WOIN Economics and Politics of the Future

GreyLord

Adventurer
Just some thoughts on supply and demand of the future. Technology questions in regards to NEW have got me pondering other types of technology.

In Star Trek, one idea at one point was that no one goes hungry or without shelter or needs (at least in the core of the Federation). This differs from earlier versions of the Federation (where I suppose this wasn't so). Because everyone has what they need, they pursue interests of how to improve themselves or better themselves instead of trying to collect material gains. In many ways, the way they present it, seems almost like a socialistic society.

Simply put, as the requirements of work go down...less people will be able to get work in those types of fields and hence be able to get the money to prevent themselves from going hungry or obtaining the basics of life. However, ironically, even as that occurs, the amount of resources increases, which means that in theory, if there was a way to redistribute the resources, they wouldn't have to work and indeed, may even be able to do whatever the heck they want.

In that idea, as the resources get better and there is enough to really make it so no one is really poor or destitute...would the governments go from one style to a more universal socialistic approach?

To take our modern world in looking at this,

I'd say as the world has progressed, our ability to actually feed everyone has also increased. I'd say currently, there is NO reason that there is anyone hungry, or shelterless in Western Society (Western Europe and the US/Canada). However, with the Capitalistic system of economics, I'd say there is little chance of completely solving that difficulty. However, even as we see nations with 30-40% unemployment, and even a greater percentage that do not work (are not unemployed as they have no desire to find work...older folks, disabled, etc), we can see that nations DO have a socialistic way of trying to ensure that everyone has food and shelter.

I'd say technologically...we just have not gotten advanced enough to eliminate ALL hunger and destitution. In otherwords, even if the technology is there for us to be able to create the resources to house and feed all in a physical sense, the administrative/government/bureaucracy has not advanced technologically enough for us to be able to do this easily yet.

So...looking at technology...could we say government and bureaucracy itself is a form of technology (afterall, look at how the world advanced with governements...even over the past thousand years, with monarchy and feudalism...then going to a more democratic and republican type ideal...and finally today where we still have the democratic and republican ideas (for example, Constitutional Monarchy) but very much interspersed with socialistic ideas.

In that way...what type of government do you think a future technology would be? With how we are going...I'd say it would deal with a way to distribute resources so no one is hungry or shelterless or in need (I'd even say we're part of the way there already). If they can travel ingalactically, wouldn't it make sense that at that point they'd also have the resources and government advances to provide for everyone if needed?

In which case, what do people do most of the time. Will it be like Star Trek where people choose to improve themselves? Will it be like Doctor Who where one can basically have a Tardis that provides food (as far as I can tell, the TARDIS provides food, etc...as needed, changes as it adapts to the situations, has basically everything one needs if they never even wanted to leave the TARDIS)? Or something else.

I know that technology and eras of tech have been asked about already...in that regards...how would government and economics fit into these arenas. Is it something like I've imagined (going more and more towards a sociological slant, but then probably far advanced beyond that by the time periods I'm discussing above) or how is that going to be handled. Will it even be discussed?

Seeing how a LOT of the way the technology today progresses and has in the past, and how it's directly related to how and what type of governments are there and what they allow and provide, as well as how the economies act and occur...I would think it's relevant.

Is there a timeline or anyway these will be integrated or discussed?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That's very much a setting-based thing; it's going to be different in everybody's game.

I don't see it as an advancement scale - partly because sci-fi sometimes says otherwise (Ferengi, for example) and partly because I don't want to get into the business of implying judgement on any real-world economic systems we use today. The likelihood is that there may be some GM advice on the subject, but no core rules.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Star Trek's Federation was certainly conceived as a sort of Marxist Humanist Utopia by Roddenberry - communism as it were, done right, where freedom and respect for rights coexisted with economic parity. Kirk famously insists that the Federation has no money.

Exactly how it works is an entire other question, as the economic details of the Federation are no more explained than the economic details of Marx's projected communist economic systems. There is at least one nuclear war in the past of Earth by the time of the Federation, so we can see how it might get put into place - but its never explained how it actually works.

For example, who decides how much economic resources to spend on Star Fleet vessels? The Federation has sufficient manufacturing capacity, but its clearly not unlimited capacity. So, obviously if it comes down to building a person a private skyscraper and launching another Constellation class cruiser, something has to go. Is Star Fleet subject to civilian commanders, or is this pretty much a military autocracy however benevolent? Are we seeing only a window in to what is functionally the Federation's aristocracy? What's life like for your average Federation citizen - the sort that are dead even before the red shirts start dying? Are elections held regularly or at all? Do Federation citizens have any real say in or control over their government? It seems like most colonies tend to have a central leader figure/cult of personality figure who is in charge (and this figure is usually insane or corrupt) as opposed to any sort of complex government. Ok, so everyone gets basic necessities taken care of, but let's say you want to own a farm, a vineyard, a starship, or a planet? One of the fundamental theorems of economics is that human wants are unlimited. Who gets to decide who gets what they want? AI seems to be illegal, so who is doing all the jobs that humans generally don't find intellectually rewarding and stimulating? Genetic engineering also seems to be illegal, so what is happening with all the idiots that can't become top star fleet officers? What is there life like? If you don't have money, can anyone have property and if you have property but not money, is basically everything on the barter system? And if you don't have property, to what extent does anyone actually have rights? What actually happens with political or religious minorities that dissent from the overall socialist/humanist system? Are they allowed colony worlds, and how are they proportioned? Or are they ruthlessly crushed and people/children sent to reeducation camps?

To take our modern world in looking at this,

I'd say as the world has progressed, our ability to actually feed everyone has also increased. I'd say currently, there is NO reason that there is anyone hungry, or shelterless in Western Society.
I take it you've never worked much in homeless shelters or food pantries, or really done much social work at all. The fundamental causes of poverty aren't easily removed from a society regardless of the manufacturing capacity you develop. Presumably an advanced society can cure mental illnesses that have a chemical basis, but even that is hard, since the person being cured needs to cooperate and if they don't cooperate things get ugly in a hurry. But even an advanced society probably can't cure all the insanity that has no chemical basis. The wealthy and the educated are just as wasteful, mean, and emotionally dysfunctional as the poor, deprived, and ignorant. Dislocation occurs not only at higher tech levels, but arguably increasingly at higher tech levels. And witness what happens in Hollywood with people who objectively have every material comfort that they could want, as well as fame, clout, and a presumably intellectually fulfilling career. Suicide, divorce, anti-social behavior, etc. Make everyone rich, doesn't make everyone good, well-adjusted or happy. There are no easy answers.
 

MarkB

Hero
Star Trek's Federation was certainly conceived as a sort of Marxist Humanist Utopia by Roddenberry - communism as it were, done right, where freedom and respect for rights coexisted with economic parity. Kirk famously insists that the Federation has no money.

Exactly how it works is an entire other question, as the economic details of the Federation are no more explained than the economic details of Marx's projected communist economic systems. There is at least one nuclear war in the past of Earth by the time of the Federation, so we can see how it might get put into place - but its never explained how it actually works.
In particular, it's never explained how the Federation interfaces with other cultures that do use money. In Star Trek DS9, Starfleet officers clearly pay for goods, meals and services bought on the Promenade, and some of them gamble at Quark's. We never see anyone go into debt as a result, but they do seem invested in the results. So, can they simply requisition a few bricks of Latinum from the Federation if they're running short?
 

Derren

Adventurer
You might want to read the Eclipse Phase rpg.

One major point of the setting is the existence of replicators which can create anything from easily available base elements (including other replicators).
In this setting there are 3 types of government

1. Old style capitalism
Replicators are heavily restricted and people have to work for money to buy things. They are rather totalitarian in order to keep replicators out of the hands of the people (as their availability would destroy their economic system)

2. Anarchy
In anarchic "governments" no money exists as everyone can make anything. The only thing of real value is knowledge (including blue prints for replicators). But they are given out more along a reputation and "you know someone who knows someone who knows how to make what you need" basis. Mostly you trade favors for other favors

3. The middle ground
I am not sure how they are called in the game. Those governments are in between the above two. Access to replicators is unrestricted, but they only contain "basic" blueprints (basic still means pretty much all food, no matter the quality, clothes, entertainment, etc.) Only real luxury items are restricted (you have to work to buy the blueprints for them) and of course dangerous stuff.
 
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GreyLord

Adventurer
In particular, it's never explained how the Federation interfaces with other cultures that do use money. In Star Trek DS9, Starfleet officers clearly pay for goods, meals and services bought on the Promenade, and some of them gamble at Quark's. We never see anyone go into debt as a result, but they do seem invested in the results. So, can they simply requisition a few bricks of Latinum from the Federation if they're running short?
DS9 did explain it if I recall, along the following lines.

They give each of the Star Fleet members an allowance of sorts for recreation, which they could spend on drinks, gambling, holosuites, etc. because they don't have those items there themselves to provide. The Federation does have an official currency that can be brought out to deal with other cultures that have a monetary system, but doesn't need to use such itself in dealing with it's own resources.

Star Trek assumes that all human problems are solved - except for this week's drama. :)

PS
LOL
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
In that way...what type of government do you think a future technology would be? With how we are going...I'd say it would deal with a way to distribute resources so no one is hungry or shelterless or in need (I'd even say we're part of the way there already). If they can travel ingalactically, wouldn't it make sense that at that point they'd also have the resources and government advances to provide for everyone if needed?
What type of government? Depends on the society. If they're ironworking, it should probably be a state. And state-size governments work best when the lower classes hold up the upper classes - ala "capitalism" and "communism." I use quotes because state-sponsored capitalism requires a heavy enforcement hand (which is a bit on the authoritarian side) and state-sponsored communism doesn't actually grant communal resources fairly to everyone.

Now, highly-advanced societies could have some cool government solutions going on (or just be one big business - authoritarian dictatorship). But consider: more government services means bigger government, and bigger government means more control (less freedom).

Re: providing for everyone. People **** like rabbits. If everyone has everything they need, they spend a lot of time making babies. So the government that provides for everyone is probably also interested in shipping loads of people off the planet. Say, to go start a "colony" (Aliens, anyone?). Failing that, you'd better dream up some sort of government-imposed birth control, and then dream up the revolution that would occur after the futuristic government tells people they can't be doing their favorite, um, extra-curricular activity. Or go the Chinese route. And say goodbye to your daughters...
 
If you want to see real world examples of what people do when they have copious amounts of free time and little worry about food and shelter, look to hunter-gatherer groups. Though it's not a universal rule, in many of them the average person only spends a couple of hours a day doing necessary survival work. They spend the rest of the time socializing, making things, etc.
 

haakon1

Visitor
People **** like rabbits. If everyone has everything they need, they spend a lot of time making babies. So the government that provides for everyone is probably also interested in shipping loads of people off the planet. Say, to go start a "colony" (Aliens, anyone?). Failing that, you'd better dream up some sort of government-imposed birth control, and then dream up the revolution that would occur after the futuristic government tells people they can't be doing their favorite, um, extra-curricular activity. Or go the Chinese route. And say goodbye to your daughters...
On the contrary, there's a direct negative correlation between how rich a country is and how many children the average woman has. Which means as countries develop, birth rates fall and the age pyramid of the population gets older.

The lowest birth rates are in highly developed, highly urbanized countries, like Japan and Singapore.

The highest birth rates are in underdeveloped, rural countries like Afghanistan.

So a future where humanity has developed super high technology but has too many people makes no sense on trends from the last few centuries. Industrialization, education, the green revolution, vaccinations, birth control & other health care improvements add up to meaning Malthus' time has long ended.
 
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haakon1

Visitor
I don't think Star Trek thinks all that hard about it.
Agreed. I think Star Trek intentionally didn't take a stand on politics and economics, just as they didn't really explain what a dilithium crystal was, or how to make one, or how precisely it enables us to go faster than light. Details weren't important.
 

DMMike

Game Masticator
On the contrary, there's a direct negative correlation between how rich a country is and how many children the average woman has. Which means as countries develop, birth rates fall and the age pyramid of the population gets older.

The lowest birth rates are in highly developed, highly urbanized countries, like Japan and Singapore.

The highest birth rates are in underdeveloped, rural countries like Afghanistan.

So a future where humanity has developed super high technology but has too many people makes no sense on trends from the last few centuries. Industrialization, education, the green revolution, vaccinations, birth control & other health care improvements add up to meaning Malthus' time has long ended.
Just for argument's sake...;)

There are a few disconnects between what I was saying and what you're saying here. Let's note first that I was referring to technologically and governmentally advanced cultures which don't exactly exist on Earth.

Next, you're probably measuring a nation's wealth ("rich") by its GDP, or level of infrastructure, while I was looking solely at government expenditures (on personal needs...not, say, foreign aid), not a nation's wealth in relation to other nations.

Last, I'm sure your observations about birth rates are dead-on, but what about life expectancies? I bet it's a lot higher in Japan and Singapore than in Afghanistan.

So, disconnects aside, people are mimicking rabbits more often in Afghanistan than in Japan. Probably because they a) want some spirit-uplifting from harsh conditions, b) need extra help on the farm, c) have more free time than those overworked Japanese. Well, future-society people can probably agree with (a) and (c). They obviously don't need extra help on the farm, what with really smart robots to do all the hard work.

Now let's take a brief look (speculation, mind you) at population control. In Afghanistan, well, there's war, poverty, and probably some Taliban capital punishment. In Japan, there's nutrition control (tofu), overworking (overstressing?), and the obvious amounts of pollution that result from being "developed."

Now the real question - if Japan is the closest thing to our high-providing benevolent future government, what do Japan's emigration rates look like?
 

haakon1

Visitor
Now the real question - if Japan is the closest thing to our high-providing benevolent future government, what do Japan's emigration rates look like?
According to the CIA World Factbook, Japan was has 0/1000 net migration. That is, people leave and arrive in precisely equal numbers.

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ja.html

Looking at correlation of birth rate, GDP per capita in PPP, and migration rates, at the top and bottom of the world league tables, with honorable mention for Afghanistan as the highest birth rate country outside Sub-Saharan Africa

Japan Birth Rate 8.23 (220th) GDP $35,900 (36th) Migration Rate: 0.00/1000 (91st)
Singapore Birth Rate 7.91 (221th) GDP $60,800 (7th) Migration Rate: +15.80/1000 (5th)
Hong Kong Birth Rate 7.58 (224th) GDP $50,900 (14th) Migration Rate: +3.75/1000 (28th)
Monaco Birth Rate 6.79 (225th) GDP $70,600 (6th) Migration Rate: +1.93/1000 (44th)

Niger Birth Rate 46.84 (1st) GDP $800 (221st) Migration Rate: -0.60/1000 (139th)
Mali Birth Rate 46.06 (2nd) GDP $1,100 (214th) Migration Rate: -2.41/1000 (170th)
Uganda Birth Rate 44.50 (3rd) GDP $1,400 (205th) Migration Rate: -0.01/1000 (110th)
Burkina Faso Birth Rate 42.81 (4th) GDP $1,400 (204th) Migration Rate: 0.00/1000 (105th)
Zambia Birth Rate 42.79 (5th) GDP $1,700 (198th) Migration Rate: -0.75/1000 (144th)
Afghanistan Birth Rate 39.05 (12th) GDP $1,100 (216th) Migration Rate: -2.16/1000 (166th)

So rich countries with low birth rates tend to pull in extra population from less developed countries.
-- People go where the money is, unless they aren't allowed to (Japan).
-- Rich countries like Singapore are growing due to immigration, not birth rates.

If the whole world were highly developed, I think we'd have shrinking population until it reached equilibrium, probably with government encouragement to have more kids. Singapore actually has a number of policies to encourage growth of their native-born population, like housing and tax benefits, but as you can see they've had little effect on a small crowded island with lots of highly educated people.

Of course, with mass cloning and "live forever" medical technology in the far future, all bets are off, I suppose.

For those playing at home, it's interesting also to note that the low birth rate countries are extremely stable and peaceful places (no wars since WWII, low crime rates), whereas the high birth countries often have civil wars and Al-Qaeda problems now (Niger, Mali, Afghanistan) or had serious problems in the previous generation (Uganda under Idi Amin).

Of the low birth rate countries, 2 don't control their own politics (St. Pierre & Miquelon, Hong Kong), 1 is a monarchy with substantial foreign control by a neighbor (Monaco), 1 is a "semi-democracy" with elections, strong rule of law, and a very strong, competent, and successful bureaucracy, but only one party ever winning elections because it's genuinely popular (Singapore), and 1 used to be like a slightly-less organized Singapore and now has multiple parties winning elections after decades of economic stagnation (Japan).

So, yes, the future might resemble Singapore, if we're lucky. Not that different from the Federation, I think.

Or might be dystopian and resemble South Africa crossed with California, as seen in Elysium, if capitalism goes seriously wrong.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
I've also seen the correlations that show the more advanced a society, the fewer pre capita children are had.

I think some of that also is the availability of birth control or the ability to do certain things without having to fear about the effects that others would have had to in less advanced civilizations.
 

pemerton

Legend
There are some good mini-essays on some of these issues in Rolemaster Companion VI, written by Lev Anderson (who I believe is the same person as Lev Lafeyette who posts on rpg.net).
 

WayneLigon

Adventurer
In Star Trek ... In many ways, the way they present it, seems almost like a socialistic society.
Star Trek, in many ways, is a poor example to bring up because it's a TV show with a requirement for drama and adventure, and because too many cooks have long ago spoiled that soup since the original series closed it's doors. Roddenberry's original vision was that they'd gone past the need for money (and this is reinforced in the TNG episode where they encounter people from the 20th century), they'd defeated racism and such, etc.

He wisely didn't attempt to explain much more than that, because that leads into the next item: in a post-scarcity, possibly post-singularity society, almost any form of government we've ever had will also be obsolete because most of the point of government boils down to the power to adjudicate limited resources.

Once that requirement is removed, there probably won't be any democracies or socialist states or really much in the way of any governmental form we recognize. There may not be a requirement for any government or law as we know it at all. Most modern PS Sci-fi seems to postulate a kind of stateless quasi-anarchy based on rational actors, where the only thing that 'enforcers' have to do is to simply make sure that outsiders don't kill citizens. Basically, people 'grow up' and don't do so much foolish stuff as have babies they cannot support.

Their favorite activity certainly would not be outlawed - since there probably are no laws per se - but rather they'd choose to use contraception. Or there's probably room for plenty of immortal babies once you spread out into the universe.

I point everyone to 'The Culture' novels by Iain Banks. There's plenty of descriptions of how The Culture deals with outsider civilizations, how it fights a 'war', etc.
 

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