Thursday 16 July 2015

This lie will not stand. Picard is not a pinko

It's pretty sad when you're fisking a Star Trek meme, but the the article I had in mind is going to take a while longer to write. But these little things are also important.  This meme is factually wrong in every respect and must be thoroughly debunked.

Everybody knows that government had collapsed by the time of the first flight of the Pheonix flown by Zephram Cochrane. There had been a devastating nuclear war. It is unclear what the political circumstances were that brought it about, but we know from the series Enterprise that Earth was restored with Vulcan technical assistance, aid and close supervision.

Too little is said about the political settlement during the early Starfleet era, but it can be assumed comfortably that Vulcan technology produced abundances in food production, and that for all other goods a system of barter was most likely in place. There is no hint of an overarching state mechanism that owns all the means of production. Not in the early days or in the Next Generation era.

By the time we get the the Next Generation era, we see full technological abundance that produces food and basic items literally from tin air. This removes scarcity, thus there is then no need for barter, exchange or price mechanisms, rendering capitalism (and Socialism) largely redundant. However, we see in Deep Space Nine, on the far edges of the Alpha Quadrant, that capitalism is still vibrant in the wider galaxy and there are limitations to the Federation self-enhancement philosophy in that Jake Sisko is unable to buy a baseball card for his father without the acquisitive talents of Ferengi Ensign Nog.

Nevertheless, it is still necessary to ask whether humanity would have progressed that far without Vulcan intervention. We'll never find out now thanks to those paternalistic green blooded bastards. But the concept of replication is to my mind a mix of particle acceleration and 3D printing. While it is certainly government research and development that has contributed to the creation of such marvels, it is the power of the market that has made 3d printing an every day possibility for the masses.

In most instances where there is socialism, technology is held back. This is evidenced by the agricultural nature of Russian military hardware. Socialism is usually more likely to result in rationing too. It is markets that will finally deliver abundance - and the technological progress. The only place where we do see full state control in the Star Trek world in any great detail is on Cardassia, with a draconian justice system, abuse of prisoners, and an all powerful secret service (The Obsidian Order) - widely regarded for its brutality, torture and ruthless treatment of political dissidents.

I'm sorry to have to throw a hyperspanner into the ODN relays, but the notion Starfleet could exist under socialism, where there is a planned society and class determinism is mildly offensive. Picard in his defence of Data, in his struggle for recognition as a sentient being, is a champion of individual rights - evidenced also by his refusal to hand over Data's daughter to Starfleet on the orders of his superiors.

In fact the mortal enemy of Starfleet is the Borg - a collective society where individualism is stamped out, resources and destinies are dictated, and the only resources it has are those which it forcefully removes from individuals. Borg "citizens" are allocated their resources according to their predetermined position and may never perform a function not designated by a higher authority. Sounds like socialism to me.

Then if we examine the nature of the United Federation of Planets, we find that it is not a supranational entity. It has directives and a united moral ethos but it plays very little role in the governance of member planets, and respects cultural differences without imposing its own model. It more resembles a mutual trade and defence alliance akin with an Efta/NATO amalgam, rather than, say, the EU or the USSR. Call it what you like, but it isn't socialism.

As to the upper picture, one assumes that is Mad Max. I'm afraid my expertise does not extend that far, but if we give it the benefit of the doubt and say that is indeed libertarianism, then what it's saying is that I'm free to roam the desert in a dune buggy, wearing a jock strap and gimp mask, and take pot shots at passing auto-gyros. I'm not seeing a downside.

But as I understand it, in Mad Max, there is resource scarcity, but no currency, and no governmental authority at all (for the most part), thus cannot be considered a minarchist capitalist state. I'm not sure what it qualifies as, but judging by appearances alone, it's not all that far removed from the Australia we see today. Call it libertarianism if you like, I don't mind, but don't you dare call Jean-Luc Picard a bloody communist. 

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