In a question related to the cashless society of Earth. I have been wondering, what happens to people that choose not to work, or to join Starfleet? Are they considered enemies of the state and punished somehow? (The Australian Penal colonies spring to mind.) Do people have to work to "better humanity"? Or would these people be labelled in some form of poverty?

  • 14
    Soylent Redshirt.
    – John O
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 5:00
  • 7
    They open a Creole Kitchen
    – SWeko
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 9:05
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    I do believe that this is touched upon in a few episodes. VOY Non Sequitur springs to mind as one.
    – user
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 9:45
  • @SWeko You might want to propose that as an answer, or at least part of one. If nothing else, it would at least make a good addition (via edit) to David's answer.
    – Iszi
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 12:43
  • @Iszi: added a response that expands on that view
    – SWeko
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 13:42

3 Answers 3


As somebody pointed out in the other question cashless does not mean that there is no economy, it's just not that important. There are numerous references in all series that imply that there is some sort of credit system, it's just heavily downplayed. Of course that replicating a radish is less expensive that creating a Nebula class starship.

As portrayed, The Federation is a post-scarcity society, i.e. anyone can get the basic (and not so basic) resources for living free of change, as they are cheap and easy to produce (e.g. via replicator). In terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs the bottom two layers will be automatically fulfilled, and as you can see, they are the only layers that can be accomplished by having money. In such a world much of the strife for bare sustenance will be void, so people will just not care about that, and as a result they will not care about money.

So, the people (Starfleet or not) are left free to pursue their higher-level needs, like love, fame, glory, curiosity... Picard's brother had a vineyard, Sisko's father opened a Creole restaurant with hand-cooked means, and Picard and Sisko, joined Starfleet.

There's also the never-ending list of assorted scientist that visited the Enterprise trying this or that experiment. The series gives the distinct impression that these are important persons, and that they are the celebrities of the day, implying that the societal emphasis in the Federation would be on self-accomplishment and merit, and not so much on raw bank account size.

Also, my guess would be that there is still some sort of societal pressure to conform to the rules, and have a job, and behave responsibly, it's just not the "do or die" situation of today.

  • Note that the concept of a post-scarcity society is not entirely coherent. Just as with the Culture novels, the issue of land ownership is never addressed. It's clear that some places are particularly desirable to live in, and there are families with great estates. Those locations are still scarce. The same would apply to e.g. good vine growing land in France. There can be more would-be vintners than the land for them.
    – Marcin
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 16:06
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    @Marcin Yes, I say that in Star Trek there is not much scarcity in the land department. The Earth is a large planet, yet I live within walking distance from my job, and pay accordingly. But, if I could use a teleporter to go to work, that would relieve much of the market pressure. Also, I could imagine that in ST having more than you need carries with it a social stigma similar to the hoarders of today (why do they do that to themselves). So, yes, there is more of the product and less of the demand, ergo, no scarcity.
    – SWeko
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 20:43
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    I'm not really clear how this answers the question. The question seems to assert most of the content of this answer: that survival needs are generally met and that, as a result, people are mostly more interested in higher pursuits. But the question asks what happens to those who choose to simply be lazy? Are you saying, "No, nothing bad happens to someone if they decide to sit around drunk all day. They still get their survival needs anyway."?
    – jpmc26
    Commented Aug 29, 2014 at 5:02
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    Gene Roddenberry was adamant that there's no money inside the Federation. Supposedly, all references to "credits" relate to interplanetary payments and reference to salaries or wages are intended ironically.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 15:53
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    Ursula K. Le Guin's The Dispossesed depicts a cashless society; personal property is discouraged, basic necessities/living space are freely available to all, special items (laboratories, theaters, etc.) are distributed to anyone that can make a case for needing them; unpleasant work (sewage handling, garbage collection, etc.) is distributed by lottery.
    – Joe L.
    Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 17:04

A few assumptions are made by this question that may be false.

First, the assumption that society needs people to fulfill employment roles. This may not be true when the "basics" of life are fulfilled by replication, which includes food, water, clothing, toys, musical instruments, and so much more. Of note, industrial replicators exist (DS9), which are able to replicate larger objects, and although entire spacecraft have never been replicated, assembly is all that is required.

Population growth is likely to level off, landing the Earth at approximately 8.9 billion in the year 2300 (UN Report). Currently, about 15% of workers are employed in production industry sectors (Bureau of Labor Statistics reports). Current unemployment ranges from 3% to 30% depending on the country (International Labor Organization). I can only guess that the average worldwide unemployment is something like 10%. Adding the current unemployment to the loss of production jobs, then taking into consideration the moderate population growth, I think it seems likely that there will be greater than 25% unemployment in a post-replication technology society. Of course, there are tons of additional factors, but additional factors could raise or lower unemployment. Without additional information, I think it wouldn't be too irresponsible to say that 25% is at least a close working unemployment rate.

Consider also that even in a society where there is significant scarcity, world governments have many programs designed to aid those who are unemployed.

Another assumption is that society will care what you do. Right now, a person doing nothing comes across as lazy. In reality, the unemployed people I know either have serious health problems, or are very sad about their lack of a job. I wonder if, in the future, it will no longer be a shame to have nothing to do, especially if 1 in 4 people will be unemployed.

Furthermore, humans in the Star Trek universe live on many planets, not just Earth. I think it is unlikely that a person would have trouble ducking out of the established society... and nobody would ever notice.

It won't let me post more than 2 links, but you can find my source on unemployment by searching "international labor organization unemployment rate" on google.


I don't think this hard to understand, and you can compare it easily to a money based situation (like now)

If I was to ask you to create your perfect life for yourself with an unlimited credit card you would quickly lose interest in overindulging, this is seen alot in millionaires where they just take it for granted and get bored. Most don't wear posh expensive suits but instead jeans and T-Shirt

There may be no money but you would get bored pretty fast if you couldn't boast to you friends about what you possess (which everyone could do in universe). Even the holodeck has the same problem, 'i went skydiving yesterday, and we've done that dude' would become old very fast. So your next drive moves to 'how can impress my friends' (which is the same thing, just without money)

As far as I know from the series's there is no poverty which could simply mean everyone's basic requirements are met by the government (imagine giving everyone on earth a credit card with no limit). If people choose not to work in this system it doesn't matter (as most people would want to do something, if every time you met with friends you had nothing to discuss you'd do SOMETHING, just to have something to talk about).

Although speculative: they do what they want no punishment (it will only be a small minority based on what I said above), so let them waste there life

As for things like land ownership and things like that, it would be handled by the government (the federation is a dictatorship of sorts where the government controls everything but will give you whatever you desire), there might simply be a queue system for this

Most people would want to do something they can tell friends and family about in this situation and people who want to do nothing would be a small minority, so let the lazy few do nothing there the ones who suffer

As a side note energy is all that's needed nothing more, and its avalible in massive amounts on Earth: otherwise voyager wouldn't have needed to replicator rations

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