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William Polley

I always figured that the replicator solved the problem of scarcity. I mean, the ability to rearrange matter at the molecular level does render money somewhat less necessary.

The real question is whether access to a replicator is regulated by the Federation.

Chew on that one for a while.

EclectEcon

I love Bill's question.

It sounds like a classic monopoly problem with zero marginal costs (not unlike much of what we teach in intro to sports economics!).

But then suppose there are two, three, or more replicators with zero marginal costs. We can quickly see the Cournot, etc. models evolving.

In fact, if there were more than one replicator, competition would induce the owner of at least one to use it to produce at least one more replicator, thus increasing the supply, until the price of everything dropped to zero.

But if there were only one replicator, whoever owned it would have a VERY strong incentive to maintain the monopoly.

EclectEcon

btw, I got the original link from Newmark's Door.

Brian Ferguson

One of George O. Smith's "Venus Equilateral" classic stories touched on the consequences of replicator technology a long time before Star Trek. And it's interesting to look back and see how much science fiction writer Mack Reynolds (now pretty much forgotten, I think, but once one of the most popular authors in the SF magazines) got right about economic arrangements. But did the Federation really get rid of money? Remember all those episodes of various series in which bars of gold-pressed latinum were used as a medium of exchange? Perhaps it couldn't be replicated, or perhaps even Hollywood scriptwriters eventually twigged to the problems (at least from the dramatist's point of view) of a moneyless society.

Phil Miller

In one of the Star Trek movies (I think it's the 4th installment, but memory may not serve correctly and time certainly does not allow research on this topic at this time) they talk about how they no longer use money.

Brian Ferguson

I think they mentioned it on TV, too, in a Next Generation episode when they picked up some 20th Century space travellers. The idea was to show how much more enlightened the future was.

Phil Miller

Brian,

That was my take on the comment too: we, here in the 21st-and-a-half century are so much more enlightened than you cro-magnon capitalist people. So one wonders how they solved the problem of scarcity - was it the replicator????? HMMMMMMM.

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