Tag Archives: socialism

In the future, we won’t have money, and we’ll all be socialists

My ideal vision of the future has always been as its portrayed in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. Humanity has transcended all of the petty nonsense that we’re still fighting about today. Poverty has been eradicated. Common diseases are distant memories of a medical dark age hundreds of years in the past.


Technology in the twenty-fourth century (while admittedly looking more and more dated as the twenty-first century marches on) makes everything accessible to everyone. If you want something, you can fabricate it out of one of the ship’s many onboard replicating machines. It’s the same with food, just speak into the box, tell it what you want, and zap! There it is, bon appetit. Entertainment via the Holodeck is so much more immersive than the trivial pastimes we occupy ourselves with today.

And it’s more than just food and games. Transportation is completely reimagined. With transporters and faster-than-light warp drives, traveling to and from work must be a non-issue. People of the future don’t have to take the subway anywhere. The whole idea of commuting is probably as antiquated as a horse-and-buggy seems to subway riders today.

My point in all of this is to look at our own technological advancement. I’m a firm believer that we’re well on our way to not only achieving, but probably surpassing all of the feats of advancement on display in Star Trek. Three-dimensional printers are just becoming a commercially viable commodity, and so the ability to replicate various objects might soon be a reality for the developed world. Similarly, as driverless cars inevitably take over the roadways, traffic, parking, car accidents, they’re all bound to become headaches of the past.

And as technology takes over more and more of the heavy lifting involved with day-to-day life, how is this going to affect the economy, our sense of wealth, our very definition of the word liberty? I ask this because, in Star Trek anyway, everything is free. Futuristic machines are so ubiquitous that it wouldn’t make sense to charge anybody for goods and services. No, the very idea of currency does not mesh with the utopian economy built on a foundation of infinite clean energy.

If we ever get there, or to some version of something like the world they have on Star Trek, how are we going to make that transition? How are people in charge going to give up their ability to demand a percentage of our own personal wealth in exchange for whatever it is they have to be offering? Or will things stay the same way they are now, a group of people at the top taking a greater percentage of what I would argue should be equally divided?

Take transportation as an example. Let’s look at taxicabs. A driver might not own his own car, he might lease it from a central dispatching agent. But in the process of me getting from point A to point B, I’m paying the driver, and ultimately those profits go on to not only sustain the greater taxi company, but to support the driver’s income.

And so what happens when that driver’s job is replaced by a computer? Is the price of a ride going to go down? I can’t imagine any taxi company willing to lower the fare. I mean, the fact that we’re willing to pay a certain price now shows that the amount is somewhat reasonable. So what’s happening in this potential scenario is that the owner of all the taxis, now free from worrying about assuming the liability of hiring drivers, gets to take home all of the profit, leaving a now unemployed segment of the workforce to look for some other means of earning money.

As technology takes over more and more aspects of society, where is everybody supposed to work? It’s just going to increase this divide, that those in power, those currently with wealth, they’re going to maximize and multiply what they currently have, leaving everyone else with a constantly shrinking piece of the pie.

There are signs that it’s happening already. Look at music and writing. When I was growing up, a CD cost about fifteen bucks. I got a physical object, and a lot of people made money producing that object, selling those objects, it was all part of a system. It was the same way with books and booksellers. But now those commodities are largely digital. We’re getting the same product, the same work of art, but there’s no longer the economy supporting the manufacture and sale of those goods.

And the prices aren’t really that much cheaper. Songs are over a dollar each on iTunes, and publishing companies and authors are constantly fighting with Amazon over how much a digital book should cost. Because as technology grows, the idea of currency doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know how they did it in Star Trek, but they somehow got to the point where nobody pays for anything. People with a lot of money had to give up their extreme riches in order for everybody to share in the wealth and utopia ushered in by a golden age of technological progress. I think we’ll eventually have to deal with how that’s going to work in current society. And it’s going to be tough.

If machines do most of our work, is there still going to be that mentality where you have to work forty hours a week? If poverty doesn’t exist, are we still going to judge those least fortunate for their lack of a work ethic? If you had all of your basic needs met and didn’t really have to do anything, would you still toil away at a job that you didn’t like? In Star Trek, nobody has to, and nobody does. They find something they want to do because they enjoy it, and money isn’t a problem. I have no idea how we’re ever going to get there, but I hope that we do, because the future is coming whether we like it or not.

Unimaginable wealth, indescribable power, exquisite tastes in the rarest wines and finest watches

One of my friends works in a really fancy restaurant, like much fancier than any restaurant I’ve ever stepped foot in. He told me that they have this vintage wine list, and that one of these vintage wines costs a thousand dollars a bottle. The restaurant only had two bottles, because I’m assuming that its exclusivity has more than a little something to do with such a steep price tag. Anyway, over the summer, apparently some guy came in with his family and they bought both of them.

What is it like to drink a thousand dollars? How is such a price even tabulated? Why not two thousand dollars? Why not ten? Once you’re getting to a level that’s beyond absurd, beyond the numerics of everyday reality, why do you even bother putting a price tag on it at all? To me, to a complete outsider to the world of thousand dollar wines, all I see is an insanely rich person going to another insanely rich person and exchanging an insane amount of money for a bottle or two of wine.

One time I was working for a caterer, providing food and drinks for a private party at this jewelry store in the city. The private party wasn’t really a party; the jeweler had invited all of these mega rich people to come and look at their exclusive collection of watches. There were maybe half a dozen guests. I’m pretty sure the wait staff outnumbered the clients by a factor of two to one.

And I remember standing there in my ridiculous catering tuxedo, trailing behind these ultra wealthy shoppers, making sure they had a little snack or a drink whenever they wanted. Super, super rich people have a way of carrying about their super, super rich lives in front of all of the people clinging to them, serving them, making sure that they’re constantly happy, as if they’re totally alone, as if everyone else is some sort of a decoration.

I saw one guy buy a watch that night for something like seventy thousand dollars. And he was putting on this ridiculous show to the salesperson, like, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t! But I just love watches. I just can’t stop buying watches!” and then his wife chimed in, “It’s true! He has so many watches. He can’t stop collecting watches!”

I thought to myself right there how absurd, how disgusting this whole situation was. Here we are, organic finite beings on this cooling rock of molten lava orbiting around the sun, itself orbiting around the center of the galaxy, all of us completely insignificant specks in the cosmos, all of us getting older ever day, going about our lives hoping that it all might mean something, that it all might make sense in some sort of a cosmic plan. And here I was, myself orbiting this guy with my tray of champagne glasses, him orbiting these glass cases displaying finely crafted metal instruments, metal instruments used to tick-tock, to count away the one thing that binds us all together. This metal, it’s going to outlast all of us. And how much money gets spent protecting this metal, these watches, hiring security firms to guard the watches, professionals to maintain the watches, keep them spotless?

On my way out of that building a bunch of security guys went through my backpack, I don’t know why, making sure I didn’t steal anything I guess. As if I could have. Do they really think I’m that clever? Or that stupid? That whole place was locked down like a fortress. I imagined the final pat-down just a friendly little reminder of my role in this world.

The gig lasted an hour, tops. But the same guys who pay thousands of dollars for a bottle of wine, who pay tens of thousands of dollars for a watch, they’re not going to hire some cheap-o catering company. And so all of us hardworking caterers get paid a five-hour minimum for every shift. It’s some of the easiest money I could ever hope to make for doing pretty close to no actual work at all. So I look at it from this perspective and I’m reminded that my existence is unimaginably more comfortable than the majority of humans who have ever lived and suffered and died on this planet. Am I any better than any of these rich people I’m deriding? We’re all chasing the same dollar, inching, orbiting as close as we can toward wealth, toward riches, toward happiness.

I’m not really getting at anything, not really. I’m just wondering, when you take a sip of thousand dollar wine, does any part of you really believe that it’s worth it? Because while I’m sure you poured it into a decanter and let it breathe for exactly the amount of time the sommelier instructed, and while you took a big whiff before you tilted that glass back, tried to imagine all of those vanilla and oak and other subtle, almost hidden aromas, I guarantee you that when that first drop hit your tongue, there had to have been a little part of you that was disappointed, that refused to stay silent, that piped up in the back of your head, that’s it? It’s good, but really? That’s it? But I just paid a thousand dollars. It’s just a glass of wine. It’s just a watch. You’re just some dude with way too much money to even begin to know what to do with any of it.