Money does not exist in the Star Trek world. Therefore, you cannot reward Starfleet staff with bonuses and money.

I cannot imagine how this will work today on any company staffed by humans. Suppose you promote your favourite staff. Give them a big pat on the shoulder, load them with lots of responsibities and stress, then tell them they will be paid the same as the bottom person. Your company will lose the best people in no time. Today, CEO salaries have gone up and up so that companies can keep their CEOs. It is just human nature.

With Holodeck technologies, most humans will simply indulge themselves with their wildest fantasies all day long, coming out only to eat free and delicious food from the replicators. It sounds like a tempting lifestyle to many humans. Why join Starfleet? So much responsibilities and stress.

I do not see how Starfleet can attract humans without using money to take on risky assignments to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Lots of things change with time. However, human nature never changes. Kirk and Riker still have soft spots for women. Why should humans in the Star Trek world lose their greed for money? How do you keep humans motivated without using money?

  • 12
    It's already the case today that extrinsic motivations such as financial gain are simply not good motivators for many high-skill jobs, and you have to rely on hiring people with intrinsic motivation instead. Considering nobody is forced to join Starfleet, I think the question of why people join in the first place (which Valorum linked) essentially answers this question as well.
    – Ixrec
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 14:08
  • 16
    "The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity." - Jean Luc Picard
    – Roger
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 14:09
  • 2
    Human nature is a platitude and a fallacy. Greed is not human nature. Greed only exists because of scarcity, but Star Trek is a post-scarcity society. The show makes this point several times, as others have pointed out. Tell me, do you hoard air? No one does, no one even thinks to. In Star Trek, it would be as strange to hoard money as hoarding air seems to us.
    – J Doe
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 18:59
  • 3
    If you want to know what motivates people in a post-scarcity society like Star Trek, ask yourself what motivates rich people today. Why do billionaires run for president, or commit their entire fortunes to colonizing Mars, or to philanthropy? Why don't the filthy rich just laze away, or continue amassing greater fortunes? Self-actualization, personal enrichment, helping others, reputation, and advancing the human race. Things like that are what ends up motivating people who aren't burdened by scarcity and have advanced up Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
    – J Doe
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 19:13
  • 7
    This seems less to be a question about Star Trek (what is their motivation?) than a philosophical debate (they are motivated without money? I don't believe you!) and thus unanswerable. Yes everybody in Starfleet is paid the same- zero. They are what I believe is called a post-scarcity society, free of material needs and instead focused on self development. But your fundamental question seems to be: how or why would anybody ever do anything except for money and lots of it and having more than the other person? And in that you are in philosophy. And that you have to ask is terrifying to me.
    – Broklynite
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 19:37

4 Answers 4


Simply put, money is not the only form of compensation.

We already have a question that covers why people might wish to join Starfleet, so I won't belabor the points of self-actualization and personal satisfaction.

That said, even in a post-scarcity economy, there is a recognizable social strata. People will have their own goals, and will have their own motivations and desires.

We know that different sizes/types of quarters exist in Starfleet - several times in Next Generation, Picard or Riker will specify the type of quarters a guest or visiting/rescued person should be assigned.

To the best of my knowledge, we only see the quarters of officers during Star Trek (excepting a few times we see 'enlisted barracks' in TOS-era movies). This leads me to believe that advances in rank do lead to advances in lifestyle, even without the concept of money.

So there is one potential reason: while your needs will be 100% met, guaranteed, there are always increased levels of comfort that can be attained.

To further that, many people seem to believe that the Holodeck is some panacea, which can cure all entertainment ills. While it probably can, Holodecks require power, programming, maintenance, and (above all) time. The Enterprise D had roughly 1,000 crew members, and 7+ holodecks. If an average holodeck session lasts 30 minutes, this means that a minimum of 336 holodeck sessions could be scheduled per day (48 30-minute sessions per holodeck, 7 holodecks, with an additional 48 sessions per holodeck it has above 7). That would mean that a crew member could expect to use it once every 3-4 days, on average. Given that holodecks seem to frequently not be in use (since we never see a time when the command crew have difficulty finding an empty one, or have to interrupt a session in-progress that doesn't involve Barclay) it seems much more likely that holodeck sessions are more commonly once per week (on average).

Therefore, I suspect that higher-ranked crew members likely have more access to the holodeck and/or more flexibility in scheduling their holodeck sessions.

So, to summarize:

  • Higher rank leads to increased size, quality, and comfort of quarters.
  • Higher rank likely leads to increased access to holodeck recreation.
  • Higher rank possibly leads to improved self-worth (for certain personality types)
  • Higher rank leads to more ability to influence the world/universe around you (similar to the above) including (but not limited to) giving orders, setting policy, and making decisions.
  • Higher rank may lead to increased non-monetary compensation (leave time, replicator access)
  • Higher rank leads to more and different responsibility, which can include the ability to avoid unpleasant duties.
  • 1
    It might be worth mentioning that rank has some equivalence to responsibility.
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:19
  • Enlisted quarters are seen in ENT as bunk beds. Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 16:22
  • @JackBNimble: Not really relevant, since money was still used for a few decades after Enterprise's launch. ("When the New World Economy took shape in the late 22nd century and money went the way of the dinosaur, Fort Knox was turned into a museum." —Tom Paris) Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 17:24
  • @Paulie_D: That's sort of included already (my point about higher rank being able to shape the world/universe more) but I explicitly called it out in another point - higher rank has more responsibilities, and can likely avoid unpleasant duties. You'll never see Picard, Geordi, or even Ensign Westley mopping up spilled lomin-ale in Ten-Forward.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 18:58

Star Fleet makes up a very small portion of the human population. It only attracts the extremely bright, self motivated, high achieving, explorer type individuals.

I suspect a large portion of the human population live more normal lives: stay on earth, raise families, travel to other planet colonies, read books, paint, live in Holodecks, get drunk in bars, etc.

Picard's brother, for example, lives in France and tends the family vineyard. Sisko's father is a cook in a restaurant. Everyone seems to find some kind of occupation that they enjoy doing.

  • "It only attracts the extremely bright, self motivated, high achieving ... individuals." <- That's what every organization claims about itself.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 11:30

I guess it goes without saying that Star Trek is complete fiction, so they can posit any social order conceivable, and just assume it works.

That is the beauty of fiction. Some things, like paychecks and overdue bills and credit cards, are a hassle that can get in the way of the story. So it is easiest to simply leave that out completely, and assume the reader (or viewer) will fill in the blanks with their own life experience and/or desires.

The "money thing" is just something that is too complex, emotionally speaking, and would truly get in the way of the wonderful stories. I have noticed that even in societies which seem to still be money driven (where we see a market where people are obviously buying and selling), money is rarely brought up. When it is, it is from the perspective of the trekkies, who sometimes don't seem to grasp the concept very well.


An interesting idea, that may be better discussed on worldbuilding, is that it is entirely possible to have "pay" and salary without "accumulation of wealth" coming into it.

One can posit a system, call it a credit for familiarity; people can exchange credits they earn at their jobs for certain goods and services, of a more luxury nature.

This compensation would be credited to a person's account periodically, on a use it or lose it basis.

People selling goods and services get a salary, same as any other job.

Credits are not exchanged, simply deducted from one person's account. Non-luxury items would be provided based on one's rank / job level. (e.g. Captains get the best quarters, but everyone gets something.)

People at the top, and people at the bottom get the same basics, the higher ups get more luxury.

  • This is self-contradictory: On the one hand you say credits can be exchanged for goods or services, and on the other hand you claim they are not exchanged. In fact, your credits are simply money by a different name, accumulated as capital by whoever sells goods and services, on one hand, and whoever issues credits, on the other hand. Of course this will not be limited to luxuries; the commercial producers of luxuries will certainly not be limited to hand-craft work to get credits for buying a different kind of luxury than they make, that's silly.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 7, 2020 at 11:35
  • Wow, an old one. You are missing my point entirely. People would never give each other (exchange) credits. I would say, I want that thing, to a vendor, they would log my purchase in the accounting system, which deducts from my balance. They get paid just like I do, credits for doing their job. My credits don't go to them, or the store. Credits are only a measure of what a person can afford per pay period.
    – Seeds
    Commented Feb 9, 2020 at 23:47
  • And why are the luxury producers distribution their products according to military credits?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 0:33

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