There were no cash machines aboard the Enterprise, and Captain Jean-Luc Picard spent very little time worrying about how he was going to pay his bills this month. Never once does Wesley say to Worf, “Can you lend me 10 bucks until Thursday?” Such are the blissful financial realities of Gene Roddenberry’s futuristic Star Trek universe, as detailed in an intriguing Atlas Obscura article by Eric Grundhauser called “Why Jean-Luc Picard Never Carried A Wallet.” The answer, alas, is not that Picard wanted to avoid spoiling the lines of his form-fitting Starfleet uniform; it’s simply that he had no need for a wallet, with society having evolved beyond the need for money, at least within the confines of the United Federation Of Planets. The jumping-off point for Grundhauser’s article is Manu Saadia’s upcoming book, Trekonomics, which suggests that the futuristic series provides an excellent economic example that humans of the 21st century would do well to follow.
The key to financial well-being in the Star Trek universe is the fact that scarcity is obsolete there. In the 1987-94 revival series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the characters have the incredible luxury of the replicator, a wondrous device that endlessly produces food other supplies at no cost. But even in the pre-replicator days of the 1966-69 series, the article says, Kirk, Spock, and the others “existed in what amounted to a galaxy-spanning trade system” and had no need to carry money around with them. The solution to managing scarcity does not lie in magical technology. Instead, it comes from fundamental changes in philosophy and political policy.
Ultimately, if we want to reach an abundant, post-economic future, the real answer might not be to wait for the future to come to us, but to start dreaming of it, and living it as much as we can now. It might sound utopian, but that’s what Star Trek is all about.