The Bell Riots and Star Trek Values
The values and behaviors of the inhabitants of the world of Star Trek are bizarre by modern human standards. The thing that stands out the most is that no one wastes any time. They all spend their days reading ancient books, studying, and doing other productive things. I think Gene Roddenberry simply wanted his characters to represent paragons of virtue, but I’d like to keep my analysis within the fourth wall. What forces within the Star Trek universe would cause people to actually behave in this manner?
In the cannon history of Star Trek in the 2020s, the U.S. government begins to round up the unemployed, mentally ill and criminals and forcibly place them into Sanctuary Districts. The conditions in these internment camps are horrible and eventually pressure builds until it explodes in the Bell Riots. These riots expose the harshness of the Sanctuary Districts to the public eye, and there is enough political pressure to abolish them. Presumably the welfare state was expanded significantly to improve the living conditions of the poor and unemployable, but not for long.
Humanity in the Star Trek universe experimented with explicit eugenics in the 1990’s, to devastating consequences, including World War III in 2049. But while the experience caused humanity to swear off explicit genetic engineering, evolution has a way of continuing. After all the horrors of the late 21st century, the Vulcans made first contact with humanity enabling humans to eliminate poverty, disease, and pretty much all bad things.
So how do actual humans respond when their survival is not an issue? They stop having kids. Humanity would likely be facing voluntary near extinction following the brutal wars and then immediately transitioning to utopia. Who would go through the difficult process of childbirth and rearing when replicators provide for every need, endless entertainment is available in a holodeck, and a generous welfare state provides for their every need? People like Jean-Luc Picard, that’s who (although ironically, he hates children). People who, when they have a spare hour or two, decide to study particle physics or read hundred year old poetry. Eugenics would come to humanity, but not at the end of a barrel of a gun. It would arrive in a Brave New World fashion. Only the most disciplined, selfless, and forward looking of humanity would have children, and they would inherit the world.