The politics of Star Trek

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

The Institute for Humane Studies Learn Liberty website recently published a post I wrote on the politics of Star Trek. Here's an excerpt:

It's hard to generalize about a franchise that has run for fifty years, spanning dozens of TV episodes and movies. There is much for libertarians (and non-libertarians) to admire in the series' often-insightful engagement with political issues. Ultimately, however, Star Trek cannot be considered libertarian because of its embrace of socialism….

Relative to most other science fiction shows-and popular culture shows generally-Star Trek has a long history of addressing political issues in a thoughtful way. Some of its themes are definitely congenial to libertarians, and supporters of liberal values more generally.

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry stressed the virtues of tolerance and cooperation across racial, ethnic, and national lines….

But at least from a libertarian perspective, the otherwise appealing ideological vision of Star Trek is compromised by its commitment to socialism.

The Federation isn't just socialist in the hyperbolic sense in which some conservatives like to denounce anyone to the left of them as socialist. It's socialist in the literal sense that the government has near-total control over the economy and the means of production….

The uncritical acceptance of socialism may be a manifestation of the Federation's more general troubling ideological homogeneity. Especially among the human characters, there seems to be remarkably little disagreement over ideological and religious issues. With one important exception…, few human characters oppose the official Federation ideology, and those few are generally portrayed as fools, villains, or both.

I previously discussed the ideology of Star Trek in this 2011 podcast. On August 4, I will be speaking on a panel about "The Politics of Star Trek" at the Reason Foundation.