind of exchange between Federation citizens, it's a trade of a commodity for another commodity. (I give you finely carved statues for a new replicator and two sets of new spanners.)

Soft cannon supports latinum not being able to be stably replicated, thumbs up there.

That's going to have to do it for the moment, as I have to go throw my head at a wall for a while. But I have some thoughts to add after a bit. Really neat conversation topic. I like it! ^^
Since rejoining TFA, I've been reading reddit's Daystrom Institute a lot, and they discuss things like this fairly often. I just thought I'd mention it.
A thought on replicators and transporters: The economics of matter-energy conversion.

Something you touched on is the fact that replicators have an extremely strange impact on economies. They effectively convert generic matter and energy (in this case, electrical energy, usually some from kind of warp reactor) into usable materials, show most often to produce food, clothing, and basic objects like dinnerware and solid objects, and what you mentioned about 'resolution' is close to the mark, from what I've managed to piece together from observation.

Basically, if replicators were a 'perfect' matter re-creator that was capable of making literally anything, it would negate all want, need, and competition over resources in the entire galaxy. There would basically be no resource except 'energy', and at Trek levels of science, particularly with the discovery of things like the Solinae and Jenolan dyson spheres, among other things, energy is nearing the point of being an irrelevantly abundant resource. As long as you have energy, you can make literally anything.
But that's obviously not the case, and for a couple of reasons.

First, Memory Alpha states in no uncertain terms that the basic principle of replicators is actually fundamentally the same as transporters, with the caveat that replicators pull from a pool of 'generic matter' and use a modified version of transporter technology to 'realign' the matter into whatever molecular structure is desired by the user. So foremost, matter is used during this process, and matter returned into replicators (and, I suspect, waste systems), is decompiled into whatever base state that the replicators pull from, in order to be reused at a later time. This makes my previous statement about "infinite energy" somewhat moot... although it could stand to reason that the replicator system COULD make matter from pure energy, this is likely an extremely inefficient process, compared to simply reorganizing existing matter... which actually makes a little sense, if you've read up on some basic physics and thermodynamics.
One of the things worth noting is that stable matter is also an extremely efficient way of storing energy, fundamentally. There's way more energy contained in the atoms of a standard, modern battery than will every be generated by the chemical reaction used to draw electricity from the lithium, or whatever other compound it uses as a capacitor. Similarly, it would make sense to try and store matter, rather than try to store raw energy, because, as exemplified by the many, many exploding conduits and panels during any Star Trek combat scene, overloading the EPS grid has devastating results.

Secondly, replicators, as you said, cannot just "make anything". Although I'm sure the writers for the series have forgotten it at one point or another, replicators are actually not capable of producing complex objects of any kind, they aren't supposed to be able to do things like simply make a phaser, or a tricorder... such devices are extremely complex, and require incredibly fine and perfectly-manufactured circuits and power systems, and although you could theoretically make a replicator with enough resolution to produce these kinds of things, it stands to reason that it's more efficient to replicate the parts individually using specialized equipment (or just use the actual raw resources), and assemble it.
The point about the taste of replicated food is another point of interest... by description, again on Memory Alpha, replicated food is not actually the food that you think you're eating. It is a nutritionally stable collection of proteins and nutrients that is molded and flavored to taste like the food you want to be eating, and it cannot actually produce living matter... as an example, replicated Klingon Racht is considered a distasteful, pale comparison to the real thing. And this makes sense, as there's no reasonable way to have a computer system that can store every possible combination of edible proteins, or the minute differences between them... after all, not every kind of cow or chicken tastes the same, so you can't expect to capture the variety of things like meat, much less plants, in replicated food.

These are also EXACTLY the kind of corners I would expect a government to cut when mass-producing crew living systems. It's better to invest less resources and manpower making higher quality food-production systems, at a certain point, in order to keep your government and military resource-efficient.

Replicators, especially, I imagine would have difficulty producing things like Dilithium because not only is it a complex crystalline molecular structure, but there's an inherent amount of energy naturally stored by Dilithium crystals... and that would mean that replicating them would, by nature, cost more energy than the crystals would produce, in addition to the matter, and the energy cost of of running the replicator systems. This is probably true of other things, as well.

I'm sure there are extremely high resolution replicators, programmed to produce a variety of things far more detailed and complex, where needed... example, the Medical Replicators you mentioned, and the Industrial Replicators used for producing construction and starship materials. For the extremely wealthy or privileged, there are probably replicators that can produce more accurate recreations of foods, or recreational drugs, and the series have several examples of replicator technologies that are more advanced than anything available in Starfleet ships.

Similarly, there's obviously some disparity in economic situations, even among Federation citizens that isn't very well explored... for example, if I'm a citizen living on Earth, what determines where I'm allowed to live? Obviously, as a privileged Federation member, all my needs are met, but what if I want to live in an extravagant house on the Nile river? The logistics of putting a house there, furnishing it, and connecting it to utilities, not to mention potential limitations on buildable areas around the river means that there MUST be some kind of system of determining who gets what, even if the society is utopian. There's clearly some kind of economic impact of these kinds of decisions and how they influence the movement of resources throughout the Federation. This suggests that there's some kind of currency, even if its something ephemeral like 'merit' that determines how the socialist economy of the Federation provides for its citizens.

There's also the whole thing about how Earth is one of the most utopian planets in the Federation, and other species/worlds within it may still have things like independent economies and militaries that they want to maintain, particularly because the Federation respects individual cultural identities.

Sorry if any of this seems jumbled, or out of order... I was just kinda trying to organize some of my thoughts on the topic as I thought of them, heh. I've spent more than a little bit of time thinking about this, as well.
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Bumping this, for folks who may not of seen it and might find it interesting.