I promise this is about Star Trek. Sort of. Bear with me a moment.
I’ve been reading a lot about robots lately. When I read about robots, and the future, I can’t help but think about it in economic terms. And that inevitably turns my mind to the branch of economics called post scarcity economics. Traditional economics, of course, deals with the efficient allocation of inherently scarce materials. Post scarcity economics deals with the economics of economies that are no longer constrained by scarcity of materials — food, energy, shelter, etc.
The thing that never sits quite right with post scarcity economics, though, at least the very little that I’ve read, is that it’s always sort of an all or nothing affair: you either don’t have enough of anything or you have enough of everything. Thinking of this as a mental exercise is kind of fun, I think, but in reality it seems to me that getting from point A — a scarcity economy — to point B — post scarcity — is going to be a long, complicated journey assome things become more abundant in some places, while other things are still scarce.
What is needed is some sort of interim-, or proto-post scarcity economics.
More and more I find myself thinking we are, as a race, constrained by the economic models we have. We have capitalism, of course, the proverbialworst model except for every other one that dominates much of our planet right now. It’s definitely a scarcity-based system. Then we have the centrally planned systems of Communism and Marxism, not particularly effective, as it turns out. We have European-style socialist capitalism, but that’s still capitalism, and scarcity-based, albeit with a much more robust safety net than we have here in the US. Some Americans seem to think that a robust safety net somehow nullifies the distributed planning of capitalism. I’ll listen to them again when our schools are decent and our life span starts increasing again magically.