by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In the future world of Star Trek, money and capitalism are treated in a negative light. At several points in both the television series and the films, an addled Gene Roddenberry tried to insert in the story that money itself had been disinvented, but this ludicrous premise didn’t even work in fiction and was discarded. Instead, those engaged in free enterprise are portrayed as evil, ruthless, and physically revolting — the stooping, big-eared, and sniveling Ferengi race of The Next Generation being a kind of psychological projection of how Roddenberry and other Star Trek creators see the world of business.
In Star Wars, on the other hand, two of the main heroes — Han Solo and Lando Calrissian — are present or former smugglers and businessmen. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” Lando is employed as the administrator of a mining colony that thrives by being outside the taxing and regulatory authority of the evil Empire. Later, in “The Phantom Menace,” an attempt by the Trade Federation to tax and monopolize interplanetary commerce turns out to be part of a nefarious conspiracy to overthrow the Galactic Republic.
Interestingly, despite their intentions, the Star Trek creative team couldn’t keep up the anti-capitalist bias on a consistent basis. Several of the most entertaining and interesting scripts involved the hated Ferengi. Later stories in The Next Generation involve commercial bidding for wormhole rights and technological advances. And in the movie “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” some of the best jokes come at the expense of the Enterprise crew as they plop down, cluelessly, in the middle of late-20th century California and try to interact with average folks in daily commerce.