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On earth today in the 21st century, the richest countries tend to be the capitalist ones. The ones driven by the pursuit of money. Communist China was poor until it began to pursue some capitalist policies.

The Ferengi were the most capitalist among all the civilizations in Star Trek. Are they the richest and most powerful? If no, why not?

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    "Rich" in what way? Materially rich? Or rich on data and skills? Or in culture? Individually rich, or rich as a whole (e.g. all wealth and power concentrated in the state, not as individual prosperity of the members of the society)? Note that the UFP is sometimes described as being on a post-scarcity level. That seems to mean that material resources are usually not scarce, so richness must be measured in resources that are naturally scarce - such as distance/travel time between important locations etc. – O. R. Mapper Nov 10 '15 at 11:17
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    "We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings." – Whelkaholism Nov 10 '15 at 13:11
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    Who says they're Capitalists? We of the 21st century have engineered several free-market variations, of which Capitalism is but one. Whose to say with the technology changes available in the 23rd century and beyond they aren't using something else? – bishop Nov 10 '15 at 14:18
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    You think Ferengi capitalism makes them more powerful than the Q? The question's premise is flawed, a false equivalence between money and power. – T.J. Crowder Nov 10 '15 at 19:09
  • As O. R. Mapper said, I think "richest" needs clarification here. If "richest" is determined by the amount of scarce resources controlled by their civilization (or the amount of money other civilizations would have if they calculated the Ferengi market value of all the resources they controlled), it's likely they would end up being less "rich" in this sense than other civilizations that control enormous amounts of resources like the Borg and the Dominion, and perhaps even less resource-wealthy than the Federation. – Hypnosifl Nov 10 '15 at 20:29
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No, they are not the most powerful. They are often shown to be weak, backward and corrupt.

Why?

Most civilizations in the Star Trek universe are post capitalist.

Gene Roddenberry felt:

that by the 24th century, humanity had transcended petty conflict, and transcended of arguments in the same way that it had gone beyond poverty and disease and wars,"

In "Star Trek: First contact."

LILY: How much did this thing [the enterprise] cost?

PICARD: The economics of the future are somewhat different. ...You see, money doesn't exist in the twenty-fourth century.

LILY: No money! That means you don't get paid.

PICARD: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. ...We work to better ourselves ...and the rest of humanity.

The Ferengi represent in some ways humanity as it was.

Quark Says to Sisko.

You hate us because we remind you of yourselves: greedy and selfish .

I believe that the reason for their presence in the Star Trek universe is to highlight the differences between our current culture and that in TNG.

Capitalism, can motivate people, it can also be destructive and inefficient. This is shown by things like the Sanctury Districts.

Technology can lead to changes in society which can be both good and bad. To quote Stephen Hawking

If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.

So technology can make money, and capitalism, sub optimal. Cultures which hold on to it could advance more slowly than those who progress. You could imagine in the 18th century someone making the same arguments you have about Feudalism. Just because capitalism seems to work for us no, doesn't mean it is the best way to organize society given different circumstances in the future.

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    I'm surprised! In the two minutes since you posted this answer no one has branded you a "socialist" :p – Binary Worrier Nov 10 '15 at 11:24
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    Ferangi ships are typically on par with federation level ships, they just dont have a fleet because they are a peace orientated society, and remain neutral in all conflicts, should the ferangi build a fleet they could equal the klingons or romulans easily. they just never will, because peace is good for buisness – Himarm Nov 10 '15 at 14:53
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    War can be good business if you remain neutral. – Jeremy French Nov 10 '15 at 14:56
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    @jeremyfrench You should trademark that, before someone else makes a profit off of it. – Sidney Nov 10 '15 at 15:12
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    @Himarm: Watch the DS9 episode Destiny sometime. It's not quite that simple: "War is good for business" -- Rule of Acquisition #34. "Peace is good for business" -- Rule of Acquisition #35. – Mason Wheeler Nov 10 '15 at 15:41
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Are the Ferengi the richest and most powerful species in the quadrant?

This is a 2 part question.

Are the Ferengi the richest species?

Individually most likely yes. we have very little actual levels of wealth, but someone such as the Grand Nagus would be massively wealthy. far more then anyone in the Federation, and most likely far more wealthy then any single individual in both the Klingon and Romulan empires as well.

As the Ferengi Alliance Most likely no, especially since the alliance as a governing body is essentially administrators keeping all individual Ferengi inline with the Rules of Acquisition. The Federation, Klingon and Romulan empires most likely would have controlled far vaster supply of resources at a governing level then the Ferengi Alliance did.

Are the Ferengi the most powerful species in the quadrant?

Definitely not. The Ferengi Alliance is more of an overseeing body that directs Ferengi commerce, not a military organization.

Why?

We never have counts of total wealth from any major power, as well as accurate military strength, though we know the Klingons, Romulans, and Federation are all similar enough to keep any faction from starting a war with another. But because of the vastness of the other 3 major powers, and the focus on the individual with the Ferengi, it shouldn't be hard to see the 3 major powers as also the 3 "richest" powers as well.

The Ferengi are also a very peace orientated power in the quadrant, they are not looking to gain military power, only personal wealth. The Ferengi are used during negotiations as they have never been part of a Interstellar war (according to Quark in DS9: The Jem'Hadar) They were able to maintain this neutrality during the quadrant wide Dominion War as well.The Ferengi's drive for money has allowed them to stay relevant in tech with the other races though, and showing that the ships the do posses are capable of defending themselves, or defeating Klingon, Romulan, and federation ships.

The neutral tendencies of the Ferengi and their government were evident in the 34th and 35th Rules of Acquisition: "War is good for business" and "Peace is good for business."

Ferengi

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    "This is a 2 part question." That was my immediate reaction to seeing the question's title: False equation of "richest" and "most powerful." I don't think we have the info to answer the first part (your speculation seems reasonable on the face of it). We definitely know the answer to the second. – T.J. Crowder Nov 10 '15 at 19:09
  • I think it would be more accurate to say that, we have no idea. The rest of the empire's power can be measured in military might; Meanwhile the Ferengi appear to be the only peaceful empire in existence. The Ferengi ignore national borders, we the viewer do not see them often, but it is implied that they are rather ubiquitous. We simply have no idea if they could bring star fleet to its knees with the stroke of a pen (and a few trade embargos) or hire a mercenary fleet capable of taking on the Dominion. We do not know if the Grand Negas controls more resources than starfleet. – Jonathon Nov 11 '15 at 3:56
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NO

The question is about factions; and the Ferengi don't have the unity/cohesiveness to amass wealth and power on the order of the Federation.

Data gives us this description of the Ferengi:

Admittedly; this was before actually encountering them; as the series progressed, this synopsis was revised and refined(especially as DS9 got going). However, we never lose the idea of Ferengi as primarily loyal to themselves and to a (generally)lesser extent, their crew or family. We mostly see Ferengi government as a vehicle for individual Ferengi to amass wealth and influence, rather than something they are actively loyal to.

In The Price (TNG), we see that the Ferengi delegation isn't really taken seriously- they may have more gold to offer, but they have not amassed the resources as a government that are truly valuable to warp-capable powers. Contrast this with the Federation; whose more collectivist style has allowed them to have a stockpile of resources and greater array of advanced technology. Ironically, this results in the average Federation citizen having a higher quality of life than the average Ferengi.

Tl;dr- Starfleet will provide you with a replicator and military protection; a representative of the Ferengi will demand a bribe and try to sell you a piece of a famous dead rich guy...

3

Absolutely not.

  1. Out of Universe

    Most important reason is that show runners - especially Gene Roddenberry - explicitly disliked capitalism and would be as likely to portray Ferengis as successful as a typical Soviet SciFi author to portray America in the future as more successful than USSR (hint: zero change).

    Hurley criticized further, "I still think the Ferengi were a waste of time. Goofy. No bushido involved; it was a joke. We had these arguments from the beginning. I was the lone voice screaming in the wilderness. If somebody's interested in gold, they're not much of an adversary. If we can make gold in our replicator–and we can–then it's like sand at the beach in Santa Monica. Who cares? Give 'em all the sand that they want. Get them out of here. They want gold? Here, take a truck load and get out." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, pp. 158 & 160, via Memory Alpha)

    This was additive to the fact that trying to portray Ferengi as powerful failed, miserably.

  2. In Universe

    Ferengi are NOT interested in geopolitical power, or conflict - and therefore are not striving to be powerful. In that way they are comparable to pre-jingoistic (for non-history-buffs, pre-Teddy-Roosevelt) USA far more than modern USA. Or going even further, pre-Monroe-Doctrine USA. And it wasn't a great power in any shape or form, by intent or design, until Spanish-American war or even WWI.

    In-universe, it's even more powerful than any out of universe explanation. Rules of Acquisition (which hold a religious significance for Ferengi, unlike mere political/ideological allegiance of early Americans to capitalism) would directly contradict a militaristic policy, as paying for a powerful state and military would be draining the profits.

    From what I can tell in canon, Ferengi never had a military tradition, and didn't have wars major wars inside their species.

    Quark once claimed that the Ferengi had never fought an interstellar war. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar", via Memory Alpha)

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    "Most important reason is that show runners - especially Gene Roddenberry - explicitly disliked capitalism and would be as likely to portray Ferengis as successful as a typical Soviet SciFi author to portray America in the future as more successful than USSR (hint: zero change)." This wording is quite aggressive, bordering on political. In addition, it essentially puts words in the show creator's mouths without a source. Roddenberry "explicitly disliking" capitalism needs something to back it up. – Ellesedil Nov 10 '15 at 21:32
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None of the big powers in the Alpha Quadrant are willing to do business with Ferengi, leaving them with few customers outside of the Black Market. So, no.

-2

To answer your question based off of Jeremy French's answer; yes but because they are the only warp-capable civilization in the alpha quadrant that is driven to earn profit.

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    -1: this should be a comment on JFs answer, imo. – Binary Worrier Nov 10 '15 at 11:26
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    What? There are lots of warp capable civilizations in the alpha quadrant. – Austin Nov 10 '15 at 12:30
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    @Austin read it as "of the civilisations in the alpha quadrant that are warp-capable, the Ferenghi are the only one driven to earn profit" – AakashM Nov 10 '15 at 12:45

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