I know the Federation did away with currency, and for the most part a Starfleet Officer would never need currency because what would they do with it on a Starship? Shore leave would most often occur on Starfleet installations or Federation planets, again negating the need for any form of currency. But for people serving on neutral bases such as Deep Space Nine or serving as attaches for other Alpha/Beta Quadrant powers they would be disadvantaged without access to Latinum. All of the entertainment spaces I can think of except the Replimat on DS9 would have required some form of payment.

You never see anyone paying for something at Quarks, so it is possible Quark had an arrangement with Starfleet to either pay a tab directly, or to trade goods for services. But then you see Dax playing Tongo with Quark and using Latinum so at some point she acquired some either by trading goods for services or by receiving some sort of Starfleet salary. I wondered if it was perhaps play money, but Ezri references Quark owing Jadzia Latinum after she joins the crew and I assume there is more evidence that they were playing with real Latinum.

Has there ever been any sort of explanation as to how Starfleet Officers pay for items outside of the Federation?

  • "what would they do with it on a Starship?" Gamble? – Andrew Thompson Jul 25 '13 at 10:59
  • @AndrewThompson: And what would you do with the winnings of gambling? – bitmask Jul 25 '13 at 13:48
  • Place larger bets next time. You seem to think there is some logic to gambling. ;) BTW - I am almost sure there is an ep. of Star Trek that has some crew members gambling.. – Andrew Thompson Jul 25 '13 at 13:50
  • @AndrewThompson - Gambling? On a starship of a utopian future society? Preposterous! – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 25 '13 at 14:41
  • @DVK I'm guessing you were saying that 'tongue in cheek', nevertheless it prompted me to look it up - Memory Alpha on Gambling. :) – Andrew Thompson Jul 25 '13 at 14:50

I always understood Star Trek's cashless economy being based (and dependent) of/off replicator technology. Of course, this is only true starting with The Next Generation. In The Original Series they were still talking about Federation Credits, etc. Back to replicators: Once you're able to create things with pretty much no effort, they're losing their worth. You could probably compare this to books a few hundred years ago and nowadays: Back then someone might have spent months or years copying the Bible. Today you'll need at most a few clicks and some energy.

In Star Trek you've got a similar promise, just for more things other than just books: If you're able to copy a cake or even a car with little to no energy or time consumed, it will be rather cheap or cost next to nothing. As seen in The Next Generation, replicator technology seems to be readily available pretty much anywhere. It's often even part of some kind of emergency plans or temporary shelter used for evacuated people.

But back to the initial question: I could imagine that you won't need money, even outside Starfleet, as long as there is replicator tech available. As for interaction with other species or races not having such technology (remember prime directive and stuff) they'd probably provide fixed amount of currency to diplomats or people working there (obtained by trade or services), similar to how things like this can work in modern day as well. For example, if you're working overseas for your company for some time, it's more than likely you'll get money by your company to be used there. You don't necessarily have to have your own money (at least not for everything; again: remember the replicators).

One could argue there's still energy to be paid for. I'd agree, but considering the sheer amounts of energy required for a warp engine (despite considering Einstein & Co being wrong), I imagine this would be next to neglectable using fusion and/or matter/antimatter plants.

As for Latinum: I never liked the whole idea around this, but the authors clearly lacked some money aspect when handling some events and species (like the Ferengi), so they had to add something you can't just copy in a replicator without making the currency (once again) obsolete.

But overall, there's still some plot hole I never got around finding a real explanation: In the Star Trek universe is it really like everyone being an "oh I work very hard every day just to make the world a bit better, yay!"? The different series often feature characters who might get thrown out of Starfleet and the like, and pretty much all of them act like that would be the end of the world. Why is that? With no money needed, you could essentially take some time for yourself whenever you want, even if that would cost you your job. It just doesn't make sense overall.

Also, as an additional note, I've once read a very nice article on cracked.com also mentioning how we've already achieved "Star Trek's Utopia" at least partially. Just read reason #5. This pretty much explains how replicators made money obsolete and how we already could have something like that (in a limited way).

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  • Star Fleet is a very prestigious organisation, being a member of it garners a lot of respect from most Federation citizens. So it would make sense for people not to want to be kicked out. – evilsoup Jul 25 '13 at 10:57
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    Even for people who feel uncomfortable with working there? Reginald Barclay being a prime example? – Mario Jul 25 '13 at 11:03
  • Social pressure can be a hell of a thing; I know someone who worked a job he hated for nearly 20 years just to prove to his parents that he could do it. This was a guy who could easily have found another (albeit slightly lesser-paying) job easily. Eventually he went into teaching and enjoyed himself a lot more, so there's a happy ending there :P -- but yes, I think the social pressure/loss of face they would get from being kicked out would be enough to keep many people there. – evilsoup Jul 25 '13 at 11:09
  • materials may cost next to nothing if you can create them out of thin air, but energy becomes all the more precious. And not everything can be replicated, those things that can't be are bound to become more rare and expensive as a result as they are sought after by collectors and those needing them for practical purposes alike. – jwenting Jul 26 '13 at 5:23
  • @jwenting: Yes, exactly, but also energy seems to be overabundant. Just look at the amount of energy needed to accelerate a starship, create a warp bubble, etc. Not to forget from a realistic standpoint, all their weapons are overly wasteful, as phaser shots for example, seem to emit light in all directions, essentially losing lots of energy. – Mario Jul 26 '13 at 8:26

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