Although we haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie yet (Star Trek Beyond), in today’s post we want to pose the following question about the fictional world of Star Trek: who pays for Starfleet? According to Wikipedia, “Starfleet is a service maintained by the United Federation of Planets [in the fictional universe of Star Trek] as the principal means for conducting deep-space exploration, research, defense, peacekeeping, and diplomacy.” But this definition begs the “who pays?” question. Who pays for this expensive “service”? Our friend and colleague Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University, offers this intriguing conjecture: the men and women of Starfleet are interplanetary tax collectors. To put it less politely: Starfleet operates an interplanetary protection racket! In the words of Professor Somin: “The human-dominated Star Fleet military is the only visible Federation military force, and is perhaps tasked with collecting tribute from the nonhuman planets for redistribution to Earth. But as long as they pay their taxes, which subsidize Earth’s welfare state and Star Fleet itself, they are largely left alone to govern their domestic affairs as they see fit. The Federation is essentially a big protection racket. Like the Mafia, it provides ‘protection’ in both senses of the word: external security, and also ‘protection’ against its own depredations.” (If you want to do further research on this question, you can find links to additional conjectures here.)
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