Friday, June 19, 2015

The Ferengi Rules of Commerce

Intended as humor or parody, this little book offers a megagram of useful – if contradictory – advice.

Before the invention of the Ferengi in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Star Trek universe never had much room for trade and commerce. In the Original Series, Star Fleet dominated Earth and the Federation of Planets. It was a command economy. Whether mining colonies, exploration, war, or agriculture, the process of decision-making was hidden from the viewers, but it clearly was not via the market or bought with money.  

In the Original Series, the only traders we met were Cyrano Jones (who sold tribbles) and Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd.  Neither was heroic, or dashing, or even especially intelligent. In the Next Generation episode The Neutral Zone we met a life ship of cryogenically preserved humans, one of whom insisted on checking on his Wall Street profits.  Captain Picard must explain that now, in our time, we do not care about the acquisition of things, but on improving ourselves.

Then came the Ferengi. Originally introduced in ST:NG The Last Outpost, they did not acquire any substance of character until Deep Space Nine. Armin Shimerman played the bartender (and bar owner), Quark.

It comes out in The Siege of AR 558 (Deep Space Nine), that planet Ferengeran never knew imperialism, racism, or slavery.

I confronted Armin Shimerman at a trekker con in Livonia, Michigan, in the early 21st century.  He said that he had read The Fountainhead in college and was going to revisit the works of Ayn Rand in preparation for the up-coming season.

This book is presented as the distilled wisdom of Ferengi society. It is necessarily discontinuous because the rules were invented ad hoc by the writers of the scripts, who apparently were communists.
·       #1.  Once you have their money, never give it back.
·       #3.  Never pay more for an acquisition than you have to.
·       #8. Small print leads to large risks.
·       #13. Anything worth doing is worth doing for money.
·       #27. There is nothing more dangerous than an honest businessman.
·       #58. There is no substitute for success.
·       #62. The riskier the road, the greater the profit.
·       #79. Beware of the Vulcan greed for knowledge.
·       #109. Dignity and an empty sack is worth the empty sack.


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