Star Trek features a utopian society that evolved beyond the need for money, but the Star Trek universe has its own currency with Latin.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery Season 4, Episode 8, “All In,” streaming now on Paramount+.
star trek depicts humanity as reaching a utopian state, living in widespread harmony with each other and with the many species that make up the United Federation of Planets. Among the societal elements that the Federation eschews to achieve this enlightened state is a conventional monetary system, Jean-Luc Picard briefly explaining in Star Trek: The Next Generation that the need for money has since become obsolete. However, a form of currency has been widely used throughout the Star Trek universe, including on Starfleet: Latinum installations. And despite all its rejection of coinage, latinum continues to be used in the 32nd century of Star Trek: Discovery.
The idea that the Federation went beyond money was first mentioned in Star Trek IV: The Journey Home when the time-traveling crew of the Enterprise realize that Earth is still using currency in the late 21st century, as they are having difficulty with exact currency for transportation. This was extended to GNT as Picard explains, society is more focused on eliminating things like hunger while improving the standards of civilization as a whole rather than being concerned with the accumulation of material wealth. However, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced the concept that the Ferengi Alliance and the Cardassian Union both used Latin as their primary currency, with the rare liquid metal compressed into gold plating.
Many Quark diagrams in DS9 involved him devising enrichment plans to acquire as much Latinum as possible, in competition with other Ferengi visiting the station. For its part, the Federation did not use latinum internally, but is assumed to have its own supply of latinum to trade and barter with other civilizations that used the currency. The 1994 Behind the Scenes Production Book The Creation of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine hinted that one of the reasons for Latin’s increased value is that the substance cannot be reproduced by replicators, leaving Latin exclusively as a natural substance.
Discovery confirms that in the 32nd century, Starfleet does indeed have a supply of latinum, with Captain Michael Burnham using part of it to acquire star charts from beyond the bounds of the galaxy. Burnham tries to acquire more latinum to outbid Cleveland “Book” Booker’s offer to buy rare isolinium, with the currency throughout the casino where illicit black market trading takes place. This suggests that even centuries after the events of DS9latinum continues to be used as a major form of currency in the more lawless parts of the galaxy outside of Federation space, with Starfleet having its own strategic reserve for such an occasion.
If the idea of a Federation having evolved beyond the use of a monetary system joins star trekIn the utopian vision of humanity’s future, the inclusion of latinum provides a plot device to give its characters something to barter when interacting with more capitalist entities. While the Federation may still be rebuilding itself in the 32nd century, as shown Discovery, he still has enough resources to interact with the most nefarious organizations and markets outside of Starfleet jurisdiction. Simply because the Federation is enlightened and evolved, this distinction is not shared by other forces in the galaxy and latinum provides the means to deal with them on their own terms.
Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, Star Trek: Discovery releases new episodes Thursdays on Paramount+.
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