LeVar Burton waded into dangerous waters as he made a claim against the socialism of the lucrative Star Trek franchise. Fans of the show are always ready for an geek debate, and even the actor who portrayed Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation must be careful when throwing down the gauntlet!

A Twitter debate quickly ensued:

Getting into the weeds now … where lesser geeks fear to tread:

https://twitter.com/Eshto/status/352580531201908737

Sounds like the perfect topic for a panel discussion at the next Star Trek convention.

  • peteee363

    yes only in space do you let the gay Chinese guy drive! but nobody ever pays for anything on star trek, and funny how the star trek prequel had higher tech toys then the star trek they were supposed to be before? in socialism technology does go backwards, as everything goes to hell when they run out of everybody’s money. hey, star wars did that too. the prequels also had higher tech toys then the original, that socialism must suck the brains out of everybody!

    • Zanshi

      Umm… Hikaru Suru (George Takei) is Japanese. For the record, and all.

      • thetreyman

        they all look alike to him.

      • thetreyman

        they all look alike to him.

      • Bemani Dog

        And wasn’t gay, either. Even George Takei said so.

        • peteee363

          yep, take the word of the gay guy!

          • http://www.black-and-right.com/ IceColdTroll

            Hee hee. I watch anime. Two 13 year old Japanese gay girls are pretty much standard issue . . .

        • peteee363

          yep, take the word of the gay guy!

      • Bemani Dog

        And wasn’t gay, either. Even George Takei said so.

      • peteee363

        Japanese drives are no better!

      • peteee363

        Japanese drives are no better!

    • thetreyman

      well, technically the reboot is in a different time line.

      • peteee363

        no, the film makers have no story telling abilities, and must fill the screen with cgi at all times to fool the viewers. the original star trek had the worst special effects, but had decent story telling. oh, and I am not a trekkie, and it seems I hit a raw nerve with all the downs so fast. who knew making fun of a Japanese gay driver would piss off so many people living in their basement?

        • thetreyman

          why would people live in their own basements when they have the whole house?

      • peteee363

        no, the film makers have no story telling abilities, and must fill the screen with cgi at all times to fool the viewers. the original star trek had the worst special effects, but had decent story telling. oh, and I am not a trekkie, and it seems I hit a raw nerve with all the downs so fast. who knew making fun of a Japanese gay driver would piss off so many people living in their basement?

    • thetreyman

      well, technically the reboot is in a different time line.

    • Danny Adams

      “Damn, they’re still using money in this time (1986)”. -James T. Kirk, Star Trek IV. They must’ve run out of everybody’s money long before the 23rd century, then.

      • Ironhawk86

        Yet the concept of pay is mentioned numerous times in the original series. Is it possible he’s just referring to the concept of paper money or is it sometime between the end of the show and the start of the movies the economic system has been completely converted into…well we never really get an answer from Mr. LaForge.

        • Mekadave

          That’s why a lot of shows have someone in charge of continuity. The various writers can’t keep track of their own technobabble.

    • Ty in TX

      ::dons nerd armor::
      In regards to your Star Wars statement. Yes the tech looked better in the prequels. It can be argued that in the freedoms of the Old Republic, innovators and businesses were able to produce and market quality tech. But after the oppressive and onerous legislation and taxes of the Empire took effect, many of those innovators and business went bankrupt from a combination of over-taxation of themselves and their customers. Due to this new money shortage people had to start using whatever they could get a hold of….or do with out. Gee…..this is sounding kind of familiar.

  • TJ

    If you can go to a box and get everything from an apple to an blanket with all you need is energy that is coming from anti-matter and fission reactors there is no need for money to pay for it. There is no economic class structure just merit class structure thanks to the replicator. Who needs to work for money to buy food when you can get all the food you want and need from a box. Replicator is a 3D printer of the future and all it needs is energy over plastic resin.

    The more you work the higher you get in rank and command is the meritocracy in a nutshell.

    • Canadian in USA

      Problem is…if everybody knows that everything can get replicated, then what’s the incentive for working harder? Sure, you could be captain of a really cool star ship, but I think for most people, it won’t be enough. I can just sit back and drink my replicated beer. Unless you have everybody working for the meritocracy, the system will collapse on itself.

      • Danny Adams

        This was explained quite a number of times in the original series and NextGen.

      • TJ

        Sure you could sit and drink synthohol all day but then you get bored really fast, so what is the fun in that. You could hang out in a holodeck all day but what is the fun in that. If you don’t want to be on a starship there always will be people that do. Even being a chef in the french quarters at Sisco’s Creole Kitchen has merit based work and it is not for the money but for the fun of it.

      • http://www.black-and-right.com/ IceColdTroll

        As I say — right now, you can pay $10 for a factory – made throw rug at Walmart, or you can pay $1000 for a handmade Persian rug elsewhere. Are you really ready to say that the Persian rug is of no more “real” value than the one from Bangladesh?

      • John

        Socialism absolutely depends on unlimited availability of resources with zero cost. As soon as resources start requiring *work* to produce, human nature kicks in, and you get makers and takers. For the takers to survive, they must coerce this work out of the makers, at which point the Socialist utopia becomes a slave state.

        Trek is a socialist utopia, in the truest sense of the word (utopia — nowhere): it depends on the physical impossibility of unlimited resources with zero cost. Then again, I doubt that very many Hollywood libs have taken any college-level thermodynamics courses.

    • peteee363

      I am sorry no way a 3d replicator can duplicate oma’s beigles! only hard work, and baking skill can make them correctly! also, the toilets on a spaceship still need to be fixed, as well as the lube job under the hood. we will always need workers, and socialism will never work, it has failed every time it has been tried. how many millions more need to die trying?

    • peteee363

      I am sorry no way a 3d replicator can duplicate oma’s beigles! only hard work, and baking skill can make them correctly! also, the toilets on a spaceship still need to be fixed, as well as the lube job under the hood. we will always need workers, and socialism will never work, it has failed every time it has been tried. how many millions more need to die trying?

    • http://www.black-and-right.com/ IceColdTroll

      See my rant above, I believe that there will ALWAYS be a demand for something which is the direct product of human hands over the product of any machine or replicator. I would offer also by way of analogy the product of a Ford assembly line or a Volvo, which is much more hand-crafted. What you say about meritocracy may be true, but is irrelevant to an actual product. And isn’t what you suggest actually anti-human, and part of the modern controversy? Why else would anyone pay a premium for a hamburger from a premium restaurant rather than a dollar for one off the Burger King assembly line?

      • BenInNY

        In that hamburger analogy I’d wager that only one of the two tastes like real meat, and has a lower chance of having been dropped on the floor. Damn it I’m hungry now.

      • Dianne Vincent

        That made me LOL (agree).

  • tops116

    I just remember a line from one of the movies, “First Contact,” where Picard states that “money is no longer the driving force in our lives.”

    Which reminds me, anyone remember those scenes where Picard’s crew kept playing poker games? What the hell were they playing with? They had no money.

    • thetreyman

      they were playing to see who would be sleeping with deanna troi that night.

    • thetreyman

      they were playing to see who would be sleeping with deanna troi that night.

    • fred2

      Some people in this century play poker with the goal of bragging rights rather than for money.

      • Ronald Green

        I haven’t met Any of them yet. All the poker players I know are there for the money.

      • Ronald Green

        I haven’t met Any of them yet. All the poker players I know are there for the money.

    • http://www.jabootu.com/acolytes/bnotes/ Apostic

      They were playing for fizbin chits. (Current exchange rate: 1 CFb = 0.00349 Triskelion quatloos)

      • Mekadave

        One hundred quatloos on the newcomers!

  • tops116

    I just remember a line from one of the movies, “First Contact,” where Picard states that “money is no longer the driving force in our lives.”

    Which reminds me, anyone remember those scenes where Picard’s crew kept playing poker games? What the hell were they playing with? They had no money.

  • ElbethL

    The thing with Star Trek is that they live in a post-scarcity society. They food, clothes, and shelter are–for all intents and purposes–unlimited resources. So they are monetarily valueless. Thus people pay for luxury items like swanky fabrics and drinks and Tribbles (until the supply tanks the demand, that is), but not things like food.

    Which would be nice if it weren’t totally impossible.

  • ElbethL

    The thing with Star Trek is that they live in a post-scarcity society. They food, clothes, and shelter are–for all intents and purposes–unlimited resources. So they are monetarily valueless. Thus people pay for luxury items like swanky fabrics and drinks and Tribbles (until the supply tanks the demand, that is), but not things like food.

    Which would be nice if it weren’t totally impossible.

  • Bemani Dog

    When you can replicate everything and have near limitless energy, you don’t have to worry about basic needs anymore. Of course, we are a very long ways away from that reality.

    • ObamaFail

      Especially when we have a President who is constantly coming up with new ways to kill jobs, effectively killing any chance of that kind of stuff ever being a reality.

      • TDS

        He’d regulate the Federation out of existence…

    • ObamaFail

      Especially when we have a President who is constantly coming up with new ways to kill jobs, effectively killing any chance of that kind of stuff ever being a reality.

    • tjp77

      Exactly. If we ever managed to perfect a truly unlimited and hyper-efficient energy source (e.g. fusion, matter/antimatter, or some other exotic concept), the economic calculus for the entire planet would change dramatically.

      The cost of nearly everything would fall to almost zero, and our current notions of wealth and money would be radically redefined.

      • http://www.black-and-right.com/ IceColdTroll

        Not necessarily. You can buy a solar powered, GPS//Naval Observatory – linked watch that will never be off more than a few microseconds for ten bucks at Walmart, but there are still ten thousand dollar handmade mechanical Swiss watches in demand. The scenario you suggest would certainly be destabilizing, but I don’t think any more destructive, ultimately, than the introduction of the assembly line. There will ALWAYS be demand for a product which reflects the effort of a human being, or nature, rather than a machine.

        Not to stray too far into the political, but this is a point Ayn Rand makes in a few places, that the value of any product derives precisely from the human effort expended on it — and that this is because human beings are valuable. I think even those we woul consider our ideological opponents recognize this, because that is one of the things they will remind us sometimes — that the laborer is worth his toil, and deserving of rightful compensation for his efforts. We may disagree as to how that is best accomplished — free market vs. minimum wage laws or union scale, but I think both sides of the aisle recognize the underlying truth there.

        Now as as to the Star Trek universe in particular — yes, I’ve seen suggestions that the economic paradigm governing it has been reduced to a simplistic “To each according to his needs, etc.” and that mankind has been “freed” of the necessity of earning a living as we understand it. But – is the job of a street-sweeper really as valuable as that of starship captain? Or doctor? And deserving of the same reward? If so, how then do you differentiate between the value of those two watches we mentioned — one which is one of a hundred thousand off of a conveyor belt, produced by one man throwing a switch, and one which is one of a hundred, produced over weeks by ten different skilled craftsmen? Don’t you get to the point of having to argue that the labor of those ten for a month is worth no more than the labor of the one for the second it took to throw the “on” switch? Or even less- since that one man produced a thousand times more products?

        Really, I’m trying to reach across the aisle here. Think about some of the implications of that which you advocate — and ask, “Is that what I really want to see?”

    • http://www.black-and-right.com/ IceColdTroll

      That will ALWAYS be a closed system, entropically and economically speaking.

  • Bemani Dog

    When you can replicate everything and have near limitless energy, you don’t have to worry about basic needs anymore. Of course, we are a very long ways away from that reality.

  • TDS

    Obviously, nobody making these kinds of moronic comments have ever spent time in the military, (the Navy in particular) because that would be the closest thing to what life on a starship will probably be like.
    Of course you don’t pay for your food, and you get free medical. BECAUSE IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE THERE! Those things are simply “perks” of the job, like working in an office and getting free coffee. It doesn’t make it socialist though, sorry.

    And this doesn’t even go into the FACT that it’s a freakin’ TV show, and they try to avoid wasting time on silly stuff that does nothing for the story (like having to fill out insurance paperwork and pay your co-pay so you can talk about your booboo with “Bones”). Ever notice how nobody EVER goes to the bathroom? I guess they’ve overcome that in the future, too…
    /facepalm

    • Danny Adams

      “…Repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax…” :)

      • TDS

        Who’s not relaxed? I was simply pointing some things out…

        • Danny Adams

          I was just singing along with your comment “…that it’s a freakin’ TV show…” :) Aimed at them, not you.

    • http://www.amazon.com/Devon-Dibley-His-Golden-Key/dp/1484181557/ M F Scotto

      My first thought too… They were in the military.

      • Bathing Suit Area

        Technically Starfleet wasn’t the military.

        • TDS

          I was just pointing out that it’s the closest thing to it currently in existence…

          • Bathing Suit Area

            Yeah, I was replying to Scotto.

        • Mead

          Explicitly it is the military extension of the United Federation of Planets. That they have civilian assets on starships doesn’t change that.

    • Finrod Felagund

      Actually, Walter Koenig was asked once how Chekov met Khan, since Khan appeared in a first-season episode of TOS and Chekov’s character wasn’t introduced until the second season. His answer was that he met him coming out of the bathroom, and Khan wasn’t happy about it because he had been waiting for a while.

      • TDS

        I stand (somewhat) corrected!

  • TDS

    Obviously, nobody making these kinds of moronic comments have ever spent time in the military, (the Navy in particular) because that would be the closest thing to what life on a starship will probably be like.
    Of course you don’t pay for your food, and you get free medical. BECAUSE IT’S YOUR JOB TO BE THERE! Those things are simply “perks” of the job, like working in an office and getting free coffee. It doesn’t make it socialist though, sorry.

    And this doesn’t even go into the FACT that it’s a freakin’ TV show, and they try to avoid wasting time on silly stuff that does nothing for the story (like having to fill out insurance paperwork and pay your co-pay so you can talk about your booboo with “Bones”). Ever notice how nobody EVER goes to the bathroom? I guess they’ve overcome that in the future, too…
    /facepalm

  • AtomicMountain

    They were in the Space Service. They ate in space chow halls and drank Tang and space liquor. The officers got a lot of space money and had nice rooms, and the enlisted people got less space money and lived in space barracks.

  • http://extremesplash.wordpress.com/ Ben Bollman

    The way I see it is the Federation is a military/government installation and everyone on the ship is officers/employees. Officers on a navy ship have their food/board provided for by the government, it would be the same situation here.

  • The Masked Avatar

    Where does Jar Jar Binks fit into all this?

    • ToyZebra

      He fits into the nearest garbage compactor.

  • The Masked Avatar

    I would rather be a Stormtrooper. In a nice office somewhere like Office Space. This isn’t the red stapler you’re looking for.

  • http://whatandever.blogspot.com/ Osumashi Kinyobe

    This guy has watched his own show, right?

  • Kenny Hitt

    The Star Trek universe’s utopian society is built on the back of the forced labor of slaves and political prisoners.

    Seriously!

    All technology in the Federation is built on the use of dilithium crystals to power fusion reactors. Dilithium is only mined on a handful of planetoids, including Dozaria (controlled by the Breen) and Rura Penthe (controlled by the Klingons). The Dozarian mine was manned by Bajoran and Cardassian survivors of the crash of the transport vessel Ravinok who were held as captives. The mine on Rura Penthe, notable for its appearance in Star Trek VI, is run as a prison by the Klingon government and is staffed by both criminals and political dissidents.

    And so, now you see why I say every utopia is really a dystopia.

    And yes, I am a colossal nerd.

    • andycanuck

      But the TNG Enterprise has free daycare on the “naval” vessel so it’s all okay!

      ;^)

  • Ty in TX

    I guess the Reading Rainbow went dark when it hit the definitions of communism and socialism. Eh, Mr. Burton?

    • American_by_Choice

      Well, not ‘dark’, per se…

      it was merely sucked into the swirling vortex of ignorance, excuses and the bottomless rationalizations common to relativism. It can appear dark to the casual, distant observer, but you shouldn’t try to get too close… as the light of reason is sucked out, leaving only the matter common to unwavering ignorance…

  • Secede

    OMG ! Do you realize there was not ONE single Homosexual on Star Trek !!!!!!!!!!!??????????

    • ElbethL

      That’s not entirely true. There’s an entire DS9 episode devoted to Ezri Dax trying to hook up with a woman.

      • Sean Fields

        That was Jadzia Dax. :)

        • ElbethL

          I am actually, honest-to-goodness bothered that I made that mistake. I am such a dork.

    • ToyZebra

      Ohhh my!

    • des111168

      TNG had an episode about it, using a society where it was a crime to be just one sex to make a backhanded slap at the bitter clingers with their Bibles and Guns.

  • Garth Haycock

    Who is a bigger dork than a Trekkie? A Trekkie that willingly discusses the sociopolitical factors of Star Trek.

  • des111168

    The original series wasn’t socialist, but TNG was blatantly so. Roddenberry clearly moved to the left as he got older. His vision of the future was basically one of Utopian Socialism.

  • iconoclast33

    My understanding of this in the Star Trek universe is that they use “credits” as currency for purchases within the Federation. While I know they can get many things from a replicator, they never showed it as a “common man” thing but only in the military vessels. It is something that would be needed on a long 5 year mission in deep space with little or no resupply capability. In the Next Gen series and in DS9, they were very much into Latinum… so basically precious metals were still a form of currency. I am sure they would use hard currency (or credits) to purchase hand made items. In fact, I bet there would be a market for such things. It is difficult to really gauge whether the “universe” of Star Trek was socialist because we mainly just see the military side of things. Even today, having done 21 years in the military, I can tell you the military is socialistic and it is a meritocracy as far as promotions and pay. So on that, I would say Levar is both right and wrong on this one. The military in Star Trek is socialist and a meritocracy. The civilian side of the Stare Trek universe is more murky on the subject.